St. Mary’s adds wrestling to winter sports lineup

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Trent Friedel | Exclusive to the Times
Wrestling returns to Natchitoches and I don’t mean WWE or WCW or even Mid-South for those of you old enough to remember that. (Google JYD and the Von Ericks)
No, wrestling will be a new winter sport at Saint Mary’s for the 2022-23 season. The LHSAA sanctions wrestling in three divisions throughout the State. Division I is composed of 5-A schools, Division II has 4-A schools and Division III includes schools 3-A and lower. Saint Mary’s will compete in Division III.
Travel will be one of the challenges for the young program. Wrestling is big in south Louisiana and is starting to spread north with teams in Shreveport. Evangel, Loyola, Bossier and Calvary all have wrestling. In addition to high school, there will be junior high and elementary squads as well. This will be a building block for the high school. There has been interest in grades 3-6 and after learning the sport and overcoming apprehension of the unknown, Principal Jason Lachica hopes the program will grow exponentially. USA wrestling is a nationally recognized club sport for youth that has tournaments or meets during the summer. In fact, one St. Mary’s second grader already participates.

This article published in the March 31, 2022, print edition

If you wanted to get a sense of the sport, you just missed the NCAA tournament dubbed March Mattness, a take on the basketball March Madness. Lachica has program startup experience. After his time as an assistant at Holy Cross in New Orleans, helping guide that program to a state title in 2009, he started the Thomas Jefferson High School and Bolton High programs. At Thomas Jefferson, Lachica started the program in 2010 and in its third year, they placed third among 23 teams. The following year, two of Lachica’s charges were individual state champions. He sees similarities in the tenacity of the students at Saint Mary’s and thinks that some kids could be immediately impactful to the success of the new sport.
Lachica says that rules and technique are the biggest early challenges along with just learning the sport. A mat has already been purchased so now all he needs is willing and enthusiastic participants. Those participants compete in weight classes that will vary; what will not vary is effort and intensity.
Lachica anticipates a clinic or camp this summer for interested kids. Parents and students should YouTube wrestlers David Taylor, Cale Sanderson and Daniel Cormier to get a sense of the sport and watch matches at the highest level of competition. While Louisiana currently does not have any NCAA Division I programs, the state has placed wrestlers at some of the pre-eminent programs in the country. LSU used to have wrestling, but it is now a club sport. Wrestling has three main styles at the competition level. Folk style, free style and Greco Roman. Folk style is the sanctioned style for LHSAA and most collegiate programs. Women compete in wrestling, but ladies are not currently sanctioned by the LHSAA. Natchitoches Central last had wrestling in 1986, now Saint Mary’s will pick up the sport going forward in Natchitoches. Lachica is excited and you can tell he has passion for the sport. He remarked, “I think we have the ability to make an immediate impact in Division III because the kids here at Saint Mary’s are tough.” In addition to wrestling, there is talk that volleyball may be added to the sports list.