By SHANNON HEATON
North Florida Matmen
KISSIMMEE — One of wrestling’s best attributes is that it is truly a sport for all sizes.
Look no further than Pace senior Gabe Jacobs as proof.
Three years ago, Jacobs made a splash in the Panhandle with a sparkling freshman season, then at Gulf Breeze, where he was second at both districts and regions and fell in the blood round at states to eventual two-time champ and fellow freshman Donovan Cataldi — at 106.
Two years ago, Jacobs again made a state-qualifying run for the Dolphins, with a district title, a third at regions and sixth at states, with two losses there to either former or eventual champions — at 126.
One year ago, in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael and a family opportunity that the Jacobs clan couldn’t pass up, Gabe relocated to Oldham County (KY), where he took third in Kentucky’s single-class state tournament — at 145.
Less than 24 hours ago, Jacobs capped off an utterly dominant season for the Patriots, rolling through an unbeaten season by bonus-pointing throughout the 2A tournament series. Two pins at districts. Three falls and a shutout major at regions. At 195.
This weekend, Jacobs added two more pins, a tech fall and a 12-3 major, with his fall in the finals over top-ranked Lake Gibson senior Caden Cunningham securing the Panhandle’s lone state championship, the north’s first of three such titles. In so doing, he joined Cataldi and 12 other 2A wrestlers as state titlists Saturday night.
“I came in with the mindset that I was going to win. I wanted to give people (in the Panhandle) hope, that they have just as much chance to win,” Jacobs said Saturday night, after hugging his father, head coach Reggie Allen, and a brief sprint off the Silver Spurs Arena floor to find his mother and the rest of the Pace supporters for more hugs and congratulations.
“I knew after the first period (that he would win). As soon as (Cunningham) jacked me up, I was ready. I’ve worked the under(hook) all year.”
Intensive weight training — Jacobs took lessons from Oklahoma State University’s strength & conditioning coach — and a timely growth spurt — that helped him add on two inches in height and carry the extra muscle mass.
At the same time, practice time with former Lake Highland Prep and current Wyoming Seminary (PA) wrestler Nic Bouzakis — Jacobs did a solid chunk of his warmup time with the Lake Highland kids during the weekend — helped sharpen and refine his skills.
“Last year the only person in the Panhandle was Nate,” Jacobs said, referring to 2019 Pace alum Nate Golmon, now wrestling at UNC-Pembroke. “Hopefully I’ll get to wrestle in college. I want to train to become a national champ.”
Jacobs’ title run and bonus points led the Patriots to the top northern finish, as Pace took 11th with 44.5 points as a team.
While Jacobs reached the pinnacle of Florida wrestling in 2A, Robert E Lee junior Ahmahd Denmark fell just one step short of the top of the podium in the 160 final, going up against defending champion and Golden Gate senior Andy Martinez.
Where Denmark typically set the pace in almost all of his matches this year, it was Martinez — the Russ Mauger award-winner as announced before the finals — who set the tone throughout, taking down Denmark multiple times en route to a 9-3 win.
“I didn’t wrestle my match. I try to play an offensive game. I need to have to keep wrestling my matches,” Denmark said. “He did everything that I could do. I didn’t capitalize. Had a couple of times I could have have put it on him and should’ve stuck him.
“Hopefully I can get more people (out). Gonna take this (silver medal) back and show people at school. Definitely going to get more people in it, get my little brother in it, so they can do what I did.”
Robert E Lee & Matanzas tied for 16th place, with 24 points, while Orange Park was T-18th at 23. Chiles & New Smyrna Beach each were T-23rd with 21 points, while Ft Walton Beach and Westside were T-28th at 13. Columbia and Lincoln were each T-32nd, with 11 points, while Seabreeze was T-34th with nine. Mosley was T-41st, with six points, while First Coast was T-44th with five. Fletcher and Gulf Breeze each were T-51st, with three points, while Ponte Vedra (T-59th) had two and Niceville (T-61st) one. Deltona, Leon and Mainland were scoreless.
Lake Gibson successfully defended its team title and avenged its dual-state loss to Tampa Jesuit, with a 20-point margin of victory, 224-204. Charlotte was third with 127 points, while Palmetto RIdge was fourth at 110 and Brandon fifth at 79.5.
