We’ll send this out in parts.
By SHANNON HEATON
Northeast & Northwest Florida Matmen
KISSIMMEE — There was gold to be had for a few northern Florida wrestlers Saturday night at Silver Spurs Arena.
Not of the team variety, mind you; Brandon made sure that rumors of its demise were more than a bit premature, winning 15 straight matches at one point and taking its 16th straight state title, 27th overall, to outpoint Riverdale, 159-140, for the team crown.
The top local team in the tournament was Leon, which finished in a tie for eighth at 53 points, just eight out of the top five. Lincoln was 12th with 34 points, Columbia and Tate tied for 14th 32 and Gainesville 17th at 28.
Creekside finished 20th with 25 points, followed locally by Ed White (21st, 24), Middleburg (T22nd, 23), Matanzas (26th, 21), Orange Park (T27th, 20), Chiles (T34th, 16), Choctaw (T41st, nine), Nease (T44th, eight), Pace (T52nd, four), Bartram Trail & Ridgeview (T57th, three), Crestview & Niceville (T64th, two) and Gulf Breeze & Terry Parker (T69th, one). Ft. Walton Beach & St. Augustine did not score.
But for Matmen-area wrestlers Trae-von O’Neal of Gainesville (113), Chace Curtis of Columbia (120) and Gabe Beyer of Leon (285), Saturday night was a chance to earn individual glory under very different circumstances.
In all, 18 Matmen state qualifiers picked off hardware over the course of the weekend. Here’s a rundown, with photos (where we have them) and quotes (for finalists) generated through the course of the weekend:
Top six: 1. Trey Lane, fr., Brandon; 2. Ryan Rubenacker, sr., Charlotte; 3. James Monos, sr., Riverdale; 4. Timothy Tran, jr., Belleview; 5. Anthony Lopez, jr., Liberty; 6. Jacob Cochran, soph., Tate.
Snapshot: Lane had three bonus-point victories and an 8-7 decision over top-ranked James Monos of Riverdale in the semis to take the title, with a third-period fall over Charlotte’s Ryan Rubenacker.
Interesting (at least to me) factoid: Lopez and Cochran both lost in rd 1 (Cochran to an eventual non-placer) and had to win three matches to earn their spots on the podium, eventually facing each other for fifth.
Local outlook: Only Cochran was able to secure any victories in the bracket, as three of the four Region 1 wrestlers went 0-2 on Friday.
Cochran: As mentioned in the previous graf, Cochran (#12 statewide) lost to #9 Ryan Fountain of Sebring, 13-6 in the first round, and had to take three wins on the backside. On Friday, Cochran pinned Carol City’s Derrod Walker in 3:42 and #7 Nathan Lawwell of Lake Gibson in 4:15 to reach the second day, then earned a podium spot with a fall in 2:44 over Cape Coral’s Christopher DePaola. The consi semis and Monos were too strong for Cochran, who lost by fall in 2:41. Lopez then decisioned Cochran, 13-7, moving him to sixth.
Kristopher Smith, St. Augustine: Smith (6th) struggled against an early injury in the tournament, first falling to DePaola, 8-2, in the first round and then dropping a 5-4 loss to #10 Lopez in consi rd-1.
Nicholas Vugman, Bartram Trail: Vugman (15th) had no favors done him in the Group of Death, as he lost by fall to Rubenacker in 3:47 in round 1, then again by fall in consi rd-1 to Jensen Beach’s Wyatt Kirkham (13th), in 5:59.
Dominic Cerillo, Niceville: Cerillo had two competitive matches before losing both, taking Monos into the third period before losing by fall in 5:01 in the first round, and then going OT with Pasco’s Chase Ayers before giving up a five-point move, falling 9-4.
Top six: 1. Trae-von O’Neal, sr. Gainesville; 2. Diamonte Perry, jr., Lake Gibson; 3. Andreus Bond, fr. Brandon; 4. Andrew Valverde, jr., South Broward; 5. Paul Steger, jr., Olympic Heights; 6. Alex Porter, jr. Tate.
Snapshot: O’Neal shocked the 2A world with his title run, taking victories over three higher-ranked opponents along the way, including two placers in Bond (4th) and Perry (1st). In the final, O’Neal locked up a crossface cradle with devastating effect to pin Perry early in the second period.
Interesting (at least to me) factoid: At least by Scout’s final rankings of the year, Pasco’s Bryant Haire pulled off the biggest upset of the bracket — before O’Neal’s fall in the finals — when he pinned #2 Rocco Pereira of Palmetto Ridge in the first round. Neither wrestler wound up placing, as both lost in the blood round.
