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St. Amant adds the Jambalaya Cup to their trophy shelf
January 13th, 2015 | Written by: Editor

For the first time since 2009 the St. Amant Gators are the champion wrestling team of Ascension Parish and the proud owners of the Jambalaya Cup.  The Gators defeated the host East Ascension Spartans 46-21 for the title after defeating the Dutchtown Griffins 57-16 in the first of the three duals meets held on January 10th.  East Ascension defeated Dutchtown 43-29 in the second match of the event.

St. Amant 46-East Ascension 21 St. Amant 57-Dutchtown 16 East Ascension 43-Dutchtown 29

The Jambalaya Cup

The Jambalaya Cup is the award given annually since 2005 by the Ascension Titans Wrestling Club to the best wrestling team in Ascension Parish.  Hence, previous winners have included Dutchtown, East Ascension and St. Amant, as those are the schools with wrestling programs in Ascension Parish.  OK - one year, in 2010, it went to inclement weather (the 2010 winner's plaque reads "SNOW DAYS").  Prior to this year's event East Ascension had won the cup four times, including last year.  St. Amant had won it three times and Dutchtown twice.

Jambalaya Cup History

2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014
East Ascension St. Amant St. Amant Dutchtown St. Amant SNOW DAYS East Ascension East Ascension Dutchtown East Ascension

Last year it was a tight competition.  Dutchtown beat St. Amant by three points, 39-36, and East Ascension beat the Gators by seven, 40-33.  In the championship the Spartans beat the Griffins 43-31.

St. Amant celebrates their first Jambalaya Cup win since 2009 (left and center).  St. Amant 2014-15 trophy shelf (far right - compliments of St. Amant Wrestling Boosters Facebook page)

Gators a growing concern across Louisiana

Coach Earnest Brown
In 2012 Earnest Brown, the patriarch of St. Amant wrestling, finally convinced Brian Hess, a former wrestler at Lewisburg, Pennsylvania and in the U.S. Army, as well as an official in Louisiana, to stop merely helping out and take over coaching the St. Amant wrestling team.  The first thing Hess did was to get the squad to look good by getting them new singlets and warm-ups.  Then he recruited.  On his 2012-13 team he had 24 grapplers who wrestled at least one match.  Seven of them were freshman, of which all seven are now juniors on the current roster.  Two were sophomores - Josh Averett and Sheldon Juneau - and they are the only two seniors on the current team.  Last season 30 wrestlers had mat time, and of those 30 Hess only lost seven seniors to graduation.

Next year may be even better for the Gators. Twelve of the current team members are juniors, and they have a solid contingent in seven sophomores and 11 freshman backing them up.

Coach Brian Hess inspects his team's latest trophy At the start of a match Gator teammates form a cheering gauntlet to support their next competing wrestler. David Vidrine, a 2006 Division I semifinalist and fourth-place winner for St. Amant, former EA Spartan Chase Dupuis and former Gator Landon Marchand (not pictured) are Hess' assistant coaches.
This season 32 Gator wrestlers have had mat time.  More importantly though, several are doing quite well.  Six placed in the top-four of the Central Wildcat Open, where the team placed fourth of 27.  Only Averett and junior Clint Brownell placed in the Griffin Open the following week, but that event included Brother Martin, who had one placer in 13 of the 14 weight classes.  However, in the 35-team field, the Gators tied for 4th place with Baton Rouge High School, who had beaten them by four points at the Wildcat.  At the East Ascension Spartan Open, with 22 teams including Holy Cross, Live Oak, Rummel and Comeaux, the Gators placed fourth again and had four top-four placers.

On December 20th the gators won the Zachary Big Horse Open for the second year in a row, and this time they defeated Live Oak, who had placed higher than them at the Wildcat, Griffin and Spartan tournaments.  Eight Gators placed in the top-four and Averett, Brownell and sophomore Sage Nugent (at St. Amant via Florida and New Jersey) won championships.  On December 17 the Gators beat Live Oak 42-33, their first win ever against the Eagles.

On January 3rd and 4th sixteen schools, including Live Oak, Baton Rouge, East Ascension, Dutchtown and Hahnville, ventured to St. Amant for the 14th St. Amant Duals tournament.  The Gators won the championship with a 48-25 win over Live Oak, although their toughest match, as Coach Hess says is often the case, was with Hahnville.  With some deft line-up adjustments, the Gators prevailed 34-31.  (Baton Rouge Advocate article of January 12th, 2015

Only in the Deep South Bayou Duals did St. Amant lose dual meet matches to Louisiana teams, falling to Rummel 47-25 and Comeaux 37-31.  Along the way they beat a stalwart Division I team in Sulphur, Dutchtown, Zachary and one of the favorites in Division III this year, De la Salle.

