By SHANNON HEATON
North Florida Matmen
KISSIMMEE — It’s Tuesday. The 2020-21 season began two days ago.
If Ridgeview junior Matthew Rodriquez had had his way, he might have tried to find a mat an hour or two after receiving his 1A state runnerup medal at Silver Spurs Arena Saturday night and gotten in the first workout of his senior season.
Of the 58 area wrestlers in competition at last weekend’s 1A tournament, Rodriquez was the only one that got to everyone’s goal of Saturday night.
But going up against the behemoth program that is Lake Highland Prep, the nation’s best competition that prepares the Highlanders during the regular season, even a wrestler of Rodriquez’s singular talent — he committed to Lehigh during the regular season — can find himself coming up short.
And that was how things stood after Rodriquez took his first loss of the season Saturday night, falling 14-6 to the Highlanders’ Danny Nini in a match that had its share of contentiousness.
“I didn’t take advantage of the chances I had, It wasn’t anything hard,” Rodriquez said. “I got to his legs pretty easily. He did some things better than me in the course of the match, but overall he wasn’t better.”
Between the semis and final, Rodriquez just relaxed, went over the game plan — like the other 83 kids in Florida that took part in the state finals.
“Just dealing with it,” Rodriquez said of the loss. “A lot of kids with good records don’t always know how to deal with it (a loss). Maybe they pinned their way through the season and never experienced it.
“I lost. I’ll just come back next year.”
And next season starts? “Tomorrow.”
While Rodriquez fell just short individually, Wakulla found itself first among 1A public schools and fifth overall in the two-day tournament. While the War Eagles did set a school record for placers with five on Saturday, coach William Pafford felt wistful about the whole situation.
“We all say it, but it’s a rollercoaster. You’re holding one kid up because he lost and then right away there’s a kid the next mat over needing to go.
“The one thing I’m left with…Matthew Owen, two years ago he’s our only placer. This year, we get five and he doesn’t place. You hold him and then run over to Ray (Hatchman) and he gets one of the biggest wins of his career. Never beat Luke (Clay’s Luke Davis) before. And Matthew didn’t want to be consoled. He wanted instead to congratulate Ray.
“People wonder why we give up 26 Saturdays a year for this. It’s those moments. Knowing that my son will grow up to be like one of these kids. It’s heartbreaking, watching all these kids grow up. All of them…the Clay kids…Florida High…all these kids.”
Clay was 12th with 38 points, while Raines wass 13th (35). Florida High tied for 18th, with 26 points, while University Christian was 22nd (22 points) and Ridgeview 24th (21).
Pedro Menendez was 28th, with 12 points, while West Nassau was T-30th (10), Bolles 33rd (nine), Marianna & Yulee each T-34th (eight), Godby T-40th (four); Atlantic, Rutherford & Suwannee T-48th (three); Bishop Kenny T-53rd (one) and then Arnold, Fernandina Beach, Palatka and South Walton all were T-56th.
Lake Highland Prep cruised to another defense of its team title, with 289.5 points, four more than the combined total of its top two chasers in Somerset Academy (173) and American Heritage-Delray (112.5). Cardinal Gibbons, with 111.5 points for fourth, rounded out the top five.
Below follows a summary of the tournament:
Championship: Lake Highland Prep eighth-grader Ethan Rivera (24-1) had a contested win of each stripe (pin/tech/decision/major), with Saturday wins over Cardinal Gibbons freshman Nicolas Yancey (4-1) in the semis and then a rematch of the Region 2 final, with Rivera winning this time by an 11-1 count over Palm Bay junior Tyler Perrow. Perrow (57-4) reached the final behind two bonus-point wins and a 1-0 semifinal win over Jensen Beach freshman Jewell Williams.
3rd place: Williams (57-10) bounced back in the consis, first taking a 19-7 major over University Christian 7th-grader Jayce Paridon in the semis and avenging his Region 4 loss to Yancey (37-6) with a 9-4 decision for third place.
5th place: Paridon (50-12) won three of four matches in the consis, with Saturday wins in the blood round (3-0) over Tampa Prep’s Gavin Nolan and then a 6-0 shutout over Coral Springs Charter sophomore Payton Vargas (42-19) for fifth.
Championship: Merritt Island junior Elijah Lusk (50-2) had a pin and decision on both days of the tournament, with Saturday wins over Jensen Beach’s Jonny Dobbs (fall in 1:55) in the semis, and in the championship match over Cardinal Gibbons junior Tyler Cabral, where Lusk took a 5-2 win. Cabral (43-3) reached the final behind a tech fall and two pins, the second of those in the semis (4:35) over University Christian freshman Egan Gustilo.
3rd place: After an 8-1 loss to Lusk in the quarters, Raines sophomore DaQuan King (57-5) won four times in the consis, with Saturday wins over McKeel Academy’s Guy Yodock (13-5) in the blood round, Gustilo (3-2) in the consi semis and 6-5 in the medal match over Dobbs (47-12).
5th place: After a pair of one-point losses earlier in the day, Gustilo (54-8) went out on a winning note, falling Space Coast sophomore Anthony Edwards (45-13) in 3:56 in the medal match.
Championship: Tampa Prep freshman Ethan Mojena completed an undefeated season with three bonus-point wins and decision to run his record to 35-0, with a 12-1 Saturday major in the semis over Somerset Academy junior Skyler Caban and an 8-7 decision in the championship match over Lake Highland freshman David McClelland. McClelland (20-13) max-pointed through all preliminary rounds, including an injury-default win over Raines senior Kyle Hopkins in the semis. Hopkins (43-8) did not engage in further competition in the tournament.
