by Madison Ruston // GeauxPreps.com Contributor
After four seasons of finishing as a state runner-up, the North DeSoto wrestling team finally achieved its goal of winning a team state championship—the first one for wrestling in school history.
Following the crowning of 11 regional champions, the Griffins set out to dominate the state tournament and that’s exactly what they did. They sent 13 of 14 wrestlers to the semifinals of the tournament. Eight of those 13 made it to the finals.
Sophomore Dalton Compton, freshman Hayden Bell, junior Chase Smart, and junior Caiden Burns all took state in their weight classes. This dominant performance helped secure a first-place team finish for the Griffins.
Head Coach Dustin Burton said it wasn’t the usual tough and intense approach going into this season. He said the team faced some challenges over the summer that no coach could prepare for. He said just before the season began, he heard a song that would change the course of the season for the better.
“I was deeply moved by a song called “Champion” by Bethel Music during a church service. It felt like the message of the song was meant for me to apply to our program,” said Burton. “When my wife noticed my emotional reaction, I explained that the song resonated with me deeply. She reminded me of the importance of surrendering control and trusting God to navigate our path.”
After that, Burton knew this season would be different for his team.
“I decided to let God take the lead, despite not knowing exactly how. We prioritized character, built on a solid foundation, and prayed together as a team every day.” Burton said. “It became clear that we were part of something only God could orchestrate. And, we BELIEVED.”
Burton also picked out scripture for the team to stand on and motivate them during the season. 1 Corinthians 9:24 “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.”
“This verse became our guiding principle as we approached the State Championships, empowering us to compete according to God’s standards.” Said Burton. “After sharing the verse with the team, I encouraged them with the words, “Go run your race!”
That’s exactly what the Griffins did. They dominated their way through the tournament winning by a huge margin in points.
One person who has believed in the process both as a wrestler and a coach is assistant coach Chase Bates. Bates is special to the program because he was the Griffins’ first-ever individual state champion. He said North DeSoto Wrestling is a special place.
“There’s a ton that’s special about North Desoto wrestling. Coach Burton has done a great job at making a brand with our club and high school team.” Bates said. “The North DeSoto wrestling community has turned into a force to be reckoned with and is only getting bigger and stronger each year.”
The strength of the program from the club level to the high school level is a big reason he chose to come back and coach.
“The biggest reason I wanted to coach was because I know the potential that North Desoto wrestling has. I saw it when I was wrestling and how it took off in the community.” Said Bates “I also feel like I have a lot of experience with being the first to win in the program that I can help these guys achieve their goals. It’s also important for alumni to coach because it’s how a culture is built.”
Another reason Bates came to coach was to get the opportunity to coach his younger brother, senior Lake Bates.
“It’s a unique feeling getting to be able to coach my brother. It’s a little more personal when he’s competing.” Said Bates. “It’s cool both having state titles to our names. But I’m always proud of him even if he didn’t win anything.”
Lake agrees having his brother in his corner has been a great experience.
“It is just a great feeling to have my brother coaching me through my matches. Win or lose I know he will always be there for me.” Lake said.
Lake is also thankful for the leadership of Coach Burton and the impact his coaching approach.
“Coach Burton has not only been a great coach to me but also a great role model, teaching me life lessons I’ll never forget.”
One kid whose had success from growing up in the wrestling program is freshman state champion, Hayden Bell. He said Coach Burton is special to him.
“Coach Burton means a lot to me, he has been there since second grade coaching me through our club team and he has helped tremendously,” Bell said
Bell made it to the finals in the regional tournament but came up just short when he ran out of gas in the final round. He said that gave him the motivation to go into state.
“Coming up short at regionals motivated me to put in the extra work on my conditioning and my technique because I knew that I had a real shot at winning state if I could get better conditioning.” Said Bell
That’s exactly what he did. He worked hard and was able to pin way through the tournament to win state as a freshman. He had some tough matches. He had a come-from-behind win against a senior and he upset the number one seed in his bracket. He said thinking back to regionals was a key part of getting through those matches.
“During those two matches, I just wanted to stay technical even when I got tired. I didn’t do that in regionals and it cost me the match.” Bell said.
With both Hayden and Lake growing up in the wrestling program, it’s evident that North DeSoto’s club team is a major reason for the Griffins’ success and will keep them at the top as one of the best programs in the state.
“Much credit goes to the North Desoto Wrestling Academy. As the largest USA wrestling club in the state, NDWA serves as a strong bridge connecting parents and coaches, providing a solid foundation for our high school team,” said Burton. “Notably, 10 out of the 14 starters this year have roots in the club, highlighting its substantial impact on our team’s development.”
Both wrestlers have won a state title as an individual, but both agreed that winning it as a team is an even better feeling.
“Winning the team title was just a great ending to my high school wrestling career. We were able to do something no other team at North Desoto has been able to do and no one can take that away from us,” said Bates.
Bell decided he wasn’t going to wrestle at the beginning of the season, but it was his teammates who encouraged him to come back, so he says winning the team title for them was special.
“It’s even better winning as a team, my teammates wanted me to come back, so winning this for them makes everything extra special,” Bell said.
A simple song, that started a fire inside of a coach, that then spread to his team, is what started it all for the Griffins this season. A strong foundation in Christ was key in a history-making season that ended with North DeSoto at the top.