Local outlook: This was one of the region’s stronger weights, with two medalists and three wrestlers winning at least one match.
O’Neal: The run to the title began innocently enough on Friday, with a 49-second fall over unranked Zachary Robertson of Sebastian River in the first round and a fall in 2:13 over Charlotte’s Bryan Rubenacker (10th) in the quarters. Experts projected that possibility. But the real shock-the-world moments came Saturday, when he knocked off Bond, 3-2, in the semis, to set up the final against Perry.
O’Neal comments: “Crossface cradle…it’s the go-to ‘Cane move…I was just going full out, but you got to stay focused and maintain…two years ago I was a match from placing and last year (he was injured)…I’m totally happy right now…I think a lot of people in Gainesville will want to come out now and wrestle.”
Porter: Like Cochran, Porter (unranked) lost his opening-round match on Friday, 15-6 to eventual placer Valverde (9th). Also like Cochran, Porter then rattled off three victories to earn his way on the podium, with a forfeit win over Barron Collier’s CJ Robles and 14-6 major over Matanzas’ Rocky Samples (6th). On Saturday, Porter eliminated Haire with an 11-4 decision to get to the podium, but then fell 3-2 to Bond in the consi semis. Portrer then took another one-point loss, 4-3, in the fifth-place match to Steger.
Samples: Started solidly with a win on the front side, downing Jensen Beach’s Joey Tufo (12th) 7-3 in the first ro8und, but then fell 12-3 to Perry in the quarters, sending him into the consi round and Porter Friday evening.
Briar Jackson, Middleburg: Jackson (16th) had a tough tournament, taking a quick loss by fall to Steger in rd 1 (1:29) and then fell in consi rd 1 to Pereira, 7-1, ending his tournament on Friday.
Top six: 1. Chace Curtis, soph., Columbia; 2. Brent Smallwood, sr., Venice; 3. Marcus Reid, jr., Orange Park; 4. Drew Harrington, jr., Dixie Heights; 5. Kyle Irwin, jr., Belleview; 6. Nelson Elder, sr. Choctaw.
Snapshot: Curtis (5th) beat four ranked wrestlers en route to the title, including an 11-1 win over Elder in the semis. While all three survivors of the class’s Group of Death placed, trying to get past each other resulted in none of them reaching the final.
Interesting (at least to me) factoid: Revenge is always a dish best served with a certain podium spot on the line. After losing on Friday in the quarters to Harrington, Reid would eventually get that one back by beating Harrington in the third-place match.
Local outlook: Only one other weight class (285) saw three medalists in Region 1, and this one was the only weight class that had three medalists that also saw points scored by all four wrestlers.
Curtis: “I hoped for it (winning state this weekend) but I never expected it; it was my goal right at the beginning of the season…I’m just the hungriest dog out there…(The big crowd) gets me going, I use that as motivation; I love it…(When did winning become real) At the beginning of the semis, that’s when I knew it was 150% possible…(How scored early) Just basic stuff, front headlock…stuff we do in the room all the time…(what to work on for next season) Legs. Riding the legs. Still’ve got a lot of room to improve.”
Reid: Ranked second going into the tournament, Reid opened with an 8-4 decision over #1 Kyle Irwin of Belleview, in the weight class’s Group of Death, but then gave up 2 and 2 in overtime against #3 Harrington in the quarters. Reid then ground out four decisions to finish third, with a 7-0 win Friday night over #9 Vinny D’Alessandro of Springstead, a 3-0 blood-round shutout over Lake Gibson’s Austin Hosegood (6th) and a 2-1 win over Elder (10th) in the consi semis before avenging the Friday loss to Harrington with a 3-2 win Saturday afternoon.
Elder: Started well with a victory over Region 2 champ Matthew Daner of Tampa Jesuit, 14-9, in the first round, and then pinned #13 Seth Adeclat of Heritage in 4:50 in the quarters. From there, though, Elder struggled for points in three tough matches against placers, with the semifinal loss to Curtis and the consi-semi loss to Reid, and found himself on the short end of a 6-0 loss in the fifth-place match to Irwin.
Dylan Martinson, Nease: Martinson (16th) got out of the first day of competition, falling 10-2 in the first round to Hosegood, but then pinned West Boca Raton’s Kevin Estevez in 2:16 and won by injury-default over Adeclat to get to Saturday. In the blood round, Martinson was just one score short of knocking off top-ranked Irwin, falling 6-5.
