The applause and shouts grew louder before the chant started: “State! State! State!”
Led by Mike George, head wrestling coach at Bishop DuBourg High School, the three state qualifiers walked through the hallway of the school lined with cheering students extending high-fives at a pre-tournament rally Feb. 14.
The wrestlers — senior Grant Pawlak, junior Luke Enright and sophomore Jacob Bader — made their way to the DBC Live closed-circuit television studio at the school for a student-led interview following morning announcements. Though the wrestlers didn’t take home medals from the state tournament Feb. 14-16 in Columbia, Mo., the journey to qualify for it was a big deal at the school because the wrestling program is only in its second year there. Each of the Class 1 state qualifiers came into the program with no wrestling experience.
Pawlak, who wrestles in the 152-pound weight class and was 25-11 entering the state tournament, said to applause from onlookers in the studio that last season only a handful of students joined the team and this season “we came back with a roomful and ended up going to state with hard work and dedication.”
George also cited the hard work put in by the team, adding that consistently the three state qualifiers were “the first ones in the room and the last to leave” at practice.
Later, George said the team accomplished much last season, and this season excelled at the conference tournament as well as districts, exceeding expectations. “We have such a good group of athletes. They never complain and always put in the work. I’m blessed to be here and have this opportunity to help,” he said.
A co-captain of the team, Pawlak finished in third place in the district tournament when he pinned Valle’s Peyton Tucker. Enright, the other co-captain, and Bader, in his first year of wrestling, finished in fourth place in districts.
Pawlak showed up last season with his thumb in a cast from a football injury, yet he went far in the districts. He attended the state tournament and told his coach then that “next year I’ll be here,” George recalled.
Pawlak said his football coach suggested that wrestling would help keep him sharp for the fall sport. “When I joined wrestling, I thought ‘wow, I like this way more than football.’ I started doing football (to prepare) for wrestling,” Pawlak said.
His favorite move, he said, is “taking people up. It puts the fear of God in them.”
Enright, who played basketball previously and wrestles in the 160-pound group, said he believes that wrestling is “the hardest thing a high school student could do, and I’m always up for a challenge.”
He praises his coaches and teammates. “I wouldn’t be here without them,” he said. “We all make each other better.”
His approach is to “let the training take over. I let the coaches think for me. I just go out and wrestle.”
Bader, wrestling as a heavyweight, said he saw other football players wrestling, “so I gave it a try and ended up liking it. You have to work hard to earn your spot. It’s an individual sport, but there’s a lot of camaraderie. We may beat up each other in practice, but you’re still friends at the end of the day and you know you can depend on each other.”
He appreciates his mom’s advice to “do your best. You want to leave everything out there as if it’s your last.”
When asked about how his faith and the sport coincide, he said he thinks about “how we’re all connected. I put my faith into God that we’ll do good, that nothing bad happens to my teammates or coaches or anyone around me.”
This year was the first time the Missouri State High School Activities Association had a division for girls wrestling. George said Diane Bautista represented DuBourg well, has good technique and a bright future. She was the only female wrestler from a Catholic school in the archdiocese in districts.
Bautista, a freshman, said a friend on the team introduced her to the sport. Her first day was fun, she recalled with a chuckle, “but I started to get really sore.”
Her first match was against a male wrestler, and she lost. But she then faced a female wrestler against Clayton and won.
Her mom “was not OK with it at first,” she said, but when she told her how much she enjoyed wrestling, her mom became a supporter.
>>Students of the game
Wrestling is highly competitive,
takes skill “and teaches you a lot about life,” Bishop DuBourg High
School wrestling coach Mike George said.
“Life’s not easy, and the
athletes who stay with this find ways to make positive things happen.
You gotta find a way to win. You get put in tough spots,” George said.
for the wrestlers in the new sport at the school are demanding and
focused on endurance, he noted. “We wrestle people who’ve been wrestling
since they were 5 years old. The best thing I can do for them outside
of showing them a good move set is having them in shape. And we really,
really are in phenomenal shape.”
DuBourg’s wrestlers came in with
no experience, but they listened intently and were quick students of the
game, their head coach said.
George also stays after the
wrestlers to maintain good grades in school. Anyone who falls behind is
asked to take part in the school’s homework club. Before competition,
the players gather for prayer. George reinforces the faith aspect in
practice. As for sportsmanship, George said, “Whether we win or we lose,
our athletes grow to respect and appreciate their competitors.”
Christian Brothers College High School
won its second straight Class 4 Missouri State High School Activities
Association tournament Feb. 14-16 in Columbia. Four wrestlers from CBC
and one each from De Smet Jesuit and St. Louis Priory high schools won
CBC won by 10 points
over its nearest competitor, Liberty High School. CBC junior Joshua
Saunders won his third championship. Senior Kyle Prewitt and sophomores
Vincent Zerban and Wyatt Henson won their first championships. CBC’s
Alex Flerlage and Lucas White finished fourth, and Will Edgar and Jack
Darrah were fifth in their weight classes.
finished fifth in Class 4, with senior Cory Peterson taking a state
title and ending an undefeated season. De Smet’s Jacobi Jackson finished
second, Colton King took third place and Jesse Hahs sixth place in
their weight classes. Chaminade’s Sam Schultz placed sixth.
In Class 2, Priory’s
Dalton Bingman won first-place in the state tournament. Bingman is
Priory’s first-ever wrestling state champion. Priory’s Louis Rolwes