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Louisiana high school wrestling program seeks help after flood

2015-16 Saint Amant wrestling team

Hit hard by last month's flooding in Louisiana, the wrestling program at Saint Amant High School near Baton Rouge is seeking help to replace mats, singlets, headgear, warm-ups, scales and other items destroyed by devastating floodwaters.

A GoFundMe page has been established to raise funds to replace damaged items worth thousands of dollars which had been used by the wrestling team at St. Amant, a public high school of approximately 2,000 students located in Ascension Parish, about 20 miles east of the Louisiana capital. The entire region suffered severe flooding in mid-August caused by 31 inches of rain in 36 hours which damaged over 100,000 homes and businesses in greater Baton Rouge.

"We figured we lost about $40,000 in equipment, uniforms and gear," St. Amant head wrestling coach Brian Hess told InterMat. "We had a wrestling mat, brand-new last season, which we purchased after a fundraiser. It had been used maybe ten times. We found it floating in the water in the wrestling storage room at the high school. It had to be thrown out."

"In addition, we had to toss a digital score clock, digital scale, singlets, and 40 sets of headgear," coach Hess added. "All of our trophies were also destroyed. This really got to me because our boys worked so far for each of them."

"In our district, five schools were flooded," said Hess, a Pennsylvania native. "However, we believe ours was the only wrestling program to have suffered damage."

"I'd say seventy-five percent of my wrestlers had their homes flooded. Three out of four of our coaches live in homes that were damaged by the flooding."

Saint Amant High School on Aug. 16

St. Amant High remains closed one month after the epic flood which damaged approximately 10,000 of the 45,000 homes located within Ascension Parish. All St. Amant High students are now attending a nearby high school within the district on a split-shift basis.

"The tough thing is, our wrestling season starts in about seven weeks," said Hess.

Right now, about the one thing the St. Amant Gators wrestling program will have is off-the-mat uniforms -- T-shirts, shorts, sweatshirts and polo shirts. These items were ordered just two days before the flood, and will be delivered at a later date.

The need remains great. That's why an assistant coach set up the GoFundMe page, with a goal of $20,000. As of Wednesday night, the St. Amant High wrestling program had raised approximately $2,150.

Saint Amant wrestling coaches:Chase Dupuis, Brian Hess and Mike Pernat

"We appreciate any help we can get," said Hess. "Donations to the fund -- as well as items to replace what was destroyed in the flood -- would be welcome."

"I want our wrestlers to have their own (wrestling) things because some of them don't even have school clothes because of the flood."

Saint Amant's new wrestling mat
Founded in 2001, the St. Amant wrestling program has been on the rise in recent years. Hess became head coach in 2011; last season, he led the Gators to a 32-5 overall record. (According to Hess, the state of Louisiana does not have limits on how many total events a team may participate in, other than there's a limit of one dual meet or tournament per week.) He told InterMat that he expected a similar record for the 2016-17 season.

"Over the past three seasons we've become one of the top one or two programs in the state," Hess said of the St. Amant program, which competes in Louisiana's Class 5A.

Readers wishing to help the St. Amant Gators wrestling program may visit the GoFundMe page or contact Coach Hess directly at brian.hess@apsb.org or at (410) 430-4255.

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