Top six: 1. Kyle Norstrem, sr., Brandon; 2. John DeAugustino, soph., Pasco; 3. Christian Minto, fr., Mariner; 4. Andrew Klopman, jr., Jensen Beach; 5. Kyle Nesbit, jr., Estero; 6. Ethan Altabet, sr., Olympic Heights.
Snapshot: Norstrem won his fifth state title with three bonus-point victories, but his final with DeAugustino was delayed for several extra-long moments over a scoring issue that eventually went in his favor.
Interesting (at least to me) factoid: DeAugustino and Flagler Palm Coast’s Michael DeAugustino are cousins, both sophomores, and had their finals matches literally within minutes of one another Saturday night.
Local outlook: This was the first weight that Region 1 did not have a wrestler on the podium, with two wins as a group on the front side.
Sean Hendley, Lincoln: Hendley (14th) was the only R1 wrestler to both win in the first round and also get to Saturday. Hendley pinned Palm Bay’s Chris Patterson in 41 seconds in that round, but then fell, 7-3, to DeAugustino in the quarters. He then got to Saturday with a fall in 1:27 over Jean Pierre Loyola of Tampa King in consi-rd 2 to reach Saturday. In the blood round, though, Hendley fell 2-1 to Estero (7th).
Dylan Rossetti, Middleburg: Rossetti (16th) drew Klopman (3rd), a former Clay County rival, in the first round, but fell 12-1 there, requiring two wins to get to Saturday. That Rossetti was able to deliver, decisioning #8 Johnathan Fan-fan of Lake Gibson 5-1 in consi rd-1 and then a 4-2 decision over Nease’s Tristen Lucessi (13th). The blood-round matchup against Altabet (10th) went much the same way the rd-1 match did Friday, with Altabet winning 13-1.
Lucessi: The Nease senior needed extra time to pick up his opening-round victory, taking down #15 Darius Darr of Viera 3-1 in double-OT, but then ran into Nordstrem in the quarters, losing by fall in 1:53. That set up a rematch with Rossetti in consi-rd 2.
Tanner Wood, Tate: Couldn’t get untracked in the bottom quarter, first falling 17-4 in the first round to Altabet and then falling in consi rd-1 to Loyola, 9-5.
Top six: 1. Konnor McHale, sr., Jensen Beach; 2. Jalen Soto, soph., Cypress Lake; 3. Lawrence Scrivens, sr., Brandon; 4. Jarrett Chandler, sr., Riverdale; 5. Austin Smith, soph., East River; 6. Colten Thomas, sr., Ft. Myers.
Snapshot: Top-ranked McHale put together two dominant performances on Friday, but proved himself capable of winning the close matches as well, edging #3 Thomas in the semis, 7-6, and then #2 Soto, 3-1, in the final.
Interesting (at least to me) factoid: Chandler (10th) drew McHale in the first round, and rallied from a third-period fall in that match to win four matches — three of them against wrestlers ranked higher than Chandler — and get to the third-place match.
Local outlook: Just two wins for the region, with no wrestlers surviving past the first day.
Michael Cantwell, Crestview: Cantwell (14th) was the only R1 wrestler to reach the quarterfinals on the front side, downing Belleview’s Dalton Yerk, 9-6. However, Cantwell lost by technical fall to McHale in the quarters, 15-0, and then found himself on the losing end of a second-period fall to Prairie Ridge’s George Zertopoulis, in 3:52 in consi rd-2.
Trevor Belden, Ridgeview: Belden (15th) lost by fall in 46 seconds to Smith in the first round, but came back to pin Heritage’s Alex Bucy in 2:04 in consi-rd 1. But Lake Gibson’s Clayton Leach (8th) was too much in consi rd-2, taking a 12-1 major decision over Belden.
Saeid Ejmali, Orange Park: Ejmali (13th at 138) got a tough first-round draw against #6 Scrivens, falling in overtime by a 6-4 count. He then went up against Zertopoulis in consi-rd 1 and the result was little different, falling 7-3.
Matthew Pickett, Bartram Trail: Pickett, the only unranked wrestler in his quarter, lost by fall to Leach in 55 seconds in the frist round, dropping him into the consolations. Pickett was able to go a full six minutes in consi rd-1 against Olympic Heights’ Nick Peglow (11th), but fell 11-3.
Top six: 1. Frank Bruno, sr., Brandon; 2. Daniel Williamson, sr., Riverdale; 3. Chance Sharbono, jr., Braden River; 4. David Sanchez, sr., Miami Springs; 5. Emmanuel Torres, sr., Wesley Chapel; 6. Hadley Vadyak, sr., Ft. Myers.
