By SHANNON HEATON
Northeast Florida Matmen
KISSIMMEE — There’s one thing that Avery Holder and Jason Davis will have to get used to in 2017.
Holder (Northeast Matmen’s #1 at 126) and Davis (#1 at 182, same poll, just released Dec. 30) both won championships at the 2016 Knockout Christmas Classic hosted at Osceola High School Thursday and Friday.
Davis and Holder led their teams, respectively, to fourth- and sixth-place team finishes in the two-day IBT. Fleming Island (#2 in the Northeast’s team poll) finished with 140 points, while Northeast top-ranked Flagler Palm Coast was sixth with 115.5 points. Perhaps unsurprisingly, their main 3A-Region 1 rivals, Winter Springs, finished fifth at 122.
Camden County (GA) was the team champion with 259.5 points, with South Dade finishing second at 227. Southwest Miami was third, well back of the Buccaneers, at 143.5. Clay took 12th in its first year in the 32-team tournament, with 87.5 points, while #1 (Northwest poll) Florida High — also making its Knockout debut — was 18th, with 53 points.
Holder, the 3 seed in the the weight class, advanced to Friday’s final at 126 with a 6-3 decision over Wellington’s Jared Abramson. In the final, against former Georgia state champion Lucas Nelson of Camden County, Holder got his offense going and — at the same time — didn’t allow Nelson to score, winning by an 11-1 major decision.
“I want to keep coming and I want to be dominating (opponents). I want to win every match like this — by pin, by tech, by major,” Holder said. “I lost two weeks ago (at Lyman), and it really motivated me to get back to work to get better.
“There is still a lot for me to do, to know that I’m the best in the state. I need to get my weight right. Just get it to a place where it’s right and I can work on other things.”
Top-seeded Davis continued to hold on well to 182, a weight at which he hasn’t competed since his sophomore year at Oakleaf, taking the title over a pair of North Forsyth, GA wrestlers, majoring Brantley Little 11-2 in the semis and then downing Ned Anthony, 9-5, in the final. The pair have — even with the early-ness of the season — 49 wins between them already. The Knockout bracket victory was the first in Fleming Island program history.
“At 182, I feel good, and I feel quicker. The cut was tough at first, but my body is regulated to where I’m getting everything back now,” Davis said. “It was great competition as always, toughest tournament in the state.
“Winning this tournament is an accomplishment, yes, but there’s always room for improvement. My team wrestled well and we should be seeing some Fleming Island guys in the state finals, for sure.”
A recap of each of the 14 weight classes follows:
106 — Unbeaten South Dade freshman and top seed Bretli Reyna won four times, three of those with bonus points, going on to take a 9-1 major in the finals over Camden County sophomore Nick Krug. Carrollwood Day’s Jonathan Conrad edged Northeast Matmen #1 Briar Jackson of Fleming Island, 5-4, for third, with Clay’s Lou Gagliardo (NE Matmen #2 at 113) taking fifth, 3-0, over Hagerty’s Ryan Rowland.
113 — The Buccaneers made it back-to-back titles, as unbeaten senior and top seed Elijah Varona had three falls, a major and 12-5 decision in the finals over Tampa Prep junior Ben Buhler. Camden’s Tyler Crew shut out SW Miami’s Julian Hernandez, 11-0, to take third place, with Springstead’s Richie Rivera winning 8-1 over Northeast Matmen #6 John Johnson to take fifth.
120 — After trailing for most of the match, unbeaten Osceola sophomore Malyke Hines — while locked in a whizzer with top-seeded Flagler Palm Coast junior and Northeast Matmen #1 Michael DeAugustino — draped a leg over and was awarded two in the final second to take a 4-2 decision for the championship. Lake Gibson’s Diamonte Perry edged North Forsyth GA’s Paul Watkins, 3-2, for third, with Northeast Matmen #3 Deandre Demus of Fleming Island winning 3-1 over St. Thomas Aquinas’ Stephen Moreno for fifth.
126 — Coral Park’s Marcus Abreu downed Freedom’s Marcus Jean Baptiste for the second time in the tournament (the two faced off in the quarters Thursday night) to take third with an 11-2 major. Union Grove GA’s Brady Massey turned back Wellington’s Abramson, 3-0, for fifth.
132 — Unbeaten SW Miami junior and top seed Alex Urquiza won his final three matches by a combined total of four points, including a 3-2 win in the final over Union Grove GA senior Davion Fairley. Pigeon Forge TN’s Gavin Hutchens won 9-1 over the hosts’ Jose Cuevas for third, with Alyis Mursuli of South Dade winning by injury-default over Vinny Sessa of St. Thomas Aquinas to earn fifth.
