Tiger wrestler pins down second straight state title

HHS squad combines for best finish in school history

When Hahnville wrestler Kendrick Jones won the LHSAA Division I state championship last year, one of the first things he said to Hahnville wrestling coach Dan Erwin was “alright coach, what’s next?”

The answer came in the form of a senior year where Jones went 68-0 and won his second straight state championship in the 195-pound weight class. Jones earned the title by beating Jesuit’s Guy Patron Jr.

And while high school is almost at end for Jones, he’s just getting warmed up on the mat. He hopes to attend college on a wrestling scholarship and perhaps one day wrestle for the USA Olympic Team.

Erwin believes Jones could eventually reach his goal.

“Kendrick has all the tools,” Erwin said. “He’s got balance, he’s got speed, he has control of his body, and he’s starting to understand the sport of wrestling. His potential is limitless.”

When Jones was told he still had things to learn even after his first state title last year, Erwin insists he took it seriously.

“He understood he needed to work on his positioning,” Erwin said. “His stance, motion and hand-fighting, and he worked really hard at being a good top wrestler, being able to pin his opponents and control them.  He’s worked on his escape technique and he’s taken his diet and conditioning seriously.”

Jones said he also has a personal reason why he wanted to do so well, something that not a lot people know about him and he doesn’t talk about too much

“ I really love wrestling for a specific reason,” Jones said. “I love it because growing up I was always a lot stronger than most kids my age. I didn’t want to hurt anyone so a lot of time I held back a lot in whatever sport we were playing. But at this level, where everyone is equal, I can go out and really give it my all and I love the competition- it feels good to be able to go all out.”

He said he also feels a responsibility to his team to be an encouraging force on the squad, to support his teammates at every turn and try to provide them with the same type of support they provide him.

Perhaps his coach summed up Jones’ attitude best.

“You know, Kendrick really stepped up and took a leadership role this season,” Erwin said. “And as a part of that, he turned out to be our biggest cheerleader too.”

Coach is quick to point out however, as good as Jones is, this is still a team sport. And there are other members on this team that have contributed to make this year’s squad the absolute best in the program’s history.

Members like junior Nicholas Lirett, a 120 –pounder who finished the season 71-4 and placed third in the state tournament.

“Lirette is a real team leader,” Erwin said. “He’s a year round wrestler.”

Junior Stephen Cloud wrestles in the 220-pound weight class and placed fifth at the state tourney. Cloud also plays football for Erwin, standing 6-foot weighing in at 200 ponds. He  runs the 40-yard dash in 4.6 seconds.

“He told me after the tournament was over this year, ‘I’m going to do it next year, coach.” Erwin said.

Meaning Cloud is going to win the title in his own weight class.

Erwin said another example of the diversity on this team is senior Zachary Corzo, a 170–pounder who placed sixth. In addition to his athletics, Corzo is also Hahnville student council president and has a multitude of academic scholarships to choose from.

Erwin also talked about the character of his team and how even injury wasn’t enough for some of these young men to give up.

“Junior heavyweight Blade Rager really impressed me a lot,” Erwin said. “He had a hard year. This kid broke his hand early in the season and had to have surgery to repair it. Afterwards he had to work so hard to get back to this level, especially when you take into consideration he was the only junior in his weight class, everyone else a senior. He also went on to place sixth in his weight class.”

And sophomore Trevon Honor, a 182 -pounder who also placed sixth in his class but whom coach felt could have placed higher if not for a hip flexor he sustained early in the tournament.

“Trevon could have ended up third, possibly fourth if not for his injury,” Erwin said. “He lost to a guy in the quarterfinals that he already beat once, then came back to win his two next matches to get on the podium. On Saturday he got hurt again and that’s when I pulled him. He already placed and I told him it didn’t matter and wasn’t worth it to continue if he was hurt.”

Erwin further characterized Honor as a true student of the sport.

While the athletes certainly pulled together to place six men on the podium at last week’s state tournament, there are other people who helped to make this their best year, Erwin insisted

He explained that assistant coaches Joel Ramirez, Mike Cominsky and Sean Dwyer were essential to the team’s success.

“Without those three men, this program doesn’t exist,” he said. “So many practices they ran by themselves while I was assistant coaching football practice. We could not have done this without them.”

Also, Erwin gives a lot of credit to the parents of his team, saying they give the coaches and players nothing but support

Support that helped to encourage the team to do well, to work on the things they had to in order to get better and raise the bar in themselves and their team.

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