Snapshot: Bruno gave Brandon its third title of the night after a pin and tech fall to get through Friday and then an 8-1 decision over Torres and 7-1 decision over Williamson in Saturday night’s final.
Interesting (at least to me) factoid: Williamson entered the tournament in the weight class’s Group of Death as its third-highest ranked wrestler, but dominated the group with two first-period pins.
Local outlook: This was another weight class where the Region 1 kids struggled, with just two consi rd-1 victories to the group’s credit.
Travis Thompson, Pace: Thompson (15th) fell 9-6 in the first round to Vadyak (8th), sending him to the consi rounds. Thompson was able to edge #10 Gabriel Bourne of Lake Gibson, 3-2, in consi-rd 1, but then drew Sharbono in consi-rd 2 and sustained a 12-2 major-decision defeat there.
Tristan Kraus, Matanzas: Kraus (11th) lost by fall to unranked Coleman Bryant of Dixie Hollins in the first round, with the fall time coming in 1:36. Kraus came back for an 8-3 decision over Jensen Beach’s Devon McKinley in the first consi round, but then drew the Group of Death losing quarterfinalist, Belleview’s Jessen Hendrix (#3), in consi rd-2, losing by fall in 4:35.
Darien Tucker, Ed White: Tucker (9th) was the lone Group of Death competitor not to get out of the group, losing by fall in 1:30 in round 1 to Williamson. The second match was far more competitive but the result was mostly the same, as Palm Bay’s Shane Stewart (4th) won by decision, 5-1.
Diego Calonje, Crestview: Gave solid fight in the first round to #2 Sharbono, dropping the first-rounder by just a 7-4 count, but the effort of that match may have been costly in consi rd-1 against Sanchez, who took an injury-default victory over the Crestview sophomore.
Top six: 1. Adam Lewis, sr., Jesuit; 2. Noah Ridley, soph., Brandon; 3. Hunter Weeks, sr., Riverdale; 4. Bryce Poppell, jr. Palm Bay; 5. Brendan Ditro, sr., Dunedin; 6. Kyle Kirkham, jr., Jensen Beach.
Snapshot: Top-ranked Lewis bookended a pair of 5-3 decisions in the quarter and semi with dominant performances on a weekend filled with nothing but ranked wrestlers. His decisions came against #2 Keaton Koselke of Mariner in the quarters and #5 Ditro in the semi before pinning sixth-ranked Ridley in the final.
Interesting (at least to me) factoid: Kirkham (4th) may have lost three times in taking sixth in the bracket, but those three losses were by a combined total of four points: 3-1 to Ditro (5th) in the quarter, 7-6 to Poppell (8th) in the consi semi and 2-1 in double OT to Ditro for fifth.
Local outlook: Just one wrestler won a first-round match and that same wrestler was the only one able to get to Saturday.
Anthony Krevatas, Pace: Krevatas (9th) advanced to the quarters with a 9-3 decision over East Lake’s Carl Monix in round 1, but could not get past Poppell in the quarter. In a District 1 — and Region 1 — title rematch with Niceville’s Jack Johnson, Krevatas picked off the post-season rubber-match victory with a 3-1 consi rd-2 decision, but then found himself on the hind end of a dominant offensive performance from #3 Weeks in the blood round, falling 26-12.
Johnson: Was matched up with Ditro in the first round, falling by major decision in a 10-2 outcome, but then took a convincing 13-1 major decision over Belleview’s Jakob Crew in consi rd 1, getting to the rematch with Krevatas in consi rd-2.
David Jackson, Lincoln: Also picked up a victory in the consi rounds, putting together a comeback after losing by fall in 2:59 to Koselke in the first round. That comeback was a fall of his own over Norland’s Aslet Jean (16th) in 2:08 in consi rd-1, but Weeks — as he was the next morning with Krevatas, was too tough to overcome in consi rd-2, falling 12-0.
Juwan Lee, Ed White: Lee (13th) was the first Region 1 wrestling to fall by a major decision to Weeks, taking a 12-2 loss, but Miami Springs’ Randall Sandoval also proved to be an insurmountable challenge in consi rd-1, losing 17-3.
Top six: 1. Julian Ramirez, fr., Jesuit; 2. Christian Febus, jr., Lake Gibson; 3. Dan Georges, sr., Olympic Heights; 4. Justin Grant, soph., Leon; 5. Brandon Dickman, soph., Creekside; 6. Chad Heidt, sr., Robinson.
Snapshot: Ramirez never had to get out of the first period to win the state championship. He needed just 3:26 over four matches to win the title, pinning #3 Grant in 46 seconds in the semis and 30 seconds over #2 Febus in the championship.