Below follows a complete summary of Saturday’s wrestling:
Championship: Tampa Jesuit sophomore Kai Owen (55-1) ran the table, with Saturday majors over Region 2 rivals, first against Springstead junior Dominic Nardini (15-3) in the semis, then an 11-1 win in the final over Lake Gibson freshman Hayden Whidden (30-5).
3rd place: Brandon sophomore Tyson Lane (67-2) rallied from his semifinal loss to Whidden by not giving up a point, shutting out Charlotte sophomore Patrick Nolan, 6-0, in the consi sems, then taking a 1-0 decision over Nardini (45-12) in the medal match.
5th place: Palmetto Ridge freshman Tyler Washburn (51-11) was the top wrestler in the state outside of Region 2, with three wins in four consi matches after falling to Whidden in the quarters, including a 6-1 blood-round win over Lincoln junior Elijah Hendley (40-12) and a 6-2 win for fifth over region rival Nolan (45-11).
No additional local summary.
Championship: Charlotte sophomore Andrew Austin (53-1) bonus-pointed his way through the tournament, with a major and pin on both days. On Saturday, Austin majored Lake Gibson senior Jesse Gehr, 10-2, in the semis, then came back with a fall over Southridge junior Connor Hueck (55-10) in 3:27 for the title.
3rd place: Palmetto Ridge senior Cullen Guerrero (51-7) rallied from his 11-3 loss to Hueck in the semis with two consi-side wins, falling Brandon senior Jose Berdecia (2:11) in the semis and taking a 6-2 win over Gehr (39-8) for third.
5th place: After falling to Hueck on Friday, Mariner freshman Christopher Minto (41-6) rallied back in the consis, with three wins in four, including a blood-round 7-2 decision over Tampa Jesuit’s Daniel Vargas, then winning by injury default over Berdecia (62-8) in the medal match (had 14-2 win in hand over Berdecia from round 1).
No locals competed Saturday.
Championship: Tampa Jesuit sophomore Braden Basile (55-1) pinned his way through the tournament, with Saturday falls over Pace senior Derrick Lancero (2 minutes) in the semis, then falling Palmetto Ridge sophomore Brennan Van Hoecke with :06 left in sudden victory for the title.
3rd place: Lake Gibson sophomore Alex Walker (35-12) picked up after his semifinal loss by fall to Van Hoecke (2:00) with two victories on the back, pinning Ft Myers senior John Vadyak in 2:35 in the consi semis, then shutting out Lancero (54-6), 10-0, in the third-place match.
5th place: Vadyak (54-13) won three of four after losing in the quarters by fall to Basile, with an 11-2 blood-round win over Seabreeze senior Kobe Baert (49-14) and fall over Springstead junior Jonathan Dominguez (2:26) for fifth.
Additional local note: After the loss to Basile, Lancero rallied to get into the third-place match with an 11-5 decision over Dominguez.
Championship: Tampa Jesuit sophomore Tom Crook completed an undefeated season (62-0) by pinning his way into the final, including a Saturday semifinal pin over Charlotte sophomore Isaac Church (5:21), then taking a 3-1 decision in the final over Lake Gibson senior Connor Williams (31-7).
3rd place: After taking a tech fall loss in Friday’s quarters to former state champ Williams, New Smyrna Beach sophomore Michael Shannon (50-6) won four on the bounce on the back to wrestle back to third, with Saturday wins over Barron Collier’s Roy Chiong (9-1 major) in the blood round and decisions over Church (6-3) in the consi semis, plus a 6-2 win for third over Harmony sophomore John McNichols (44-12).
5th place: After a loss by fall (:27) in the semis to Williams, Mater Academy senior Favian Aldana (34-7) would get a win Saturday, but not until the medal match, where he edged Church (38-11), 6-5.
No additional local summary.
Championship: Charlotte senior Cataldi (40-3) bonus-pointed his way to the semis, then pushed through a pair of high-flying decisions on Saturday, with two matches in which 53 points were scored. Cataldi decisioned Lake Gibson senior Alejandro Rosario, 18-11, in the semis, then came back to push past Region 3 rival and Golden Gate freshman Christian Moder, 14-10, in the title match.
