We will write, at least, the 1A and 2A stories today (Sunday)…it’s been a 21-hour day. The 3A story will have to wait until I can get a phone call made, which won’t be until the early afternoon at earliest.
It was a lot of fun. This is the first senior class that at least has seen me at meets for four years (Fleming’s seniors when they were freshmen at districts at Mandarin, and Clay’s seniors saw me for two days at Bolles, back in 2013). It’s a class I’ve come to enjoy, because this class allowed me a little bit into their world and they can see a little into mine.
I will miss kids like Xaiver Sampsel and John Martorano, kids like Dale Browning and Roland Samec, kids like Scott Dollison and Conor Chepenik and Dylan Rossetti and Alex Barie and Evyn Insalaco. There will be kids I wish I’d interviewed, I can think of one from last night.
And there will be new kids to interview more over the years, particularly as the Northwest site gets built up and newer and more opportunities are explored.
For now, here’s what I wrote for the Times Union — I wonder how much of it, hopefully none, will be cut:
By SHANNON HEATON
Special to the Times-Union
KISSIMMEE — When Derek Miller left Paducah, Ky., over the summer of 2015 for Green Cove Springs to start his senior year, he left a wrestling program that had just a couple of kids here and there on it.
The two-time Kentucky state placewinner added a third state honor Saturday night, taking gold in Florida at 132 pounds, as part of the Blue Devils’ second-place Class 1A team effort at Silver Spurs
And he wants what every wrestler wants at the end of the season.
“Now I can eat,” Miller said after decisioning Tampa Prep’s Ashton Habeil, 11-4, to win the state championship. “I feel great.”
Miller went from a room with almost no practice partners to a room with dozens, as the Blue Devils scored 178.5 points to bring home a team second-place trophy, scoring more points than any other team in any class but 1A champ Lake Highland Prep.
“My first matches (this season) I lost, I never let them shake me up,” Miller said. “Every time, I would just come to the room and perfect my technique, just do whatever I could do to get better.”
Now he’s going to find a new hobby.
“I’m going to play putt-putt golf,” Miller said of the next thing he wants to excel at. Asked if he’s any good, he just said: “I will be.”
Columbia brought home its first state championship in 41 years Saturday night, as 120-pound sophomore Chace Curtis scored early and enough to overcome the late rush of Venice’s Brent Smallwood, winning by a 6-3 decision.
“I’m just the hungriest dog out there,” Curtis said of what it took to win. “I use the (big crowd) as motivation. I love it.”
Curtis knew when he came to the arena Saturday for the semifinals that he would win, and his title effort, along with an additional medal, lifted Columbia to a tie for 14th place in 2A, tops among local teams.
“It was 150 percent possible at that point,” he said. “(Winning state) has always been my goal, I just didn’t know it would come so soon.”
While Miller and Curtis were able to find gold Saturday, four other wrestlers came up just short.
Miller’s teammate Chris Merring, ran into the Lake Highland Prep buzzsaw that so many others ran afoul of during the weekend, falling 15-7 to top-ranked Noah Castillo in the 113-pound final.
“It’s been a long three weeks (in the postseason), but I feel really good,” Merring said. “He (Castillo) is an outstanding wrestler.”
In 2A-170, Middleburg’s Jonathan Shoen — normally dominant offensively — found himself under constant defensive pressure against Olympic Heights’ Laurence Kosoy, and couldn’t sustain a counterattack, eventually losing by fall in the third period.
“He just didn’t stop,” Shoen said of Kosoy. “I was getting tired by the end of the first period and he wasn’t even sweating. Very technical, very smart. He was just the better wrestler.”
In 1A, Episcopal’s pair of senior bigs — Scott Dollison (220) and Conor Chepenik (285) — also came up just short, as the Eagles tied for 11th place and had more finalists than any other local team besides Clay.
Dollison fell 7-1 to Lake Highland Prep’s Ben Goldin in the 220 final, getting turned twice in the third period.
“I messed my ankle up during the semis and I couldn’t really finish my shots the way I wanted to take him down. I just didn’t have enough power,” Dollison said. “I wish I would have started (wrestling) sooner than ninth grade, but hard work pays off in the end.”
Chepenik ran into two-time state heavyweight champ Dante Jiovenetta of Coral Shores, a national champion and Division I signee at Missouri.
“He’s quick and strong; you don’t always feel his strength but you know it’s there,” Chepenik said of the final. “He’s got a whole arsenal of moves, and he’s quite heavy, which doesn’t really help when you are trying to get off the bottom.”
In 3A, Fleming Island had four medalists and took sixth as a team.