Cody Thomas remembered the elation he saw when former teammate Kyle Cloinger won a state wrestling championship.
Jalen Oliver recalled how close he was to winning his own state title a year ago.
Together, Thomas, Parkway’s 145-pound standout, and Oliver, Bossier’s fast-finishing 182-pounder, shared the same feelings Saturday night in Kenner — those of newly crowned state champions.
“It’s the best feeling you could ask for,” said Thomas. a senior. “It’s something I’ve been working for four years. I’m on top of the world right now.”
Thomas defeated parish rival Andre Dean of Benton, giving Thomas the upper hand in the three-match season series and putting his name alongside those of Matt Vetkoetter and Cloinger as recent Parkway state champs.
“I was there with Vetkoetter and Kyle,” Thomas said. “I remember watching Kyle win his first title his senior year, and just remembering I want that to be me. I’d never seen him jump up and down like he did after he won.”
Even a day later, Thomas couldn’t recall exactly how he reacted, saying, “It just happened so fast. I just remember trying to take off my headgear. I was too tired to do it.”
Thomas and Dean split matches at the Ken Cole Invitational and the regional championships. Both matches were drawn-out affairs, so a state championship that went the distance (Thomas won by decision, 6-4) was no surprise.
In much the same way, neither was Oliver’s 99-second pin of North Vermilion’s Colin Vaughn.
Oliver closed the season with convincing city, regional and state championship victories, continuing a roll that started early.
“It really got going for me during the Airline Invitational,” said Oliver, a junior. “Me and the guy were going at it, and we went all three rounds. I won and I thought, ‘Alright, I can do this.'”
Oliver had double the normal amount of motivation to finish the job at the Pontchartrain Center.
Bossier put three wrestlers in the Division III finals Saturday — Oliver was the only Bearkat to emerge victorious.
“I was really upset that (teammates Xavier Chism and Oscar Telles) were both seniors, and they both lost,” Oliver said. “I told them I was going to win it, not just for me, but for everybody. It gave me a little boost, made me want it more.”
As a sophomore, Oliver reached the state finals, only to be denied a state championship.
That changed quickly Saturday, when Vaughn lost his balance and allowed Oliver to take control of the match.
“I told myself to keep working hard,” Oliver said. “(Last year’s loss) was in the back of my mind for a really long time. Coach (Bo) Shelton expected a lot out of me and the whole team. I was just truly amazed.”