When the season started, many were thinking that the Comeaux Spartans’ wrestling team might just take a slight half-step backwards by their normal standards.
As the season has rolled on, however, the outlook has steadily improved.
The Spartans defended their parish duals crown for the 12th time and then had a respectable sixth-place finish at the Louisiana Classics last week ahead of Rummel and Teurlings.
Now the Spartans are thinking big again, hoping to win their own Ken Cole Wrestling Tournament title for the first time since 1989.
“This is a big opportunity for us,” Comeaux coach Keith Bergeron said. “We’ve been getting better week to week. Some younger kids have stepped up for us. I think we’ve got a shot. Jesuit would probably be the favorite and then I’d look at us and Teurlings.”
While the younger kids have provided the depth, the anchors for the Spartans are two-time state champion Tyrek Malveaux at 152, defending state champion Jacob Dale at 120 and Comeaux’s third No. 1 seed Abram Sellers.
For a star like Malveaux, going after his third Ken Cole title remains a top priority.
“It’s the same this year as any other year,” said Malveaux, whose only loss on the mat this season was against a Texas wrestler. “I don’t treat it any differently. I just continue to work hard. I’ve gotten better on my feet and better on top.”
While he’s maintained his high level, Malveaux has also noticed his teammates improving.
“I saw it happening,” he said. “The young guys just kept getting better. They said we weren’t going to win parish again, and we did. I think we have a chance to win it (Ken Cole this year). “
While Malveaux has stayed steady, Dale has bounced back from an early-season slump.
“At the beginning of the season, I just didn’t like the level I was wrestling at,” Dale said. “I guess I was just overconfident after winning state last year.”
That all started to change at the Deep South Bayou Duals in late December when Dale lost a disappointing match.
“It was just time to take it more seriously,” Dale said. “I want to win my second state title, and that’s tougher than winning the first one. Wrestling is more mental than physical.”
For Lafayette High’s Michael Daiy, the entire wrestling season has been about redemption.
His 42-8 overall record, No. 3 seed at this tournament and two first-place finishes already this season at Dutchtown and at East Ascension are a testament to the turnaround he’s made.
“I’m better physically, but I’ve really made a lot of process mentally,” Daiy said. “In the past, I would just psyche myself out on the mat. I just have a lot more confidence this year.”
Daiy’s goal of winning the Ken Cole faces some tough uphill challenges with returning champion Nick Schneider of Teurlings as the No. 1 seed and Rayne’s Billy Marcantel as the No. 2 seed.
“This tournament isn’t a big for state seeding, but it’s still a big tournament for me personally,” Daiy said. “I’m sure a lot of people are expecting Nick Schneider to win it. He’s a great wrestler, but I’d like to upset that presumption.”
Kincade’s big splash
Yogi Berra would have been very proud of Northside’s Daniel Kincade last weekend.
Kincade traveled to Baton Rouge for the prestigious Louisiana Classics tournament unseeded and with many fewer matches under his belt this season than all the 220-pound contenders in that event.
Instead of letting those tall odds intimidate him, however, Kincade just shocked everyone by not only performing well but bringing home the tournament crown.
“I felt like I had to prove myself to my team and to Louisiana,” Kincade said.
“I knew my advantages and my faults. I just took charge and put my advantages to use.”
Now comes the big chore for Kincade of following up on last week’s big achievement.
“I’m not going to let my head get big,” he said. “The key is going into this tournament like I’m still the underdog.”
Making the task even tougher is that he missed several days of school this week sick.
“I’m not going to let that hold me back,” Kincade said. “I’m going to be ready to fight.”
When Jimmie McBride began the wrestling season this year, it wasn’t that the sport of wrestling was new to him — just wrestling in Louisiana.
During his stay in Germany with a military family, McBride wrestled, but he quickly discovered that it was a different deal in the States.
