NEW ORLEANS – When Rod Cusachs arrived as an assistant coach at De La Salle in 2013, the Cavalier wrestling program had fallen on hard times. By the next season, Cusachs was the head coach. Three years later, the team is the two-time defending state champion in Division III.
The entire student body at De La Salle celebrated the achievement at an afternoon gathering in the school cafeteria Thursday afternoon.
With the band playing, dancers performing and cheerleaders doing their routines, the routine of celebrating another state championship is something De La Salle wrestling and Cusachs are growing accustomed to. The accomplishment of winning the Division III title for a second consecutive year at Bossier City last Saturday night is still mesmerizing to Cusachs.
“It has not set in yet, we keep striving to be the best program we can be,” Cusachs said. “Winning back-to-back is hard. We are still trying to recuperate from the state tournament this past weekend.”
The Cavaliers once again fought off a stiff challenge from tradition power Brusly to win the state title. It was the second consecutive year the Panthers finished second under Jimmy Bible, who has won 12 state championships since 2004 while Brusly has won 14 titles overall.
“I have a lot of respect for Coach Bible,” Cusachs said. “He runs a great program up there. To beat them in consecutive years speaks volumes about the kids that we have here.”
Cusachs knew he had the team to win the title again.
“We just keep telling the kids to out there and handle our business,” Cusachs said. “If we do that, everything else will take care of itself. Wrestle for yourself, wrestle for your team and see how we end up at the end of the year. It ended well for us for the second straight year.”
Cusachs is surprised that De La Salle has reached its elite level so quickly.
“Yes I am, it is amazing,” Cusachs said. “When we first got here, we had six kids in the program. We had a pair of state runner-up finishes and followed with back-to-back state titles. It’s unthinkable to me to do it in four years. To win back-to-back is pretty awesome.”
It was a consummate team effort for the Cavaliers.
“We had 11 out of our 13 wrestlers place in the top four in the state and we won despite not having a wrestler in one class,” Cusachs said. “That is remarkable in itself. It’s hard when you lose but when those kids lost, rather than accepting fifth or sixth, they won wrestle-backs, placing third or fourth which helped us win the team title.”
While many would like to see the tournament return to south Louisiana, Cusachs has an affection for Bossier City. As the head coach at Archbishop Rummel, he guided the Raiders to the 2011 Division I championship and now he has two titles at CenturyLink Center with the Cavaliers in Division III.
“If we have to back up to Shreveport, I don’t mind,” Cusachs said. “I’m probably the only person who doesn’t mind but do agree that it belongs in south Louisiana, along the I-10 corridor.”
The title was the fifth in De La Salle wrestling history. The Cavaliers won three straight state championships under Pat McArdle from 1969-71. As the student body chanted three-peat, Cusachs just smiled about the realistic possibility.
“I know we are going to work hard to continue our success but we know there will be tough competition,” Cusachs said. “We are not making any guarantees. Our goal is to ultimately be the best program in Louisiana in all classes, not just in Division III.”
Interview with Rod Cusachs: