By SHANNON HEATON
North Florida Matmen
KISSIMMEE — Wire-to-wire in 2019-20, nobody in Florida 3A wrestling came close to area seniors Chad Nix of Fleming Island and Curtis Ruff of Seminole.
Both Nix and Ruff had just one loss this year, Nix falling in the Knockout finals to Georgia 4A two-time state champion Chase Horne of West Laurenes, and Ruff taking a double-overtime loss to Lakeland’s Willie Lampkin, winner of the 2A state title at 285 at Silver Spurs Arena.
And nobody would come that close to either of them at states, as Nix and Ruff set the pace in all eight of their matches in their respective brackets.
Nix won his first title after placing third in 2018 and 2019, with an injury-default loss in 2017 in the blood round.
But he wasn’t entirely happy, as his 3-0 win over Seminole’s Jordan Smith ended without bonus points, which — at that point in the tournament — meant Fleming Island couldn’t regain second place as a team.
“The team is my focus; they have had my back from day 1,” Nix said. “If I had pinned him, we could have gotten second. I could have opened up a little bit more.”
The dream of winning a state title has been there from the jump when Nix began his high school career, then at Jensen Beach, but it became refined anew a year ago when the move to Fleming Island was made, and perfected this year.
Go to any Fleming event over the last couple of seasons, and Nix isn’t far from coach PJ Cobbert. Often, Nix sits in the chair with his coach during his teammates’ matches, and if they’re not sitting, they’re usually standing very near, if not next to each other.
“Me and PJ, it’s not just a coach (relationship), he’s one of my best friends,” Nix said. “Even after wrestling (practice) is done, I’m still learning, every day, from him.”
“He’s such a leader,” Cobbert said of Nix. “When he punches that clock he does nothing but go to work. Always hardest on himself. Thought he should pin so the team could take second; that’s what’s on his heart.”
We’ll probably see Nix a few more times before he graduates and then heads to Campbell University, where — with his substantial height and frame — he’s likely to wrestle at heavyweight in college, competing for one of America’s most legendary wrestlers in Cary Kolat.
“A lot of people have asked me why Campbell, and me and Cary, it seemed that we thought alike, and that was my priority,” Nix said. “I’m going to grow and learn a lot from him. He’s one of the best to ever do it.”
Meanwhile, Ruff won his second state title after finishing second in 2018 — to Bishop Kenny’s Josiah McCallum — plus a third in 2017 and an eighth-grade season that was stopped in the first day of the Region 2 tournament.
While Ruff took a narrow 2-1 win over Olympic Heights senior Wilkinson Saul, Saul’s first loss of the year, the match itself didn’t seem to be that close. On the other hand, Ruff’s stomach proved to be an even more-formidable opponent; the match was stopped on a couple of occasions as a result.
“Absolutely nothing at all,” Ruff said about what he ate in between his semifinal and finals match, a fact his teammate, Smith, had confirmed. “I didn’t eat anything. I was a little nervous. My senior year, last year to win state.”
While a few of the 3A champs had won their first title, this isn’t Ruff’s first final. He’s been in three, after all, and has had plenty of wins over the years, first at Lake Highland Prep and then at Seminole from junior year onward; many of Ruff’s former teammates, at LHP, came over to greet him after his win.
“I’d have to say practicing with him,” Ruff said, pointing to Smith. “He made practice fun. I don’t think I would have made it through without his never-ending humor.”
It’s been a long journey since 2016, when Ruff was a spectator in the Silver Spurs stands, watching his team win a title without him. But he watched then-1A champion Dante Jiovenetta compete and developed a different mind about the sport, one that’s taking him to North Carolina to compete next year.
“The sport’s taught me humbleness. When I came in, I looked up to Dante, how he competed, just saw how he was and I knew I wanted the same thing, to be a state champ,” Ruff said. “There’s no other sport like this.
“We’ll see. It’s going to be tough.”
Smith, for his part, was happy that he was able to close the gap between regions and states on Nix, a little bit at least, in his second year in the sport (in 2019, Smith won Region 1 at 220, falling in the blood round to eventual two-time Osceola placer Dylan Ruiz).
“Gameplan today was to keep him far away from my legs, and I did a lot better this week with that,” Smith said. “Last year was my first year in wrestling, I didn’t take it as (seriously). I had a little more effort and put a little more will in it, and I still made the top two. Not bad for only wrestling two years.”
In the team race, a tough start to Fleming Island’s day, combined with Southwest Miami’s second-day surge, led to the 305 Eagles passing the 904 Golden Eagles by just a point, 108-107, to grab second away from Fleming Island, well back of defending state champion South Dade’s 199-point total.
“Tough division,” Cobbert said. “Your goal is to get first. We wanted first, no doubt. But South Dade’s a juggernaut, everybody knows that. We had some guys come here and perform well. Seven placers, that’s not bad.
“Just gotta go back to work on Monday.”
Seminole was next among area teams, finishing T-12th with 46 points. Flagler Palm Coast was T-17th, with 33 points, while Buchholz was T-24th at 16. Oakleaf and Sandalwood were both T-41st, with three points, while Creekside was 48th with 2.5, Bartram Trail T-52nd with one, and University (Orange City) T-56th with no points.
Below follows a summary of the tournament:
Championship: Osceola freshman Cooper Haase (55-6) had three bonus-point wins, including an 8-0 semifinal win over South Dade sophomore Adrian Morales, then came back in the final to decision Columbus sophomore Christian Guzman (57-9), 10-3, for the title in a matchup of Region 4 opponents. Guzman had three decisions prior to the final, including a sudden-victory semifinal win, 7-5, over Freedom (Orlando) senior Lens Mathurin.
3rd place: Morales (54-8) had a 4-1 tournament. After his loss to Haase in the semi, Morales strung together two majors, with a 10-2 win over Manatee junior Angelo De Dona (59-8), who’d won four times on the back to wrestle back for third.
5th place: Timber Creek sophomore Trenton Dominguez (50-12) repped Region 1 on the podium, going 4-1 on the back after losing by fall to a non-placer in round 1. He turned back Mathurin (31-7), 6-4, in sudden victory in the medal match.
No locals in Saturday’s action.
Championship: Southwest Miami freshman Danny Martinez completed a 68-0 season by bonus-pointing his way to the final, with a Saturday semifinal win by fall over Fleming Island junior Hunter Herrington (2:35), then came back to knock off a defending state champion in Manatee junior Noah Wadle, 8-1. Wadle (41-3) had pinned or teched his way to the final, with a first-period fall in the semis (1:47) over Palm Beach Gardens sophomore David Corret-jer.
3rd place: Fleming Island junior Hunter Herrington (40-8) was a semifinalist; after his loss by fall to Martinez, he came back with a pair of wins to take third and win his first state medal, with a 2-1 consi-semi win over Miami Beach freshman Aaron Lanster, followed by a 15-6 major over Freedom (Orlando) senior Erick Rocher (31-12)in the medal match.
5th place: Corret-jer (44-10) took a second loss in the consi semis to Rocher (fall in 3 minutes), but then finished off with a 10-3 decision over Lanster (42-6) in the medal match.
No additional local summary.
They said it: “Hunter had a rough beginning to the year. Getting back in shape, finding his identity. We had him on a schedule where we didn’t have him in the lineup early on and it worked. It paid off.” — Cobbert on Herrington.
Championship: South Dade sophomore Alex Couto (52-10) had a major and three decisions en route to the title, with Saturday decisions in the semis over Palm Beach Gardens junior Elijah Ortiz (7-6) and a 4-3 win in the final over Palm Harbor University junior Dylan Sparkman. Sparkman (43-3) had two bonus-point wins on Friday, with an 8-1 decision over Columbus junior Robert Dusendang in the semis on Saturday morning.
3rd place: After a quarterfinal loss to Dusendang Friday night, Hagerty sophomore Jason Shaw (41-8) stormed through the consis to rep Region 1 on the podium, with four wins (three of them bonus), and three of those on Saturday (16-5 over Freedom’s Kailey Rees in the blood round, 11-4 over Ortiz in the consi semis and then a third-period tech fall (15-0 in 4:36) over Dusendang (48-6) for third.
5th place: After a quarterfinal loss by fall to Ortiz Friday, Oviedo junior Gabriel Rendon (42-8) also got some revenge, with two Saturday wins (7-4 over Venice’s Bryce Taranto in the consi quarters; after falling, 5-2, to Dusendang, Rendon took a 10-6 win over Ortiz (46-13) in the medal match.
No locals in Saturday’s action.
Championship: Southwest Miami junior Sebastian Melguizo (62-3) pinned his way into the final, with a third fall in the semis over Timber Creek junior Jayden Tapia (4:53). In the final, Melguizo topped Region 4 rival and South Dade senior Jose Gonzalez, 8-2, for the championship. Gonzalez (49-11) had three decisions prior to final, with a 12-10 Saturday semifinal win over Hagerty freshman Kamdon Harrison.
3rd place: Tapia (54-5) was the top Region 1 performer on the podium with a third-place performance. After his semis loss to Melguizo, Tapia came back with a 9-0 consi-semi major over Columbus junior Gavin Buck (61-14), his first-round opponent, then finished off the weekend with a 5-3 win over District 4/Region 1 rival and Hagerty freshman Kamdon Harrison (42-13).
5th place: Buck won three times on the bounce on the back to make podium, with an 8-5 Saturday win over Riverview’s Nikolas Hernandez in the blood round; after his consi-semi loss, Buck pinned Doral Academy freshman Brandon Arocha (48-19) in 11 seconds for fifth.
Local summary: Fleming Island junior Riley Holton (49-13) had reached the blood round, where he took a 6-1 loss to Arocha.
Championship: Osceola junior Jaekus Hines (40-4) pinned or teched his way to the title, with Saturday falls in the semis over Olympic Heights senior Cole Bosch (1:05) and South Dade junior Adrian Neco (3:56) in the championship match. Neco (55-8) had two pins on Friday to earn a medal, with an 11-4 semifinal decision over Riverdale freshman Alex Soto.
3rd place: After his semifinal loss to Neco, Soto (35-6) had two bonus-point wins on the back, with a 9-1 consi-semi win over Southwest Miami senior Daniel Cabrera (47-15), then a fall in 2:24 over Ft Pierce Central sophomore Russell Raabe for third, reprising his quarterfinal win over Raabe on Friday.
5th place: Cabrera had three back-side wins after a quarterfinal loss to Hines, including an injury-default win in the blood round over Manatee’s Trenton Johnson and a 7-2 medal-round victory over Bosch (38-10).
No locals in Saturday’s action
Championship: Riverdale junior Jared Dinh (34-2) pinned his way through to a medal on Friday, then had a pair of decisions to win the championship, downing South Dade freshman Cordell White, 8-5, in the semis, then coming back to defeat Jupiter senior Zachary Creeden, 10-6, for the title. Creeden (55-6) bonus-pointed his way into the semis, with a 6-1 decision in that round over Fleming Island senior Dalton Williams.
3rd place: After falling to Dinh in the semis, White (52-8) had two consi-side bonus-point wins, with a fall in the consi semis over Cypress Bay senior Edward Punzalan (1:38) and then a 10-1 major over Williams in the third-place match.
5th place: After his loss to Williams in the quarters, Punzalan (64-4) won three of four on the back, with Saturday wins in the blood round (7-5 in sudden victory over Palm Harbor University’s Mikey Cuttitta) and in the medal match, 6-4, over Wellington senior Jesse Weinberg (55-11).
Additional local summary: Williams (42-5) bounced back from the semifinal loss in the consi semis, finding a takedown in sudden victory for a 7-5 win over Weinberg, with his semifinal status earning him his first state medal.
Championship: South Dade senior Bretli Reyna (50-3) bonus-pointed through the tournament, with Saturday wins over Newsome senior Parker Drake (pin in 3:18) in the semis, then came back with a third-period tech fall (21-6 in 5:21) over Wellington senior Lukas Forehand. Forehand (50-5) had three decisions in reaching the final, with a 1-0 semifinal win over Fleming Island senior Gannon Janssen.
3rd place: After his loss by fall in the semis to Reyna, Drake (48-7) had two wins on the back with a consi-semi pin over Doral Academy junior Roger Arocha (2:36), then pushed past Flagler Palm Coast sophomore Blane DeFord (53-8), 5-4, in the medal round.
5th place: Arocha (44-13) had three wins in the consis, including a 7-2 blood-round win over Cypress Bay’s Erik Rodriguez, and a win by medical forfeit over Janssen (62-8) in the medal match.
Additional local summary: After his loss to Reyna in the Friday quarters, DeFord had three pins on the bounce in wrestling back to third and fourth for his first state medal, with Saturday wins over Venice’s Gage Tippman (2:16) in the blood round and over Janssen (2:30) in the consi semis.
Championship: South Dade junior Joshua Swan (45-2) had two bonus-point wins and two decisions, beginning with a 12-3 major in the semis over Steinbrenner senior Truman Noble, then avenging his Region 4 semifinal loss to Doral Academy 8th-grader Sawyer Bartelt, taking a 7-2 decision for the title. Bartelt (37-5) had two techs on Friday, then edged Fleming Island senior Tanner Hill, 2-1, in the semis.
3rd place: After a Friday quarterfinal loss to Swan, Hagerty junior Dylan Kohn (50-6) won four times on the back to place third, with Saturday wins over Miami Beach’s Marshal Carroll (10-1 in the blood round), Hill (8-3 in the consi semis) and Wellington senior Justin Henry (56-7), 7-1, in the third-place match.
5th place: Hill (58-11) closed out his high school career with a win and his first state medal, reprising his regular-season win over Noble (51-5), 5-3, in the medal match.
No additional local summary.
Championship: Newsome senior Kohl Drake (50-3) bonus-pointed through all four rounds of the tournament, with three pins and a major, including his third fall of the tournament (3:27) over Palm Beach Gardens junior William George in the semis, then majored South Dade senior Steven Villalobos, 14-5, in the final. Villalobos advanced to the final behind two Friday bonus-point wins and an 8-4 semifinal decision over Fleming Island senior Luke Chop.
3rd place: After his semifinal loss to Villalobos, Chop (61-8) powered through a pair of decisions for his second state medal, shutting out Region 1 rival and Lake Mary junior Jared Purcell, 3-0, in the consi semis, then scoring an escape and riding out George (50-12), 2-1, in double-overtime.
5th place: After a quarterfinal loss to Drake by fall, Purcell (50-4) won three matches on the back, with Saturday wins in the blood round over Cypress Bay’s Nicholas Ogamezov (11-5) and in the medal match over Lakewood Ranch senior Colby Keane (49-6), 4-1.
No additional local summary.
Championship: Manatee junior Tylynn Lukens (65-1) had a quarterfinal pin and three decisions to take the title, with Saturday victories over Hagerty senior Logan Perkins (7-1) in the semis and then in the final over 2019 champ and Southwest Miami senior Adrian Vidaud, 4-2. Vidaud (55-3) had a pair of Friday majors, pushing through the semi with a 7-4 win over Riverdale senior Nick Rodriguez.
3rd place: After falling to Lukens in the semi, Perkins (42-9) repped Region 1 on the podium with two consi-side wins, first falling Palm Harbor senior David Pagan (:43) in the consi semis, and then taking a 5-1 medal-round victory over Rodriguez (40-5) for third.
5th place: Pagan (57-8) won three of four matches on the back, with Saturday wins in the blood round over Fleming Island junior Gavin Smith (pin in 2:21) and in the medal match over South Dade senior Bryan Valdes (46-15), 5-1.
No additional local summary.
Championship: Riverdale senior Jesse Martinez (35-0) bonus-pointed through the tournament and didn’t give up a point on Saturday. After two Friday pins, Martinez shut out Buchholz senior Armando Acosta, 8-0, in the semis, and then shut out Osceola junior Nolin Eaddy, 9-0, in the final. Eaddy had a major and two decisions of his own prior to final, with a 7-0 semifinal win over Treasure Coast senior Marco Bragado.
3rd place: After falling to Eaddy in the semis, Bragado (52-7) took two wins on the back to place third, with a 3-2 consi-semi win over Ft Pierce Central junior Steven Krantz, then winning by injury default over Hagerty junior Ethan Lopez (37-5) in the medal match.
5th place: Acosta (50-4) would bounce back after his semifinal loss to Martinez, but it would take a bit, as he fell to region rival Lopez, 3-1, in the consi semis. But it didn’t take long for Acosta to close out his high school career with his first state medal, as he pinned Krantz (52-7) in 1:46 in the medal round.
No additional local summary.
Championship: Palm Beach Gardens senior Bryan Canedo (48-3) pinned his way into the final, with his third pin coming in 1:11 in the semis over Manatee senior Bryson Johnson. Canedo then decisioned Freedom (Orlando) senior Colton Curtis by a 6-2 count for the title. Curtis (37-6) had two pins in 1:38 on Friday, then pushed past Fleming Island senior Jeffrey Lascano, 2-1, in the semis on Saturday.
3rd place: Other than his loss by fall to Canedo in the semis, Johnson (49-11) pinned his way through the weekend, with Saturday falls in the consis over Southwest Miami junior Jeremiah Mauras (1:55) in the consi semis, then falling Cypress Bay senior Christian Deluna (62-10) in 1:51 for third place.
5th place: Mauras (65-10) won three of four matches in the consis after losing by fall to Curtis in the quarters, with Saturday wins over Plant’s Antony Talmage (11-6) in the blood round and a 4-2 ultimate-tiebreaker win over Lascano (45-10) in the medal match.
Additional local summary: Lascano had a tournament rematch with Deluna — his first-round opponent — falling by a 5-4 count.
Semis: Before the championship rematch, Nix (64-1) and Smith (9-2 in the post-season) both recorded semifinal wins. Nix shut out South Dade senior Tanavieus Shropshire, 5-0, on Saturday morning, while Smith turned back Dr Phillips sophomore Gerald Greaves by a 3-2 count.
3rd place: After a one-point loss to Smith on Friday, Osceola’s Dylan Ruiz won four times on the back to wrestle back to third, with Saturday wins over Lakewood Ranch’s Angelo Lafrese (6-1) in the blood round, Shropshire (4-2) in the consi semis, and then found a takedown in sudden victory for a 3-1 win over Greaves (20-3) in the medal round.
5th place: Shropshire (40-11) would get a win on Saturday, but it would take until the medal round, with a 3-1 win over North Miami junior Edensky Phele (42-10).
No additional local summary.
Championship: Ruff (11-0 in the post-season) duplicated his Friday performance, with one fall and one decision on Saturday. In the semis, he pinned Palm Harbor University junior Grant Gelazin in 3:49. Saul (40-1) got to the final with a 4-1 win in the semis over Flagler Palm Coast senior AJ Cinelli.
3rd place: After falling in sudden victory in the first round of the tournament, North Miami senior Clarouly Meca (40-7) won five matches on the back to wrestle all the way back to third, with Saturday wins over Dr Krop’s Isaac Joseph (fall in 2:58) in the blood round, over Gelazin (5-2) in the consi semis) and then a 5-1 win over Cinelli (36-8) in the third-place medal match.
5th place: Gelazin (46-13) would take a win on Saturday, but it wasn’t until the medal round, when he turned back Stoneman Douglas junior Joshua Frais (39-8), 7-4.
Additional local summary: After his loss to Saul in the semis, Cinelli got to the middle tier of the podium by finding a takedown in sudden victory for a 4-2 win over Frais.
Complete brackets can be found HERE.
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