Interesting (at least to me) factoid: The wrestler that had the longest match of the tournament with Ramirez was the one that went 0-2 on Friday — Matanzas’ Eddy Leon de la Cruz almost got to the second period, lasting 10 seconds longer than three subsequent, and higher-ranked, wrestlers would.
Local outlook: Every local wrestler came away with something over the weekend, even Leon de la Cruz out of the Group of Ramirez.
Grant: Locked in his place on the podium with solid wins on Friday, majoring Springstead’s Travis Williams (14th) 10-2 in the first rou8nd and then takng a 5-0 win over Palm Bay’s Dylan Perrow (#5) in the quarter. That brought Ramirez in the semis and a quick 46-second loss by fall, but Grant would rally, pinning #6 Heidt in the consi semi in 2:13. The third-place match with Georges was tight, with Grant falling 3-2.
Dickman: Was matched with eventual finalist Febus in the first round and hung in there before falling 9-5 and dropping into the consis. From there, Dickman put together three victories to get to the podium, with an 8-5 consi rd-1 victory over West Boca Raton’s Dimitri Naimi (9th), a 14-6 major in consi rd-2 over unranked Devin Price of Golden Gate and a 5-4 blood-round victory over Perrow. Georges had a quick pin, in just 56 seconds, in the consi semis, but Dickman rallied a second time, decisioning Heidt for fifth, 6-4.
Aaron Mantuano, Gulf Breeze: Wrestled three ranked wrestlers over the course of the day Friday, going 1-2. Manutano fell in the first round, 10-2, to Heidt, but came back in consi rd-1 with a 7-5 victory over Palmetto’s Dom Bass (13th) and battled Perrow to a match just as close, falling 7-4 in consi rd-2.
Leon de la Cruz: Went 0-2 but went further than any other wrestler in the tournament against Ramirez. However, Leon de la Cruz’s second match didn’t go any better, as Jensen Beach’s Liam Martin (11th) also won by fall in 1:18 in consi rd-1.
Top six: 1. Joey Nadotti, sr., Palmetto Ridge; 2. Jaycie Rudd, sr., Lincoln; 3. Matthew Cates, jr., Palm Bay; 4. Luke Veigel, jr., Venice; 5. Adam Pyle, sr., Auburndale; 6. Robby Washam, sr., Dunedin.
Snapshot: Nadotti won his second title with convincing victories thorughout the weekend, with wins over the #5 and #12 wrestlers on Friday, a first-period semifinal fall in the semis over unranked Washam and then a 9-4 decision over Rudd in a battle of 1vs2 in the final.
Interesting (at least to me) factoid: I had said in the preview that unranked wrestlers would have a chance to make their mark in this bracket, and two in particular — Veigel and Washam — did. Veigel won three matches after a quarterfinal loss to Rudd and was just one takedown short of a fourth victory, while Washam had wins over two ranked wrestlers to punch his ticket to the podium.
Local outlook: Outside of Rudd’s run to the finals, the group largely struggled, with just two other wins — one on each side of the bracket — for the rest of the R1 field.
Rudd: Pinned his way into the final, with two first-period falls on Friday. First was #16 Blake Wiswell of Jensen Beach in 1:06, then Veigel in 38 seconds in the quarters. Cates took a little more doing, but Rudd got that fall in 3:38 in the semi. He never could get his offense untracked against the defending champion in the finals, though.
Rudd quotes: “I was just wrestling like myself, just doing me (prior to the final)…looking for the pins while staying in good position got me to the final…he (Nadotti) is a conservative wrestler; he never did let me set up my shots on him…He’s a really good wrestler, he stays in position, and he just got me…He’s solid, I have to give him his props for that.”
Nartorian Lee, Orange Park: Lee (10th) was the only other wrestler to win out of the region, taking an 11-2 major over Norland’s Cednet Jean in the first round. However, Washam was just a little bit too strong in the quarter, taking a 12-8 victory. Lee did get to Saturday with a third-period fall in 4:34 over East River’s Miguel Ruberia, but fell in the blood round by fall to Pyle (6th), in 4:10.
Sergio Jordan, Ed White: Jordan (15th) was in the Group of Death with Nadotti in the same quarter, but didn’t see him, falling in the first round, 8-4, to #12 Rene Capo of Merritt Island. Jordan then drew #5 Jared Burgess of Belleview in consi rd-1, losing by fall there in 4:21.
Sullivan Gerlits, Pace: Unranked Gerlits couldn’t get going in the second quarter, first falling to Cates by fall in 1:14 in the first round and then going six but unable to overcome Ruberia in consi-rd 1, falling 10-2.