3rd place: After a quarterfinal loss to Moder on Friday, Tampa Jesuit sophomore Jack Crook (60-2) won four times on the back, with a blood-round pin (2:55) over Mosley junior Nick Hejke (57-9) and wins over Rosario (3-1 in sudden victory) in the consi semis and Heritage senior Francois Ba (57-7), 3-0, for third.
5th place: Rosario (33-9) found a win in the medal round Saturday, taking down Palmetto Ridge freshman Roman Garcia (31-8), 8-6.
Additional local note: Columbia senior Ian McGuigan (51-11) saw his high school career come to a close with a 7-3 loss to fourth-place Ba in the blood round.
Championship: Lake Gibson sophomore Brendon Abdon (42-3) sandwiched two decisions with pins, taking an 8-4 Saturday semifinal win over Palmetto Ridge senior Adrian Ayala, then coming back to fall Countryside senior Stevie Chopek (53-4) in 3:36 for the title.
3rd place: Ayala came back from the loss to Abdon with decisions over Tampa Freedom junior Ryan Bennett (5-3) in the consi semis and then a 6-4 win for third place over Estero senior Orande Smith (40-7).
5th place: After his semifinal loss to Chopek, Tampa Jesuit senior Alfonso Vargas (47-17) found a Saturday win in the medal round, with a 7-2 win for fifth over region rival round Bennett (47-11).
Additional local note: Columbia senior Alex McGuigan (54-13) could not stop Smith in the blood round, with a loss by fall in 51 seconds.
Championship: Tampa Jesuit senior Ethan Basile (56-1) bonus-pointed through all rounds in taking the title, with a Saturday semifinal pin over Southridge junior Cyrus Williams (1:52), coming back for a 9-1 major in the championship match over Lake Gibson senior Evan Butler (37-7).
3rd place: Barron Collier senior Justin Ugarte (59-9) bounced back from a quarterfinal loss to Basile with four consi-side wins, including Saturday victories over Naples’ Luis Herrera (8-4), Mariner’s Mack Koselke (5-3) and then finding an escape in the ultimate tiebreaker over Williams (50-8), 4-3, for third.
5th place: Orange Park senior Cameron Broughton (49-3) powered his way on to the podium with three consi-side wins out of four, including Saturday wins over Sunlake’s Jake Koener (fall in :47 that clinched a medal) and again in the place-round match over Koselke (42-9).
No additional local summary.
Championship: Charlotte junior Lucas Willis (47-1) bonus-pointed into the semis, then won close twice, with Saturday decisions over Tampa Jesuit sophomore Sergio Desiante (2-1 in double overtime) in the semis, then held off Winter Springs senior JJ Contreras (50-7), 4-3, in the championship match.
3rd place: Desiante (21-3) pinned his way back to third place, with falls over Braden River junior Jacob Holland (1:55) in the consi semis and then over Brandon senior Alijah Bliss (37-7) in 56 seconds for third.
5th place: After falling to Bliss in the quarters, Holland (47-16) came back with three consi-side victories, including Saturday wins over Golden Gate’s Anthony Valdivia (4-3) in the blood round and over Southridge sophomore Quiton Johnson (11-10) in the medal match.
No locals competed Saturday.
Semis: Denmark (40-4) reached the final with a 3-2 win over Barron Collier senior Dominic Pappalardo, while Martinez (59-0) had pinned his way into the semis and then took a 13-8 win over Lake Gibson junior Raul Soto.
3rd place: Soto (34-7) came back for third behind two consi-side wins, first falling Tampa Jesuit senior Aidan Gingell (3:48), then taking down Pappalardo (50-10), 10-6, in the medal match.
5th place: Charlotte senior Sean Taft (29-11) bounced back from a 3-2 loss to a non-placing wrestler in the first round, with four wins in five consi-side matches, with Saturday victories in the blood round over Seabreeze senior Victor Lipsey (52-11; 4-3 decision) and a 1-0 win over Gingell (26-18) for fifth.
No additional local summary.
Championship: Brandon senior Onid Olavarria (66-0) had a tech fall and three decisions for the championship, with Saturday decisions in the semis over Ft Myers senior Riley Hackworth (6-2), then came back for a 5-2 win in the finals over Charlotte junior Cody Rice (49-5).
