Bossier wrestling team enjoys breakthrough
"It's either pin or lose basically," Shelton said. His charges have taken after their coach in one form — success has not come in the traditional way.
Instead of building up to strong performances at the statewide level, the Bearkats took care of that the last two seasons, finishing fourth and third the last two years, respectively.
That made Bossier the highest-finishing public school in Division II, but the Kats still were third in their own city behind Airline and Parkway.
That changed in the last two weeks as the Bearkats snapped a pair of decade-plus droughts by capturing both the Bossier City championship and the regional championship.
"A lot of times, you have kids and they have a mental block," Shelton said.
"For some reason, for a couple of years, we had a mental block around here, but we'd go to state and it would disappear. This year, this group has really been able to overcome that stigma of, 'Oh, it's Parkway. Oh, it's Airline. Oh, it's Byrd, or whoever.' We were able to put that out of our minds and just wrestle."
The same thing happened on the football field this fall when the Bearkats ripped off 10 straight wins en route to an undefeated district championship and reached the second round of the Class 3A playoffs. The crossover between the rosters has continued to produce victories on the mat.
"In football, we were district champions," said 182-pound senior Tim Johnson, the state runner-up at 152 pounds last year. "Now, wrestling, we're regional champions and city champions. We always try to keep that same mentality."
That mentality is one of togetherness and a strong remembrance of where the Kats stand in the eyes of the wrestling public.
"I think most people overlook Bossier High School," Johnson said. "We're trying to set the bar and try to get up there."
Johnson is just one part of a strong senior class that has helped bring Bossier wrestling back to prominence and re-establish a high bar.
Former Bossier wrestling coach Hunter Pipes said he thought the last time Bossier won a city and regional championship came in 1994.
With their new status as a Division III team — Classes 3A and below are lumped into the division — the Bearkats know they will face a different group of wrestlers in next week's state meet in Kenner.
To see where they stand, the Bearkats traveled south to the Brusly Tournament earlier this season, facing nothing but Division III teams.
"We got third, but we were missing two weight classes and gave up forfeits," said 120-pound senior Koree Venus. "I think we'll give it a run this year for state."
That is the mind-set the Kats have carried with them most of the year and perhaps the one thing that makes Shelton the happiest.
"Honestly, I don't think they care who it is," Shelton said. "At this point in the season, they believe they can beat anybody. That's a good mind-set to have going into a state tournament. They're not at all scared of anybody, which is a good thing. It doesn't matter who you are or where you're from, you know you're about to be in a fight when you get on the mat with some of these kids."