January 31st, 2013 | 11:56 p.m. (Alaska Time Zone)

[Editor's note:  Since publication the author has been informed that Brother Martin, Holy Cross, Jesuit and St. Paul's will be sending their starting teams to the GNO on Saturday. Kudos to them!]

What has happened to civic pride in New Orleans?

Holy Cross will be hosting the first Greater New Orleans Wrestling Championship (GNO) since 2009 this Saturday. 

The title of GNO Champion should be coveted.  New Orleans remains, if not always the area with the most wrestling programs, certainly the one with the largest and historically most successful programs.  Holy Cross, Jesuit and Brother Martin each have more state championships than any other programs in the state in any Division.  (Is not that the argument used too often re the location of the state championships?  In this case it at least makes sense).  As a metropolitan area event it should be more difficult to win than its counterparts in the Baton Rouge, Lafayette, Shreveport-Bossier and Lake Charles areas.

The tournament dates back to 1966 when only four teams existed to compete in it: De la Salle, East Jefferson, Holy Cross and Jesuit.  The other five teams in the state were all in the Cameron Parish area south of Lake Charles.

But at some point, instead of being a coveted title, the tournament became more of a "wrestle if necessary" event for state tournament seeding purposes.  I was guilty of that in 1981, but, honestly, who was going to miss four guys from Division II St. Martin's Episcopal?  But six of the Division I state finals that year involved wrestlers from the GNO area, representing six teams.  Two of them, Jesuit and Brother Martin, did not participate.  Yet they finished first and second in Division I.  Did they know something the rest of us did not?

In later years there were some very good GNO Championships.  In 1983 Holy Cross beat Brother Martin by six points in the GNO and the two finished first and second at state.  In 1994 Jesuit finished ahead of Grace King by 99.5 and Brother Martin by 107 points.  But the latter two may not have expected Catholic and Northside to be strong enough teams to place second and third in the state tournament

But in 1985, 1986 and 1987 Brother Martin felt confident enough that they would win the state championship (which they did) that they withheld their best wrestlers from the GNO.  Jesuit did the same in 1989, 1990, 1992, 1993 and 1995 (and also won state team titles).

That is not to say skipping the GNO merits a top spot at the state tournament.

In 1988 Jesuit skipped the GNO, and that might have been a costly mistake.  The Blue Jays won the Brother Martin Invitational but lost to Bonnabel in the Catholic Invitational (which replaced the Lee High Invitational that year).  They also lost to Holy Cross in the De la Salle "Big 8" dual meet tournament and the Tiger Invitational.  Bonnabel won the Trygg that year.  Granted, regional qualifying tournaments were held the following weekend to qualify Division I wrestlers for the state tournament, but that did not stop Holy Cross and Bonnabel from sending their best to the GNO.  Could the experience in one more tournament have helped Jesuit that year?  Could one wrestler have benefitted by a better seeding?   Just half a point would have mattered.  Jesuit, Bonnabel and Holy Cross tied for first place in Division I in 1988.

My Times-Picayune research stopped at 1995 as this season started.  The last GNO championship was in 2009 and was won by Jesuit, and the Blue Jays also won the Division I state championship that year.

The Greater Baton Rouge Championships (GBR) are set for February 1st and 2nd.  They have been held every year since 1970 and nobody "ducks" them.  Some of the enthusiasm for that title might have been fueled by the drought between 1975 and 2008 between state championships for a Division I Baton Rouge area team (Catholic), but in reality, it is a tournament designed to determine the best wrestlers in the Baton Rouge area, and nobody "hides" from that challenge, in the words of one GBR area coach.

Possible Seeding Implications

It is true that few Division I top seeds are left to determine.  106 and 113 are set with Brother Martin's Mason Mauro and Jesuit's Mitch Capella.  120 is not "written in stone," but the two top contenders, Paul Klein of Brother Martin and Jacob Dale of Comeaux, would not meet anyway.  Seeding in the GNO would prevent Brother Martin's Austin Meyn from losing to Rummel's Matt Calcote twice in this tournament for Calcote to have a chance at the #1 seed at State.  132 is what it is, but luckily that entails getting to watch St. Paul's Connor Campo on the mat.  Catholic's James Claitor owns 138.

145 could prove interesting.  Rummel's Tyler Frame is back from an injury, but it remains to be seen if St. Paul's David Englehardt, having lost two matches by dropping to 138 lbs. at the LA Classic and last weekend's St. Paul's Invitational, might move back up to the weight class in which he is as yet undefeated in Louisiana.  If healthy enough, Brother Martin's Tyler Robertson might also want into that fray.  And Jesuit cannot count on Efosa Eboigbe's LA Classic win to place him in the #1-seed position at State.  Ehret's Jack Fontenot beat a tough Jimmie Davis from Episcopal at St. Paul's.  The GNO could potentially determine the top four state seeds at this weight class.

Nothing should change at 152 re Comeaux's Tyrek Malveaux, 160 re Catholic's Brandon Luckett, 170 re Brother Martin's Daniel Albrecht, 182 re Brother Martin's Kyle Delaune or 195 re Jesuit's Manny Armour garnering top seeds at State.

220 was a quagmire but it is starting to sort itself out.  Northside's Daniel Kincade could have better defined that weight class, but his LA Classic and Ken Cole victories did not empower him to make Northside a Division I school.  Miles Nash of Catholic should get the top seeding there.

Ross Brister of Brother Martin will get the top seeding at State in Division I, but he would whether he won or lost vs. undefeated Spencer Lemoine of Division III's John Curtis.  That would be a fun match to see.

In Division II a match between host Holy Cross' Alex Nicosia and Grace King's Angelo Medina-Perez could shake things up at 120 lbs.  One should not expect Holy Cross to hold back any of their starters, and a win by Medina-Perez should make him the #1 seed.  Nicosia defeated Medina-Perez 10-3 in their only match of the season on December 8th.

With an 0-4 record against him, Holy Cross's Collin Guerra will not unseat Helen Cox's Jorge Sanchez with an upset.  Holy Cross's George Benoit could lose his top seeding in a third match against Belle Chasse's Jordan Mastrianni.  A Mastrianni win would put Live Oak's Seth Bosarge at the top.

Upsets that can affect local #1 Division II seeds do not recur until 220.  Holy Cross favorite Michael Yeatman has only met Belle Chasse's Robert Kennedy once, winning by a fall on December 5th.  A win by Kennedy could knock Yeatman out of the top spot.

Division III possible #1 seeding implications start and end at 106 lbs.  John Curtis' Prentice Spurlock avenged a 7-4 loss on December 21st to Thomas Jefferson's Logan Griffin with a 4-3 victory on January 30th.  Should those two meet again, all the victor gets is a top seeding at State.

And Then There is the Real World...

First, for the matches described above to occur, all of the teams involved have to participate in the GNO.  Second, if that were to occur, all of the matches would have to fall into place.  It is highly unlikely the first requirement will be met, much less the second.

This is not news to Holy Cross.  If a majority of the teams in the GNO area were expected to compete (like the 25 scheduled at the Greater Baton Rouge Championships), the event would not be scheduled on only a Saturday.  But at least Holy Cross, even though they do not have any significant seeding enhancements to make, should put their best team forward in preparation to hopefully hoist a Division II state championship trophy.

Holy Cross will be in Division I next year.  Do not be surprised to see the Tigers host another GNO championship if no other schools already plan to do so.  Perhaps Division I GNO bragging rights will encourage the other Division I schools to participate at their full strength.

Regardless of divisions, though, championships only go to those who show up.



Please note that at this point in time the author has no idea of which teams or wrestlers will be entered into the GNO.

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