Top six: 1. Laurence Kosoy, sr., Olympic Heights; 2. Jonathan Shoen, sr., Middleburg; 3. Jesse Seidl, sr., Land O’Lakes; 4. Gavin Hoard, jr., Chiles; 5. Brian Almeida-Torres, sr., Liberty; 6. Brad Bolesta, soph., Gaither.
Snapshot: No one could get to Kosoy all weekend, as the 3A training he got in preparation for this year paid off. Kosoy pinned his way through the bracket, with falls over the #2, #7 and #5-ranked wrestlers en route to the championship.
Interesting (at least to me) factoid: Kosoy and Seidl met in the first round, with the winner being the most likely favorite to win the title, and the loser most likely to take third. That’s how it played out, although all but one of Seidl’s wins along the way to third were decided by a total of seven points.
Local outlook: Shoen and Hoard led the charge, as expected, picking up all of the victories en route to the two medals. Hoard should be well-positioned to take this weight, or 182, in 2017.
Shoen: Had a bit of a rugged start in his first-rounder against Ft. Myers’ Mike Edouard, but pulled enough together to survive with an 8-7 decision. We saw more of the Shoen that’s been one of the elite 170s in the Northeast in his quarterfinal fall in 3:23 over #6 Blake Castillo of Pasco, and he followed that up on Saturday morning with a 10-7 decision over #9 Bolesta. Shoen had trouble getting anything going against Kosoy, though, losing by fall in 5:02 in the final.
Shoen quotes: “He (Kosoy) just didn’t stop. He kept on going. I was getting tired toward the end of the first period and he wasn’t even sweating…He’s very technical…I’m planning on going on and wrestling in college, I think I’ve always just wanted (success in the post-season) more than most people do, but that guy, he was just the better wrestler.”
Hoard: Won his first match by injury default over Riverdale’s Jared Galan (3rd), but could not keep momentum in an 8-0 quarterfinal loss to Almeida-Torres (7th). Hoard (4th) rallied from there, decisioning #13 Alex Bordeau of West Boca Raton 2-0 in consi rd-2 and pinning East Lake’s George Hall in 2:16 in the blood round. Hoard then also took a decision over Bolesta, 6-2, in the consi semis, but couldn’t overcome the scoring of Seidl in the third-place match, falling 4-2.
Heath Herndon, Tate: Herndon (15th) dropped a first-rounder against Palmetto Ridge’s Joey Parmenter (8th), 12-7, and then found himself on the wrong end of an 18-8 major against Bordeau.
Daryn Tucker Brown, Ridgeview: In his first state tournament, Brown found himself 0-2 by the thinnest of margins, drooping a pair of one-point decisions, first in the first round to Hall (5-4) and then 2-1 to Seidl in consi rd-1.
Top six: 1. Brian Buser, sr., Jesuit; 2. Brandon Nevitt, sr., Dixie Hollins; 3. Gage Schield, sr., Riverdale; 4. Malachi Ortiz, sr., Belleview; 5. Jacob Figur, sr., Sebring; 6. Maverick Dennis, sr., Matanzas.
Snapshot: Buser dominated the bottom half of the bracket with a fall and two solid decisions — including wins over the #3 and #4 wrestlers in the quarter and semi — but needed extra time to turn back Nevitt, who’d dropped down late from 195, 3-1 in sudden victory.
Interesting (at least to me) factoid: Sixth place isn’t the medal most wrestlers want and probably not the one Dennis wanted, but after pinning the #5 wrestler in the first round and decisioning the #2 in the blood round, it was more than earned.
Local outlook: It wasn’t all Dennis (8th), as every Region 1 wrestler had at least one victory during the tournament. But the group as a whole had just one front-side victory.
Dennis: Picked off a minor upset in the first round with a third-period fall over Ida Baker’s Nick Richards (5th), in 5:24, and nearly got to the semis, but fell just short in a 5-4 quarterfinal loss to Ortiz (6th). Dennis then knocked out District 4/Region 1 rival Willy Lulias (13th) out of the tournament with a 9-2 decision in consi rd-2. On Saturday in the blood round, Dennis then took down #2 Connor Knauer of Hillsborough, 9-5, and almost got to the third-place match, falling 9-7 to Schield (4th) in the consi semis. In the fifth-place match, Figur (3rd) also had just enough offense, winning over Dennis 7-3.
Lulias: Fell by fall in the second period to Schield in 2:44, but came back with an injury-default victory over Jensen Beach’s Cole Podaras (11th) to advance to Friday evening’s consi rd-2 and another match with Dennis.
