2008-9 Season Media Coverage


Thursday, 12 February 2009
By: Ken Trahan--Executive Producer


New Orleans area rich in prep wrestling history

With the prep state wrestling championships set for Friday and Saturday at the Pontchartrain Center in Kenner, it is time to take a look at the rich history of prep wrestling in Louisiana.

Dating back to 1945, Holy Cross was the dominant program. The legendary Brother Melchior Polowy assembled a band of young men that brought a brand of physical wrestling to the mat which was hard to match.

While the number of teams competing on a statewide basis was small, Holy Cross loomed large. The Tigers amassed 22 state titles under Brother Melchior, including 20 in a row that they competed in from 1945-1965.

The early Tigers were led by Jack Hecker, who won an unprecedented four straight individual state championships from 1945-1948 and by Warren Dugas, who won three-in-a-row from 1945-1947. In 1951, Holy Cross did not compete due to Melchior being ill and Jesuit claimed the title.

In 1966, East Jefferson beat Holy Cross by two points to shock the Louisiana wrestling world. Of course, the Tigers would return to the top in 1967 and 1968.

After a lone hiatus, Holy Cross would make a comeback in the 1980's, winning state titles 1983 and 1988 under Ed Kavanaugh, a former state champion in the heavyweight division in 1967 under Melchior. As a result, Holy Cross has 24 state titles overall, tops in Louisiana. Holy Cross is in position to compete for the Division Two title this weekend under Eric Desormeaux.

Jesuit captured its first state championship in 1951 under Edwin Stacy as seven Jesuit wrestlers captured individual titles. The Blue Jays did not have to deal with Holy Cross, which did not participate due to Brother Melchior's illness. Jesuit remained very competitive but could not break through against Holy Cross or De La Salle until 1972. That's when a wrestling "guru" brought technical wrestling to a new level in the state.

Coach Surachi "Sam" Harnsongkram took over the Blue Jays and they would soar, capturing a state title in 1972, led by the likes of two-time state champs Mike Gaffney and John Schutte, beginning a string of three straight team titles for Jesuit. They would win again in 1976 and 1977. In the 1980,'s Jesuit would win four times ('80, '81, '88, '89) with Spencer Harris, III leading the way. He won three individual state titles from 1987-1989. The glory decade for Harsongkram and the Blue Jays was the 90's.

Jesuit won nine state titles in a row from 1990-1998, led by Michael Hanemann, who won three straight individual crowns from 1991-1993. Before departing Jesuit, Harsongkram captured 18 team championships. Jesuit would return to the championship stand under Mark Strickland in 2004 and 2005 and under current coach Carlos Bertot in 2006. The Blue Jays are a co-favorite to win again this weekend in Division One, trying to add to their 22 state titles.

Brother Martin came to life out of a merger of St. Aloysius and Cor Jesu in 1970. The Crusaders became very competitive quickly and would break through to win their first state title in 1979 under Ray Charboneau, featuring Mitch Michelli and Tommy Messonnier, each of whom won two individual titles, along with Troy Cross. The Crusaders would become the dominant team of the decade, winning again in 1982 and then ripping off four straight state championships from 1984-1987. Those teams were led by Kenny Spellman, who won three-in-a-row, along with Mark Davenport, who beat now Jesuit coach Carlos Bertot twice for state titles.

After a dry period of 12 years, the Crusaders would win another state title in 1999 under Robert Dautrive and would win five more times under Dautrive, Kenny Spellman and Joe Corso in 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2007. Richie Dixon won three state titles from 1999-2001. Adam Manguno was a two-time state champion. Joe Gulotta won twice in 2001 and 2002. Nick Shields was a tree-time state champion, culminating with the team title in 2007.

Lambert, a 1998 Brother Martin graduate, leads the Crusaders into this weekend's competition as a dark-horse candidate in Division One, just behind the big four of Catholic, Jesuit, Rummel and St. Paul's. Reed Hart is a top-seed for the 'Saders at 135 pounds. Brother Martin will be trying to add to their 12 state titles.

De La Salle emerged as a real power at the end of the 1960's. After finishing second and third in the state, respectively in 1967 and 1968, Coach Pat McArdle and the Cavaliers ascended to the top of the Louisiana wrestling world in 1969, beating out East Jefferson and Holy Cross. This would begin a three-year reign at the top for De La Salle as the Cavaliers would repeat as state champions in 1969, 1970 and 1971.

The Cavaliers were led by Tim Scanlan and Scott Chappuis, each of whom won back-to-back individual titles in 1969 and 1970. Over the years, De La Salle has had 34 individual state champions. The Cavaliers of 2009 are led by coach Martin Muller, a former two-time Division Two individual state champion at St. Martin's back in 1980 and 1981. Though the Cavaliers are not a threat to powerhouse Brusly in Division Three this year, Muller and Cavs will field a competitive team in Kenner.

East Jefferson has won a pair of state titles. In 1966, the Warriors of Ray Gremillion shocked everyone, stopping the Holy Cross dynasty, ending their consecutive title run at 20 in-a-row, beating the Tigers by two points to win the state championship. The Warriors were led by George Trygg, who was a two-time individual state champion.

In 1978, the Warriors won it all again, led by Craig Seals, Tommy Majors and current Louisiana State Wrestling Tournament co-chairman Jim Ravannack, all of whom won individual titles under Trygg, who had become the head coach of the program. Chris Prieur heads the current Warrior team which competes in Division Two.

Bonnabel finished in a three-way tie for the state championship in 1988 with Holy Cross and Jesuit as all three teams compiled 140.5 points. The Bruins were led by coach Ray Gremillion, who had earlier coached East Jefferson to a state championship in 1966.

St. Paul's, under Craig Ketelsen, won back-to-back Division Two state championshps in 2000 and 2001 before moving up to Division One, where they have been very competitive. Archbishop Rummel has been a consistent top five finisher in Division One over the last decade. Sam Sara became a legendary figure in the Louisiana wrestling community during a quarter century of outstanding coaching at Grace King High School.

The legacies continue Friday and Saturday at the Pontchartrain Center in Kenner with the competition starting at 9 a.m. each day.

Back to Top