North Florida Matmen staff report
PORT ORANGE — It was going to take a big effort for District 5 representatives Pedro Menendez and Atlantic to push past Hernando, a familiar face in the first day of the FHSAA 1A state dual tournament.
And, ultimately, the Leopards showed both the Falcons and Sharks just why they’re familiar, as Hernando romped to easy Region 2 dual wins over Pedro Menendez (74-6) in the quarterfinals and Atlantic (63-7) in the semis Thursday night at Atlantic.
The prize for such domination? Lake Highland Prep, the two-time 1A state dual champions in the Region 2 final at Osceola on January 24. The Highlanders hammered Hernando in last year’s Region 2 final in much the same fashion that the Leopards did Thursday night.
Up first was Pedro Menendez, and although Hernando got two pins from Billy Fetzner at 152 and Josh Pritz 160 to get on the board first, the Falcons were — however briefly — close after the 170 match, in which Menendez’s Connor Spossey won by second period fall.
But then it was all Leopards, as Hernando won 11 weight classes in a row, nine of them with max-points, including falls from Maddox Romain (182), Christopher Spellman (195), Sam Fleming (285), Diego Mojica (120) and Jason Perez (138), plus a 21-5 tech from Billy Gould (132) and a 6-3 win from Justin Fabela (145).
Meanwhile, Atlantic had enough on its hands with Weeki Wachee just to get into the semifinal round. The teams were tied after two (6-6) and six (18-18) weights, but Weeki Wachee built a 39-28 lead with just two matches to go on a pin from Christian Castinado (113), a forfeit and a 10-6 win from Lane Beck at 126.
But Atlantic answered with two max-point wins, with Jeremiah Epps (145) needing just 40 seconds to assure that the Sharks would move on. Noah Anderson (170) and Christian Henry (182) would win by fall and Jamey Bruner (120) took a 10-2 major.
That set up a semifinal between the district champs (Weeki Wachee and Pedro Menendez met separately in a dual we will recap separately).
Two Hernando 12-point runs more than counterbalanced the two Sharks wins from Henry (12-3 major at 182) and Jared Jackson (6-2 win at 285), and the Leopards would win every match between 106 and 152, with Heaven-Leigh Jackson (113) and Gould (132) taking pins, Jonathan Britton (120) with a 15-0 tech, Mojica (this time at 126) a 15-1 major and decisions from Perez (3-1 at 138) and Fabela (3-0 at 145).
Pedro Menendez is now off until Tuesday, when they will travel crosstown to St Augustine for an away dual; Atlantic will go to Oviedo on Saturday for the O-Town Showdown.
Complete dual results for the competition at Atlantic — along with five other region-duals locations — can be found HERE.
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