Coach Brian Hess (w/ Josh Averett) Senior Josh Averett Junior Clint Brownell

Jambalaya Cup just a start

The Gators are not ready to challenge the likes of Brother Martin, Holy Cross and Jesuit at the moment for supremacy in Division I wrestling.  They may be slated, though, to give Catholic, Comeaux, Rummel and St. Paul's a run for the fourth spot in Division I.  Right now they are probably setting their eyes on the Greater Baton Rouge Championships, to be held at Brusly High School on February 6th and 7th.  Defending champion Brusly and perennial champion Catholic are not dominating Baton Rouge area schools as they once have.  The Gators have beaten Live Oak twice in dual meets and in the latest tournament in which both teams participated.  They have already defeated Baton Rouge, Dutchtown, East Ascension, McKinley and Zachary, their prominent Division I opponents in the Baton Rouge area.  They are set for a showdown with Brusly and Catholic on January 22nd.  The have a solid crowd backing them, as evidenced by the St. Amant section of the stands at the Jambalaya Cup, as well as an active booster club page on Facebook.

Leading the way for the Gators are senior Josh Averett and junior Clint Brownell.

Averett is 33-4, with losses to Paul Klein of Brother Martin, Jacob Bernard of East Ascension and Mitch Vidrine of Catholic from Louisiana.  He won the Zachary Big Horse, placed second in the Wildcat and Spartan opens and third at the Griffin Open.  He was 7-1 at the Deep South Bayou Duals, losing only to a wrestler from Liverpool, NY.

Brownell has had the best season for the Gators this year.  At 32-3, he has only lost to Zachary's Sam Johnson (twice, 8-6 and 5-4) and once to Jake Rando of Holy Cross (4-1).  He placed second at the Wildcat, Griffin and Spartan opens and won the Zachary Big Horse (as well as the OW award).  Brownell's main competition this weekend at the Louisiana Classic will be Brother Martin's Mason Williams (a 2014 Division I runner-up), Jake Rando, Johnson and Airline's Christian Walden (a 2014 Division I third-place winner).


Dutchtown actually won six of the 11 matches wrestled in their 43-29 loss to East Ascension, but forfeits at the 182, 195 and 220 pounds weight classes took a toll on their final points tally.

Coach Charlie Rader's Griffins is evenly split with 11 youngsters (9th and 10th graders) and 11 veterans (juniors and seniors).  He does have two state championship contenders, however, in seniors Brandon Cowell (152 lbs.) and Kaleb Faul (160 lbs.).

Coach Charlie Rader Senior Brandon Cowell Senior Kaleb Faul

Cowell is 27-2 with titles from the Wildcat Open, the Griffin Open and the Sam Sara Memorial tournaments.  His first loss was to the defending 152 lbs. Division I state champion Matthew Mire of Catholic in the semifinals of the Warrior Open, but he avenged that loss in the Wildcat finals.  His only other loss was a disqualification versus Holy Cross' George Benoit in the first period of a then 2-2 match.  Aside from Mire he has defeated Brother Martin's Seth Johnson, Lafayette's Thaquan Priestly and St. Amant's Sage Nugent, all tournament winners this season.  Look for Cowell to be the number two seed at this weekend's Louisiana Classic.

Faul sports a record of 22-3 (not counting injuries) and has won his last 19 contests.  His losses have been to Baton Rouge's Jarrett Moss (5-3) and he has two one-point losses to Comeaux's Kole Miller (whom he previously beat) and Brother Martin's Danny Evans (in an 8 1/2-minute UTB match).  Faul has a win over Rummel's Josh Ramirez who, along with Evans, should be a #1 or #2 seed at this weekend's Louisiana Classic.  He also has victories over Zachary's David O'Neal and Riverdale's Austin Many.  Faul should be a number five seed at this weekend's Louisiana Classic.

Next year the Griffins will have a senior-laden team led by the nine juniors competing for them at present.

East Ascension

The Spartans are well on their way to rebuilding a solid team.  With an eye toward the future the Spartans have 15 freshmen and seven sophomores on their current squad. 

Coach Pat Mahoney, though, has two senior leaders with state championship aspirations in Jacob Bernard (126 lbs.) and Landon Wheat (120 lbs.).

Coach Pat Mahoney Junior Landon Wheat Senior Jacob Bernard

Bernard placed third in the 2014 Division I state championships at 120 lbs.  This season he is 31-3.  His losses, all at 132 lbs., include a very early in the season one (8-7 via a great comeback by Jesuit's Peyton Markey) and two to three-time defending Division I state champion Paul Klein of Brother Martin.  At 132 lbs., though, Bernard gave Brusly's Kendon Kayser his first loss of the year and also defeated two-time Division II state champion Brock Bonin of Teurlings Catholic.  He has technical falls over Micah Roby of Baton Rouge and Brennan Webb of Live Oak, and he gave St. Amant's Josh Averette one of his two losses to Louisiana wrestlers this season.

Wheat has had a sometimes great, sometimes a little disappointing season, but he has some impressive wins to his credit.  Of his 25 wins (versus 11 losses), several have come against top-notch competition, including Live Oak's Colt Olinde and Basile's Raymond Bushnell (both Division II or Division III state champions), Comeaux's Seth Oubre, Teurlings Catholic's Luke Kilchrist, Rummel's Mark Stevens and has split with Denham Springs' Chris Marson.  Competing in arguably the toughest weight class in the state (152 lbs. has a legitimate claim as well), Wheat may not be top-four seed at the LA Classic, but he should be in the top six, and he has won his last ten matches.

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