138 — Top-seeded junior Grant Aronoff of St. Thomas Aquinas pinned his way to the final, and shut out SW Miami senior Franco Valdes, 5-0, in the final, handing Valdes his first loss of the season. American Heritage-Delray’s Frankie Tal Shahar had to go to ultimate tiebreaker to turn back Camden County’s Raydan Wilder, 4-3, for third, while Northeast Matmen #3 Michael Martins of Flagler Palm Coast won 4-1 over South Dade’s Joel Ramirez to take fifth.
145 — South Dade sophomore Brevin Balmeceda had a pair of tight decisions, becoming the only wrestler in the tournament to knock off a top seed prior to a final with a 5-4 UTB decision over previously-unbeaten Justin Ruffin of Union Grove GA in the semis, then giving Camden County’s Denton Spencer his first loss in the final with a 4-2 win. Ruffin shut out Lake Gibson’s Ashton Habeil, 4-0, for third, while Kyle Kirkham of Jensen Beach majored Northwest Matmen #1 Jake Richardson of Florida High — who’d won four backside matches to earn a podium spot — by a 10-0 score.
152 — Top-seeded Tampa Prep junior Anthony Artalona had a pair of decisions Friday, taking down St. Thomas Aquinas senior Bryce Marcus, 12-8, in the final. South Dade’s Todd Perry won by a 6-2 decision in the third-place match over Northeast Matmen #1 Paul Detwiler of Fleming Island, with Winter Springs’ Dimitri Alicea winning by injury-default over Lake Gibson’s Christian Febus.
160 — Winter Springs senior and top seed Max Wohlabaugh had to go a full six minutes for a decision win in the semis, then nearly that long again to record a fall in 5:59 over SW Miami senior Angel Del Cueto, handing Del Cueto his first loss of the season. Camden County’s Anthony Carter pinned the hosts’ Ethan DeLong in 2:11 for third place, with Blake Wiswell of Jensen Beach pinning Springstead’s Chase Landgraff in 2:55 for fifth.
170 — Unbeaten Camden County senior and top seed Sangobunmi Smith had four bonus-point victories in the tournament, pinning Southridge senior Luis Rios in 3:18 for his fourth bonus win and the title. Winter Springs’ Cole Mitchell shut out Lee Davis VA’s Andrew Anthony, 3-0, to take third in the weight class; in the fifth-place match, Lake Brantley’s Nathan Ferkovich pinned Mikaelle Fundora of South Dade. The pair had met in the round of 16 on Thursday.
182 — North Forsyth’s Little pinned Northwest Matmen #1 Will Haigler of Florida High for third place, with the fall time coming in 1:54. Winter Springs’ Jason DeGroat decisioned a third North Forsyth wrestler in the bracket, Andy Leggett, by a 7-4 count for fifth place.
195 — Unbeaten Camden County senior and top seeded Antonio Stewart earned bonus points in every round of the tournament, including the final, where he pinned Union Grove junior Camden Johnson, a fellow Georgian, in 5:59 to win the bracket, giving Johnson his first loss of the year in the process. In a battle of Matmen #1s, Northeast got the upper hand, as Fleming Island’s Ryan Smenda decisioned Florida High’s Cam Brown, 3-1, for third place, with Freedom’s Justin Marotta edging Northeast Matmen #3 Kaleb Collins of Clay, 3-2, for fifth.
220 — Unbeaten South Dade senior and top seed Chei Hill pinned or teched his way through the Knockout draw, needing just 19 seconds to give Northeast Matmen #1 Kurt Jackson of Clay his first loss of the year in the title match. Sarasota’s Austin Gould decisioned Northeast Matmen #4 Brandyne Mackey of Fleming Island, 3-1, to win third place, while SW Miami’s Michael Mireles edged Camden County’s Chris Jackson, 3-2, for fifth.
285 — Unbeaten South Dade senior and top seed Kyron Taylor didn’t allow anyone to complete a scoring move throughout the weekend, shutting out Winter Springs’ TJ Boyd, 3-0, in the finals. Southridge’s Melchisedek Jeudy needed extra time to earn a takedown in the third-place match against Northeast Matmen #1 Jose Concepcion of Fleming Island, winning 3-1 in sudden victory, while Camden County’s Andre Bissanthe pinned Northeast Matmen #3 Vincent Ebanks in 4:25 to take fifth.
Brackets will be posted on both Matmen platforms as a PDF is made available.
(The Orlando Sentinel’s Brant Parsons provided additional reporting that was used in the creation of the story. Matmen thanks our friend and partner).