Anthony Stith, Bartram Trail: Unranked Stith had a very tough first-rounder in Figur, who pinned Stith in 3:01 in the second period to send him to the consolation round. There, in consi rd-1, Stith made short work of Olympic Heights’ Troy Jaffy, with a fall in 1:23, but then lost by fall to Knauer in 2:23 in consi rd-2.
Aquana McCalop, Terry Parker: McCalop went six minutes with Nevitt (#3 at 195), but had difficulty scoring in a 12-1 major-decision loss. He had to battle hard to overcome Barbara Goleman’s Enrique Kelly, 3-2, in consi rd-1, but then lost by fall to Figur in 3:20 in consi rd-2.
Top six: 1. Joe Marcano, jr., Brandon; 2. Nick Vischulis, sr., Venice; 3. Clifton Thomas, sr., Dixie Heights; 4. Najee Jacob, soph., Ft. Myers; 5. Gus Fischer, sr., Creekside; 6. Jordin Castanheira, sr., Matanzas.
Snapshot: Marcano took down four ranked wrestlers to bring home the Eagles’ last title of the night with two pins on Friday and a 7-0 decision in a battle of #1 vs. #1 in the semis, decisioning Thomas 7-0. In the final, Marcano did enough to stop Vischulis, who bumped up from 182, for a 7-2 decision.
Interesting (at least to me) factoid: The four wrestlers who went 0-2 in this bracket had an average win total of 39.5, with two wrestlers winning 40+ matches and one winning 50.
Local outlook: The region did fairly well, with three first-round wins and three wrestlers getting to the blood round. Fischer and Castanheira were able to have one last District 4 showdown on the state’s biggest stage.
Fischer: Ranked fourth going in, Fischer made short work of Dunbar’s Frederick Dixson, with a 56-second fall, but then found himself on the other end of an upset against Jacob (10th), falling 8-4 in the quarterfinals. Fischer then rallied with an 8-6 consi-rd 2 win over #8 Caden Norris of Merritt Island and a fall in 1:26 over Barbara Goleman’s Ivan Martinez (15th) to advance past the blood round. Thomas was able to overcome him, 7-6, in the consi semis, but he had one scoring move and that was enough in a 3-1 fifth-place victory over Castanheira.
Castanheira: Had several solid matches, particularly on Friday, beginning with a 2-1 win over Norris in the first round, and then battling Thomas to a 5-1 loss in the quarters. On the consi side, Castanheira got to Saturday with a second-period fall over Auburndale’s Cody Bush, and then pushed through the blood round with a 4-3 win over Ed White’s Atyrus McDonald (7th). Jacob proved too strong in the consi semi, winning by fall over Castanheira in 2:46, sending him to Fischer in the fifth-place match.
McDonald: McDonald, too, had a strong start, knocking off #5 Garrett Davidofsky of Olympic Heights, 5-3, in the first round, but then ran into Marcano in the quarters, losing that match by fall in 3:47. McDonald advanced to Saturday’s wrestling with an 8-4 consi rd-2 win over Sunlake’s Ronnie Estep (#13th), matching him with Castanheira in the blood round.
Kurt Jackson, Middleburg: Lost twice by fall in his first state tournament, first in 3:15 in the first round against Martinez, and then to Estep, with that fall time in 4:10.
Top six: 1. Jamel Davis, sr., Barron Collier; 2. Jesse Pryor, sr., Riverdale; 3. Silas Root, sr., Harmony; 4. JT Grant, soph., Leon; 5. Gaven McAnally, sr., Tate; 6. Marvens Saint Charles, sr., Blanche Ely.
Snapshot: Davis established himself as the wrestler to beat on Friday night when he knocked #2 Alexi Castro of Olympic Heights into the consolation rounds with a 7-5 overtime decision. Davis then pinned Grant, no easy task as northerners know, and edged #3 Pryor in the title match, 3-2.
Interesting (at least to me) factoid: The rankings seemed to have significantly undervalued Grant and McAnally, who came in at 10th and 9th, respectively. McAnally beat the 8, twice, and went 1-0 with the 4, while Grant beat the 7 and went 8-5 with the 4. Davis, too, was under-ranked, although looks at the matches show how closely bunched the group truly was.
Local outlook: Another two medals for the group, with one semifinalist, plus a third contributing points along the way.
