WATSON – During the team’s final full week of preparations for the LHSAA’s State Wrestling Tournament it was commonplace last week to find Live Oak’s wrestling team soaking in ice baths following their workouts.
“There were some pretty tough practices,” Eagles first-year coach Chris Godso said.
Accordingly, Godso pulled back the reins in time for his team to recover and apply the finishing touches heading into the two-day state tournament which begins Friday at CenturyLink Center in Bossier City.
For the Eagles, the entire season was geared toward the move to Division I after a successful stay in Division II, a challenge Godso believes is well within his team’s capability.
“I think that we can compete with anybody when we step on the mat,” Godso said. “Stepping up in division doesn’t mean that everyone is so much better than everyone like in Division II and III. There’s a bigger pack of solid guys competing in Division I. It’s not that the competition’s not high, there’s just fewer of them.”
Live Oak got its share of opportunities to look at the competition throughout the regular season in dual meets and several tournaments such as the Trey Culotta and Ken Cole Invitationals along with the Louisiana Classics.
While defending state champion Brother Martin is considered to be a front-runner, the Division I field is deep enough to include contenders such as St. Paul’s, Holy Cross, Jesuit, Catholic High and East Ascension.
Live Oak, which has wrestled before in Division I, moved back to the state’s biggest division along with Parkway, which won the Division II state title a year ago, are also considered to be part of team championship conversation.
“I’m excited,” Godso said. “We’ve been stepping in the right direction. We’re peaking at the right time and hitting our stride.”
Godso used an early-season dual match against Holy Cross as an example of his team’s potential for this weekend’s tournament.
Live Oak traveled to Holy Cross in December where they led the Tigers 35-15 before dropping a 45-34 decision.
“I think that further proves, along with some of our finishes at tournaments, we’ll be able to not only compete, but be someone to keep your eye on,” Godso said.
Live Oak brings in five seeded wrestlers led by No. 3 Clayton Hill (58-3, 49 pins) at 126 pounds. Andrew Lusby (41-21, 30 pins) is No. 6 at 113 pounds, Rayden Ingram (30-8) is No. 6 at 145, Nawab Singh (49-16, 44 pins) is No. 6 at 182 and Austin Cook (40-14, 29 pins) is No. 7 at 220.
Hill and Cook are part of the Eagles four-member senior class that also includes Jack Manchego (16-7) at 152 pounds.
“These seniors will make an impact,” Godso said. “Wrestling’s a sport where you never know what’s going to happen.”
Godso believes Manchego, who didn’t return from an injury until early January, could have also been seeded along with Anthony Dodson (31-17) – last year’s 160-pound state champion in Division II – along with Jordan Griffin (18-16) who is going from 138 to 132 for the state meet and Logan Pertuis (18-22) at 170.
“We had a couple of guys that dropped a couple of close matches at City (championships) that they probably should have won and that’s going to happen,” Godso said. “You can’t let that stop you from hitting your stride. If anything, it’s going to make you hungrier to get those matches back. We will wrestle above our seeds, I expected all of our seeded guys to finish higher than their seeds.”
In order for his team to compete for the team championship, Godso said it’s imperative that all five of his seeded wrestlers place and that a total of 10 wrestlers place in at least the top seven of their respective weight classes.
“We’re right on that cusp of being able to do that,” Godso said. “Placing in the top five as a team, and being the highest finishing public school team, would not be what we wanted, but definitely shows the fruit of our labor.”