“The wrestling is a lot better here,” McBride said. “The wrestlers here are lot better on top. The wrestlers here are a lot more well-rounded.
“The transition was real smooth, though. The coaches and the seniors on the team got me back to speed in a hurry.”
With Louisiana prep wrestling being new, so is each tournament that he attends.
The wide receiver on the football team is hoping to make a good first impression at the Ken Cole this weekend. After a third-place finish at the Louisiana Classics last weekend, McBride received a No. 1 seed at the Ken Cole.
He’s got his eye on Conway LeBleu of St. Louis and Javian Adams at Northside as potential showdowns that could help him down the road for the Division II state tournament.
“I’m hoping to at least make it to the finals (at Ken Cole),” said McBride, who moved up after wrestling at 160 earlier this season.
Some wrestlers sort of come out of nowhere to have great seasons.
That wouldn’t be the case with Lafayette High senior Hunter Taylor.
The wrestlers around the state in his 113-pound weight class certainly knew exactly who Taylor was coming into this season. After all, the Mighty Lion placed fourth at the Ken Cole last year and followed that up with a fourth at State.
So far this season, Taylor has laid the foundation for a fantastic finish to his career. He’s 35-4 with three tournament titles under his belt.
“I’m hoping to make the finals at least,” said Taylor, who is coming off a disappointing event at the La. Classics.
“I just wrestled pretty badly. I’ve got to work on my endurance mostly.”
Other than Comeaux’s No. 2 seed Connor Stampley, Taylor won’t be facing his expected top competition at state in Jesuit’s Mitch Capella.
“Finishing in the top two or three (at State) would be great,” Taylor said.
Much like Tyrek Malveaux, it’s a matter of pushing yourself for Teurlings’ defending state champion and returning Ken Cole champion Nick Schneider.
As expected, Schneider enters the Ken Cole as the No. 1 seed, but that doesn’t mean he’s short on motivation.
For starters, he finished second at Louisiana Classics last weekend, losing to Kyle Delaune of Brother Martin in the finals.
Unfortunately, Brother Martin isn’t participating at Ken Cole this weekend.
“I’m not really going to be facing any of the top Division II competition, but this tournament is still a big deal for me individually because it’s a big local tournament,” Schneider said.
So far this season, Schneider is 36-4 with wins at Lafayette High and Teurlings, as well as second-place finishes at East Ascension and Louisiana Classics.
“I think I’m getting better defensively,” Schneider said. “There’s still some more work to do, but there’s still a couple of weeks before State.”
Lions’ Ducote making his mark
Unlike his teammate Taylor, senior Adrian Ducote came into this season with some catching up to do.
So far, he’s done just that by finishing first in two tournaments, second in a couple and third in two others.
So while he’s never placed at Ken Cole in his prep career and never place at state, Ducote comes into this weekend with high hopes.
“My goal is to finish first at this tournament and in the top three at state,” he said.
“I just need to stay focused and stay right mentally.”
Pats’ Laird ready to break though
After spending a year in Friendswood, Texas, North Vermilion’s Colin Laird is ready to begin making his mark in the Acadiana area wrestling scene with a big performance at this weekend’s Ken Cole.
After taking first-place finishes at Lafayette High and Teurlings earlier this season, a top finish at Ken Cole would springboard him to what he hopes is even more success at the Division II state tournament.
“For me, it’s about pushing the pace,” Laird said. “In the matches I lost, it wasn’t that I just got beat, it was because I didn’t push the pace.”
Two of those heartbreaking losses were 6-5 decisions to Redemptorist’s Grant Godso. As a result, Godso is the No. 1 seed this weekend and Laird is No. 2. Chances are, it’ll be the same scenario at the state tournament.
But Laird hopes to close the tiny gap between the two even closer this weekend, before he and the Patriots get to state with high hopes.
“We’re pretty balanced as a team this year,” Laird said. “I think we’re ready to make a run. I think we can finish in the top two in the state (in Division III).”