Grant: Opened the tournament with a fall over unranked Reoshard Donald of Norland in 5:30 to get to the quarterfinals, where he took on #7 Devan Lopez-Rojas of Lake Gibson, shutting out Lopez-Rojas 5-0 to clinch his podium spot and state medal. However, Davis was too strong in Saturday’s semifinal, pinning Grant in 1:56 to send him to the consolation side of the bracket. First up was Region 1 rival McAnally, and Grant was able to hold on for a 5-3 win in that one before falling to Root 8-5 for third.
McAnally: Started his tournament with a 6-1 decision over Saint Charles in the first round, setting up a quarterfinal with Root that was a 1-0 loss. McAnally then battled through two tough wins Friday evening and Saturday morning to clinch his podium spot, first edging Belleview’s Leonard Jacobs (12th) in consi rd-2 and then pushing past unranked Brian Batey of River Ridge, 6-4, in the blood round to set up his Region 1 rematch with Grant. McAnally then pinned Saint Charles to take fifth.
Ammon Meeks, Middleburg: Meeks (16th) got his tournament started in as difficult a path as possible, falling 1-0 to #13 Kyven Higgins of Dwyer while not being able to get out from bottom in the ultimate tiebreaker. Meeks did pick up a win on the back side, decisioning Lake Wales’ Keaton Wilemon in consi rd-1, but then lost by fall Friday evening to Lopez-Rojas, in 2:32.
Avery Wilds, Ed White: Wilds (15th) took two tough losses in the Group of Death for the bracket, first losing by fall to Castro in 3:05 in the first round, and then falling to Jacobs in 1:51 in consi rd-1.
Top six: 1. Gabe Beyer, sr., Leon; 2. Mike Delago, sr., Ft. Myers; 3. Kelton Johnson, sr., Ed White; 4. Cole Schneider, jr., Riverdale; 5. Rowdy Driggers, sr., Lely; 6. Marcus Zeighler, sr., Columbia.
Snapshot: Beyer extended his dominance of the north to the entirety of the 2A heavyweight scene, bludgeoning each opponent into submission with decisions to take the championship. Beyer had wins over the #4, #5 and #1 wrestlers in the weight class en route to the title.
Local outlook: With the exception of 120, this was Region 1’s strongest weight class, and it came in a weight that might have been far deeper than any other weight class in the tournament.
Beyer: Had his most one-sided match in the first round against unranked Jesus Gonzalez of Jefferson, winning by fall in just 1:10 to get to the quarterfinals. From there, he then methodically pushed past his opponents, with one-point wins in the quarter over East Lake’s Julian Santos (4th) on Friday, in the semi over Driggers (5th) and then again in the title match against Delago (1st), 4-3.
Beyer quotes: “I hate losing more than anything, and after being one match short of winning state last year, I was going to make sure that didn’t happen again. I wrestled all off-season…that helped me greatly. At Disney Duals, I had the opportunity to beat four of the nation’s top 20 heavyweights there, and after practice, I would run 3 1/2 miles every day, pumping up the speed a little bit more every time…He (Delago) was very, very tall, but I just knew because of that I could get underneath him…my coach Gio told me that no matter what, you control the match; if you set the rules, you can win, and that helped pay off in the end…We had 19 guys in the room this year, and we were only missing guys in the lower weights; I believe the kids that saw what I did will start working even harder. Hopefully soon Leon will have every spot filled and bring a team title home.”
Johnson: Johnson (6th) started strongly, taking a 14-7 first-round win over Pasco’s Nick Burt (10th) and then went a full six minutes with Delago before falling there, 11-5. From there, Johnson not only didn’t lose again, but was generally dominant, with a consi rd-2 fall in 1:35 over Port St. Lucie’s Deandre Sims Friday night, a 15-4 major over #11 Stefen Singer of Olympic Heights in the blood round and a fall in 1:55 over Driggers in the consi semis. Johnson then took an injury-default victory over Schneider (3rd) in the third-place match, which was not contested.
Zeighler: Was the region’s second semifinalist, coming out of a quarter with four ranked wrestlers. Zeighler (12th) edged #15 Jordon Ortega of Belleview, 2-1, in the first round, and then took down #8 Jesse Smith of Dixie Hollins, 3-2, in the quarters. Zeighler couldn’t find his offense in the semi against Delago, but went a full six minutes there before falling 6-0. Schneider proved to be too strong in the consi semi, pinning Zeighler in 1:36 there, and then Driggers won by fall in the fifth-place match, in 4:35.
Joseph Pearson, Ft. Walton Beach: Pearson (16th) lost by fall in a very tough first-rounder with Driggers, with that match going 42 seconds. He was able to take a full six minutes in consi rd-1 with Sims, but lost that one by a 7-3 count in a very strong weight class.