By SHANNON HEATON
North Florida Matmen
KISSIMMEE — It wasn’t a college-level dual, let alone a dual for a high school state championship dua.
But it sure looked and played out like one.
Two-time FHSAA 3A dual state finalists Fleming Island found themselves facing their familiar nemeses, South Dade, in the 2020 3A state dual semifinals.
And just as they had in the previous two seasons, the Golden Eagles stood toe-to-toe and gave all the fight that they could to the Buccaneers; even with the progress several Fleming kids made since the teams met in Homestead for the 3A-16 Duals in mid-December, the team fell short, as South Dade took a 34-22 victory and advanced to the final, where they hammered Osceola, 57-13, for their third state duals title.
“You can say tough draw and all, but we still gotta wrestle them,” Fleming Island coach PJ Cobbert said of the semifinal. “I want to win dual state as much as anybody, but this is real; it’s a lot of pressure.
“You gotta just keep getting better. Instead of being hunted, because of the ranking or whatever, you gotta hunt if you want to eat and our kids need to understand that.”
Fleming Island bumped up four starters one weight class and, at first, the move had an uncertain payoff, as South Dade jumped out to a 10-0 lead on a 21-second fall from Steven Villalobos (160) and 15-4 major from Joshua Swan (152).
But, starting at 170, the move appeared to pay dividends, as Luke Chop (2-1 in double overtime at 170) and Gavin Smith (4-0 at 182) both took decisions that, combined with Jeffrey Lascano’s 3-2 double-overtime win at 195, Chad Nix’s 12-0 major at 220, and a 7-2 ultimate-tiebreaker win for Raul Gonzalez (285), gave the Golden Eagles a 16-10 lead.
“I should have bonused him, but he didn’t give me much; he was just laying there,” Smith said afterward. “There was more that we could have done. Just refine and perfect (for March).”
Fleming forfeited at 106 as it has done throughout the year. That tied things up, but Hunter Herrington took a 9-6 win at 113; after Alexander Couto’s 2-0 sudden-victory win for the Buccaneers at 120, Riley Holton won by a 4-2 count for Fleming at 126, avenging an earlier defeat.
“You gotta get better. Look at Riley Holton. That kid majored him a month ago,” Cobbert said.
Holton’s win put the Golden Eagles up, 22-19, with three weights to go, but heading into a part of the Buccaneer lineup that would make things difficult for Fleming.
Adrian Neco (132) staved off a shoulder knock in the third period to take a 7-1 win at 132, and Cordell White (138) won by fall in the second period at 138. Looking at putting a reserve into the lineup at 145, the Golden Eagles instead forfeited to multiple-time state champ and Iowa-bound Bretli Reyna.
“Kids’re ready to go back to work. Go back to the room and get ready for the IBT,” Cobbert said.
In the other semifinal, host Osceola won six straight matches between 170 and 106, then held off Wellington’s late run for a 34-33 victory. Marvin Caballero (220), George Duncan (120) and Jaekus Hines (132) had pins for the Kowboys, with Nolin Eaddy (195) taking a major and Josean Sanchez (170), LaQuavion Pinellas (182), Dylan Ruiz (285) and Cooper Haase (106) all winning by decisions. Wellington got pins from Lukas Forehand (152), James Marvel (126) and Seth Rhodes (138), with Jesse Weinberg (145) winning by decision.
In the final, South Dade got pins from Alejandro Gonzalez (195), Jose Paez (285), Jose Gonzalez (126), Keith Crouse (138), Bretli Reyna (145) and Joshua Swan (152), with Steven Villalobos (160) winning by tech and Bryan Valdes (170) by major. Tanavieus Shropshire (220) and Alexander Couto (120) took decisions. For Osceola, Nolin Eaddy had a fall at 182 and Jaekus Hines a major at 132. Cooper Haase pushed through a decision at 106 for the Kowboys.
Complete dual results from the day can be found HERE.
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