Live Oak wrestlers hope to knock chips off their shoulders this weekend.
The Eagles head to the Allstate Sugar Bowl/Louisiana High State Wrestling tournament Friday and Saturday at Century Link Center with hopes they can move past bridesmaid status.
LOHS finished twice last year and in 2014, and third in 2015 and 2013, but the top prize in Division II has eluded the Eagles.
“We’ve been doomed to bridesmaid status, and I remind them of that every day in practice,” Collier said.
Collier has reason to believe the fortunes may improve this year. Six seniors and a solid group of freshmen have brought kept the Eagles in the hunt throughout the season, including a fourth place finish in the Baton Rouge City Wrestling Tournament and 10th in the Louisiana Classic.
“This is probably as good a chance we’ve had to win this meet at any time,” he said. “We had some adversity coming in, but our guys set out to work hard and get healthy, so this could be the year we turn the corner.”
Junior Anthony Ingram enters the fray as the No. 1 seed in the 220-lb. weight class.
Freshman Jacob Chenevert drew the No. 2 seed in the 113-lb. weight class, along with teammate Camdyn Ingram (120) – younger brother of Anthony Ingram – and Mason Middleton (126).
Ean Hill (42-15), a 2016 state champion, comes to the grand stage as a No. 3 seed in the 132-lb. bracket.
Collier has spent the last two weeks in discussion with the grapplers during a session he calls “Story Time.”
“It involves motivation and stories related to our goals,” he said. “This is all about the little things to make the push past second place.
“These kids are very hungry,” Collier said. “There have been daily reminders in there, and days we talk about shortening up practice, we have kids say come one coach, we have to keep going. I couldn’t be any prouder of these guys.”
Defending Division II state champion Teurlings Catholic figures as the team to beat, Collier said.
“They don’t have much in the line of top seeds, but they have a ton of guys seeded third, fourth and fifth,” he said. “You also have Rummel with four top seeds, and you can’t count out Parkway with a lot of returning guys, who look to be in the mix with four top seeds.”
Contention for the state title has come after years of small steps to build the program, said Collier, who has coached the program 10 years.
“We had to start from the ground up,” he said. “What helped us was a group of Hurricane Katrina implants and in conjunction they started a local wrestling club in New Orleans with three kids – and now it’s up to forty.
“Working in conjunction with the wrestling club has helped us make a big push,” Collier said. “The community feeder program feeds straight into high school.
Norvin Hill, father of Cody Hill, started the LOHS program, which has brought in wrestlers who started as early as 5 years old.
The program continues a legacy for several current wrestlers. Freshman Clayton Hill – a No. 4 seed this year – is the brother of 2014 graduate Jacob Chenevert.