Holy Innocents' hosted the First Annual Southeastern Prep School Slam on January 30 and 31, a huge, 32-school wrestling tournament with teams from five different states traveling to campus.
“It was a huge success,” Coach Jeff Walrich said. “We had teams from Louisiana, North Carolina, Florida, Tennessee and across Georgia; they all had a great time. And there were a lot of really great wrestlers out there."
Parents and coaches were unanimous in their praise for Coach Walrich and the many volunteers who helped the two-day event run like clockwork. "This was by far the smoothest run tournament I've ever been to," said coach Craig Ketelsen of St. Paul's School in Covington, LA. "That sort of efficiency makes teams want to come back next time. And I guarantee you other schools are going to hear about it and sign up next year."
Lee Kemp, the 2008 Olympic wrestling coach and one of the greatest wrestlers America has ever produced (3 NCAA titles and 3 world championships, but when the US boycotted the 1980 games he missed his chance at Olympic gold), served as Master of Ceremonies, opening the tournament and handing out awards to the wrestlers and teams. Mr. Kemp also had nothing but praise for coach Walrich and the HIES volunteers. "This is obviously a great school," said Mr. Kemp. "When you see so many parents and teachers and students volunteering – working at the concession stand and manning the scorers tables – it tell you something about the community."
On the mats, the action came fast and furious. Six mats in all saw continuous action, three in the main gym and three in the auxiliary gym. For HIES, senior Chris Mann had the most success, finishing second in the 112-pound division. Mann has only three losses this season, all against opponents from larger schools.
Coming one match shy of placing were Lee Davis, Evan Thomas, and Christian Rasmussen.
The Baylor School from Chattanooga finished in first place, with dominating performances from a number of Tennessee state champs, runners-up and placers. Archbishop Rummel of Metairie, LA and The Lovett School tied for second. Woodward Academy finished fourth overall. Holy Innocents' came in 20h in the team standings.
The school has high hopes for next year's team, with a number of quality wrestlers set to replace this year's stellar senior class . Says coach Walrich, "People are talking about next year already – but I'm going to just relax for a few days. I'm tired."
He's earned it.