3rd place: After taking a 5-3 loss to Rice in the semis, Matanzas senior Quenteen Robinson (42-4) rallied with two wins on the back for third. Robinson first took down Winter Springs junior Joe Burgess, 9-6, in the consi semis, then edged Hackworth (53-10), 5-4, to finish third.
5th place: Westside senior Angelo Philpot (50-7) won four of five consi-side matches after a first-round loss to Hackworth, with Saturday wins over Kathleen’s Maurice Blackmon (3-1 in the ultimate tiebreaker) in the blood round and over Burgess (43-18), 6-3, for fifth.
Additional local note: Philpot fell, 8-1, in the consi semis to Hackworth. First Coast senior DeVante Wyatt (42-7) lost by fall (4:27) in the blood round to Burgess.
Championship: Lake Gibson senior Ashton Habeil (35-1) pinned his way into the final, with a Saturday semifinal pin (:37) over Orange Park senior Jacob Moore, then powered past Cypress Lake senior Aryeh Mehl (56-4), 9-2, for the title.
3rd place: After falling to Mehl, 4-0, in the semis, Chiles junior Kyle McGill (48-4) came back with two victories for third place, with a 6-4 consi-semi win over Ida Baker senior Trevor Shook, then set the pace early against Springstead senior Dillon Housel in the medal match, winning by fall in 2:28.
5th place: Shook won three of four in the consis after a quarterfinal loss by pin to Habeil, with Saturday wins over Sunlake’s Zach Spicer (9-2) in the blood round, and a second one over Moore (38-6), 9-7, for fifth.
Additional local note: Moore lost by fall in the consi semis (1:15) to Housel.
Semis: En route to his title, Jacobs began Saturday with a 12-3 major over fellow (at the time) unbeaten and Southridge junior Dedric Marshall in the semis.
3rd place: After a loss by fall to Marshall in the quarters, Brandon senior Ryan Voor (68-5) got a chance to make that back, with four consi-side wins, including Saturday victories over Tampa Jesuit’s Andre Mortensen (1-0 in the blood round), Ft Myers junior Gregory Dennard (4-0 in the consi semis) and a 13-8 sudden-victory win over Marshall (58-2) in the medal round.
5th place: After falling by an 11-7 count to Cunningham in the semis, Dennard (51-7) would get a Saturday win, taking a 2-1 medal-round win over Ida Baker junior Angel Alverio (50-9).
Championship: Palmetto Ridge senior Trillon Fils-Aime (54-4) powered through two decisions after two pins Friday, with an overtime win over Winter Springs junior Marvin Collins, 6-4, in the semis, then found a way past Region 3 rival and Barron Collier senior Nick Clayton, with a 2-1 victory for the title.
3rd place: After his loss to Fils-Aime, Collins (49-8) took a pair of 2-1 decisions in the consis, with a win over Ft Walton Beach junior Kaleb Williams in the semis, then found an escape in double overtime in the medal match over Lake Gibson junior Tristan Middlebrook (33-11).
5th place: After falling in the first round to Middlebrook, Ft Myers senior Ethan Carr (55-8) won four of five matches on the back, with Saturday victories over 22-4 Fletcher junior Ethan Hollenbach in the blood round and a 7-1 win over Williams (38-13) for fifth.
Additional local note: Williams punched his podium ticket with a 36-second fall in the blood round over Okeechobee’s Jose Monrroy.
Championship: Lakeland senior Willie Lampkin (47-0) ran the table on an unbeaten season, with a win by injury-default in the semis on Saturday over Dunbar’s Jacquez Shird (30-7; did not compete further), then took a 3-1 decision with a late takedown to turn back Tampa Jesuit junior Mason Arnold (48-3) for the title.
3rd place: Mariner senior Christopher Campbell bounced back from a quarterfinal loss by fall with four wins on the back, including Saturday victories over Hialeah-Mater Lakes’ Antwon Singleton (fall in 2:37), a medical forfeit in the consi semis over Shird and then found a takedown in overtime over Pinellas Park senior Nicholas Syms (50-6) for a 3-1 third-place win.
5th place: After losing by disqualification to Arnold, Kathleen junior Jeremiah Jackson (51-11) got a Saturday win, with a medical forfeit over Shird.
No locals competed Saturday.
Complete brackets can be found HERE.
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