The Live Oak wrestling program would love nothing more than to make a splash on its way out of the door of Division II.
The only way for the Eagles to leave such a lasting impression would be to achieve something they’ve never accomplished – a state championship.
Live Oak begins pursuit of that elusive first Division II state crown Friday when the Eagles travel to Bossier City and compete in the two-day LHSAA State Wrestling Tournament at CenturyLink Center.
“We’re aware that this is our last shot at winning,” Live Oak junior Clayton Hill said of the Division II state title. “We know we have to focus and to keep working hard every day. We still have a pretty good shot at making it.”
Coach Chris Collier said with this being a reclassification year for the LHSAA, growth in the school’s enrollment at Live Oak High caused the wrestling program to move to Division I for the next two years, beginning with the 2019-20 season.
The Eagles, who have finished third and fourth, respectively, the past two years, have their sights set on hoisting a Division II crown that will include a talented group of teams led by defending co-state champions Teurlings Catholic and Parkway.
Teurlings has won or shared in seven of the past eight state championships.
“We had a lot great talent going into the season and with some off the field issues and injuries, we’re still going to be where we’ve always been sitting in that top three,” Collier said. “To make our way to the top of the heap is still very possible, but we may need a little help to get there. We have to be on our ‘A’ game to be able to win it all.”
Live Oak features a lineup with only one senior with Louis Almonte (16-24) at 170 pounds.
Fellow senior Bailey Hebert, who finished third at state a year ago, was lost for the season with an injury and Alex Fann (9-13) has filled in at 132 pounds.
“Teurlings has had some injuries and issues like us,” Collier said. “Parkway’s been able to avoid that and I think’s kind of the favorite going into. You can’t discount us or Archbishop Shaw. Teurlings always finds a way to win. They do a great job and get their kids up for the state tournament.”
Live Oak has one returning defending state champion in Hill, who has put together a sterling 65-7 record. He’s the second seed at 120 pounds.
“I feel like we’re still pretty solid,” Hill said. “We lost a couple of guys, but we have perfectly capable people to fill in their spots. I feel like we’ve still got a pretty good shot at winning going into state. We just need to go there and do what we’ve been doing all season, wrestle hard and stay focused the whole time.”
Hill’s a No. 2 seed for Live Oak along while Anthony Dodson (53-18) is a No. 3 seed at 138 pounds.
The Eagles also feature No. 3 Jack Manchego (43-24) at 152, No. 3 Nawab Singh (42-28) at 160, No. 4 Austin Cook (41-18) at 182, No. 4 Tyler Braun (31-17) at 195, No. 5 Jordan Griffin (28-21) at 145 and No. 7 Jordan Chenevert (49-16) at 126.
Andrew Lusby (28-26) at 106, Lathan Hirschey (10-14) at 113, Fann, Almonte, Michael Solar (9-10) at 220 and Kevin Bowen (1-0) at 285 are unseeded.
“We can definitely step it up another notch,” Hill said. “We’ve been doing good throughout the year and I feel like we need to turn it up another notch and exceed everyone’s expectations. I don’t think that many people are expecting us to really do well but I think we could.”
Live Oak went 14-2 in dual meet competitions, including a road win over Teurlings, before finishing up the regular season with a fifth-place showing in the Baton Rouge City Championships two weeks ago.
“We’ve been wrestling well, we’ve been practicing well,” Collier said. “I think we’re peaking in the right direction to make a run at it.”
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