LOHS camp trains wrestlers

Posted: Sunday, August 4, 2013 12:00 am

 By Sam Muffoletto The Livingston Parish News

Citadel Associate Head Wrestling Coach Jeff Ragan explains fundamentals at a wrestling clinic attended by 45 campers Saturday at the C.B. Wheat Gym. Hosting the clinic was Live Oak Wrestling Coach Chris Collier.  During mat practice, Live Oak wrestling star Cody Hill is all over Tristan Rupert of Ocean Springs, Miss., a former Live Oak Eagle.
Photo by Mike Dowty | The News

WATSON – Live Oak High School head wrestling coach Chris Collier has his sights set on a state championship for his Eagles squad this coming season.

Although this year’s team may have the best chance of any of the previous teams at LOHS, Collier may have one eye focused on the 2013-14 season, but the other is always looking further down the road.

For the fourth straight summer, Collier has used the LOHS Summer Wrestling Camp as a tool to help pin down both of those challenges.

Citadel Associate Head Wrestling Coach Jeff Ragan demonstrates leverage techniques on Live Oak High sophomore Kris Farris at a wrestling clinic Saturday at the C.B. Wheat Gym.
Coaches posing at Saturday's wrestling clinic at Live Oak High School are (from left) Live Oak volunteer Dean Roberts, Teurlings Catholic volunteer Al Pratt, Live Oak Wrestling Club head coach Norvin Hill, Assistant Minot State coach Plamen Pasakalev of Bulgaria, New Iberia native former Oklahoma State All-American and current associate head coach at the Citadel Jeff Ragan, Live Oak High coach Chris Collier, East Ascension assistant Graham Karwarth and Live Oak Wrestling Club assistant Toby Dodson. Also participating but not pictured is Live Oak Wrestling Club assistant Paul Bilski.
Photo by Mike Dowty | The News

Ragan, who has coached at The Citadel for the past 13 seasons, was an All-American at Oklahoma State University, where the Cowboys were Big 12 champions for three years. Ragan, who was named “Male Athlete of the Year” at OSU in 2001, also was a national champion in the 125-pound division. Along with being a member of the World Team twice, he was also up for an Olympic spot.

Last weekend, inside the new C.B. Wheat Gymnasium, some 44 kids from elementary age to high school took part in the camp that once again brought in two guys with a wealth of wrestling experience, former All-American Jeff Ragan and two-time Olympian Palmen Paskalev of Bulgaria.

“Ragan focused his teaching to the kids on how to pin, as well as working on different techniques on how to break-down an opponent,” said Collier. “Paskalev on the other hand, brings a lot of energy to the mat and deals more with freestyle.

“But overall, the camp energizes the kids on what they need to get to the next level,” said Collier. “There are so few college scholarships in wrestling, so we try to discuss the importance of academics, while at the same time expose them to the things they need on the mat to get to the next level.”

Paskalev, who is the head coach at Minot State University in North Dakota, was a two-time Olympian from his native Bulgeria.

“Having the tools from these two guys at our camp was invaluable,” said Collier. “The styles they can teach are different from what is normally taught. It gives the kids a different aspect, especially for those who have the aspirations of moving on to the next level.

“And I’m continuing to learn new things every time these two guys come,” Collier added.

Along with wrestlers from around the parish, many of which are part of the Live Oak Wrestling Club, some surrounding area coaches, such as East Ascension assistant coach Graham Karwarph and Lafayette club coach Al Pratt, also brought in kids from surrounding parishes.

Also aiding Collier were two Live Oak Wrestling Club coaches, Norvin Hill and Toby Dodson.

The icing on the cake this year was being able to hold the event inside the new air-conditioned gym, which is also larger with room enough to spread out four mats instead of two like in the old Eagles gym.

With high expectations looming for this year’s LOHS squad, Collier said his team has really shown added enthusiasm this summer, in “giving up vacation for stay-cation.”

Along with normal practices, the Eagles took part in the Jazz Duels at Jesuit High School in New Orleans this summer, competing against some of the best teams in the southeast.

“I’m really excited about next season,” said Collier. “I haven’t been this excited about a season in three or four years. With four returning finalists from last year, I feel like we have a good chance at winning the state title this time.”

The high school wrestling season begins in late October, with the LHSAA State Wrestling Championships set for late February at Pontchartrain Center in Kenner.

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