WATSON – Since the program’s inception a decade ago, Live Oak’s wrestling program has consistently finished as one of the top Division II programs.
When the Eagles finished third in last year’s state meet, the result was not exactly surprising, but a notable one for two reasons.
Live Oak’s final position was enhanced by individual state championships from a pair of emerging stars in sophomores, Clayton Hill and Camdyn Ingram.
Ingram was dominant throughout the 2017-18 season with a sparkling 65-1 record at the 152-pound class with his only blemish taking place in a Virginia Beach (Va.) tournament.
Ingram, a state runner-up as a freshman, bolstered his career mark to a remarkable 122-6 with 87 pins.
Moreover, Ingram became only the third wrestler from Louisiana to advance to the final of a national tournament. He finished second in the Marines Cadet and Junior National Championship, dropping a 7-1 decision to Carson Manville in the 152-pound Greco Roman weight class in Fargo, N.D.
Ingram was also eighth in the freestyle competition at the same event.
The 106-pound Hill wasn’t far behind his classmate, going 57-10 and improved to 96-28 in his second varsity season with 67 pins. He was fourth at the state meet his freshman season.
Ingram and Hill increased the total of individual state championships to 16 for Live Oak, which also has 14 runners-up finishes in its first decade of competition, leaving one obvious goal of a state championship for the program still to achieve.
Coming into their junior seasons, the pair are expected to set the tone for Live Oak and become the leaders of the program. For the Eagles to reach the top of the mountain, coach Chris Collier will rely on Ingram and Hill to be the backbone of the team.
“Last year, one of the things we lacked was leadership,” Collier said. “But having those guys and do what they do, it brings a sense of familiarity into the program. They know what it takes, and the rest of the team feeds off that. They can show some things that I can’t as a coach.”
Ingram and Hill recognize they’re not only going to be examples to the rest of the team by winning matches, but also by maintaining important leadership roles.
“We all need to be focused,” Ingram said. “Instead of having one or two good kids, we all need to have to same mindset. We all want to win…we’re taking another step this year. We have one senior last year, my brother (Anthony Ingram). But now we’re all getting to the point where we’re all mature enough to know what we have to do to win.”
“We’re working hard,” Hill added. “We’re lifting weights more in the summer and the offseason. A couple of us are going to national tournaments and competing at a higher national level. That will bring us some in-season success…all of us are pushing each other all the time.”
Hill and Ingram are leaving this week to compete in the U.S. Marine Corps Cadet & Junior National Championships in Fargo, N.D. - their second time competing in the tournament.
Last year Hill went 4-4 in his national debut last year, while Ingram finished seventh which earned him All-American honors.
Upon their return home new-look workouts installed by Collier, with the help of the UT-Chattanooga coaching staff, resume in earnest.
The workout schedule is less about general lifting but focuses on lifts that aid with wrestling-specific traits, such as explosion – a routine that Ingram and Hill both praised.
“One of our assistant coaches, Austin Hodge, is a certified CrossFit trainer,” Collier said. “We’ve worked hand in hand with him and he’s done a great job of piecing this together. We’ve also been working with the coach from UT-Chattanooga and getting tips from him. We’ve been using more explosive type lifts and stuff that is more wrestling-specific. A lot of them really want to bench press, but for us in our sport, if you’re bench pressing someone off your back then you’re losing. You’re getting pinned. But it’s really carried over with the amount of clean pulls and front squats this year.”
With an expected increase in enrollment that would bump Live Oak’s program to Division I – the state’s highest division - this could mark the final year for the Eagles to get their hands on an elusive Division II title.
If that’s the case, the Eagles would like to their mark on the way out.
“The school has grown so much, and we’ve been a bubble team the couple of years,” Collier said. “This might be our last as a D2, and if that’s the case, this is the year we really can get a push. This team might be as good as the one we had in 2012 when we got our first runner-up and put six in the finals.”
“I think we all want to (win a state championship this year),” Ingram added. “We all realize we don’t have much more time. We’re all in for it.”