3rd place: Caban (15-2) pinned his way back to third after the loss to Mojena, with falls over Jensen Beach freshman Duke Byfield (1:34) in the consi semis and again in the third place match over Wakulla junior Raymond Hatchman (4:27).
5th place: Byfield (47-17) had three wins in four consi rounds, with Saturday victories in the blood round over Am Heritage-Delray’s Andrew DeSola (fall in 2:32) and a medical forfeit over Hopkins for fifth.
Additional local note: Hatchman (52-14) won twice earlier in the day to get to the third-place match and Caban, pinning Clay’s Luke Davis (2:14) to punch his podium ticket, then winning by medical forfeit over Hopkins in the consi semis.
Semis: Nini (40-7) had two Friday bonus-point wins, then took an 8-1 decision on Saturday in the semis over Tampa Prep senior Alan Morano. Rodriquez (66-1) didn’t give up a contested point prior to the final, with a pin and decision on Friday, then a 12-0 Saturday semi major over Am Heritage-Delray sophomore Rafael Romero.
3rd place: Morano (30-7) came back from the loss to Nini with two consi-side wins, downing Palm Bay junior Rocco Senia, 7-1, in the semis, then falling Romero (38-12) in 41 seconds for third place.
5th place: Senia won three of four on the consi side of the bracket, with Saturday wins over Jensen Beach’s Dylan Fox (7-3) in the blood round and over Florida High senior Tyler Reeve by injury-default in the medal round.
Additional local note: Reeve won once to get to the podium on Saturday, with a 9-8 win over Somerset Academy’s Chase Gillis to secure his podium space. He then fell, 11-2, in the consi semis, to Romero.
Championship: Somerset Academy 7th-grader Bas Diaz (42-6) pinned his way onto the podium, then powered through a pair of decisions on Saturday, with a 2-1 semifinal win over Tampa Prep senior Collin Mojena and then a 10-5 win in the championship match over Cardinal Gibbons senior Alejandro Mas in the final. Mas (42-3) had a fall and decision on Friday, with a 17-3 major in the semis over Mater Lakes Academy senior Orestes Ferrer.
3rd place: Mojena (38-7) pitched two shutouts in the consis after the loss to Diaz, holding down Lake Highland junior William Kennedy, 5-0, in the semis, then riding out Ferrer (42-11), 1-0, in the third-place match.
5th place: Kennedy (17-10) won three of four in the consis, with Saturday wins over Wakulla senior Matthew Owen (54-5; pin in 2:08) and a second fall in 2:49 in the medal round over Cocoa Beach junior Michael Watson (42-11).
Championship: Lake Highland senior Chris Rivera (48-6) pinned his way through the tournament, with one exception, in the match of the tournament, where he pushed past Am Heritage-Delray senior Frankie Tal Shahar, 2-1, in the semis on Saturday morning. Rivera then falled Sarasota Military senior Mason Marchbank in 1:21 for the title. Marchbank (59-3) had a pin and decision on Friday, falling Cardinal Gibbons senior John James Yancey in 3:07 in the semis.
3rd place: Tal Shahar (49-1) dominated his two consi-side matches, pinning Somerset Academy senior Darian Diaz (3:49) in the semis, then teching Yancey (33-6), 18-3 in 4:19, for third.
5th place: Diaz won three of four in the consis to take fifth, with Saturday wins over Palm Bay’s Braden Baxter (3-2 in the blood round) and over Space Coast senior Michael Squires (43-7), 5-3, in the medal round.
Championship: Lake Highland senior Justin Rivera (45-4) bonus-pointed his way to the podium on Friday, with decisions on Saturday over Cardinal Gibbons sophomore Johnathan Ley (9-3) in the semis and then powering past Mater Lakes Academy senior Eric Temes, 3-2, for the championship. Temes (57-5) had a decision and major, coming back on Friday with a 16-0 tech (4:59) over Wakulla senior Noah Wilson.
3rd place: Ley (28-1) had two six-minute wins in the consis to wrestle back for third, with an 11-6 consi-semi victory over Coral Beach junior James Clark-Herndon, then majoring Wilson, 10-2, for third place.
5th place: Clark-Herndon (53-11) won three of four in the consis, with an 8-4 blood-round win over Jensen Beach’s Tehran Piza and a 3-0 shutout over former Nease and current Palm Bay junior Jack Dinberg (39-9), 3-0, in the medal round.
Additional local note: After the loss to Temes, Wilson (55-5) advanced to the third-place match with an 8-2 win over Dinberg.
Championship: Lake Highland senior Noah Castillo (38-4) bonus-pointed his way to the title match, with a 14-5 major in the semis on Saturday over Coral Springs Charter junior Alek Chitty, then took an 8-1 win in the final over Somerset Academy junior Darian Estevez. Estevez (49-6) had a pin and decision on Friday, then came back with a fall in the semis on Saturday over Wakulla senior Chase Roberts (5:48).
3rd place: After a overtime loss in the quarters on Friday to Chitty, Clay junior Cale Hoskinson (51-7) won four matches on the back to wrestle all the way back to third, with Saturday victories over Hernando’s Billy Fetzner (6-2 in the blood round), Roberts (10-0 in the consi semis) and found a takedown in sudden victory to turn back Bishop Moore junior Gavin Wheeler (47-12), 6-4, for third.
5th place: Chitty (55-6) would find his win Saturday, but it wouldn’t come until the medal round, where he pinned Roberts (2:56).
Championship: Carrollwood Day sophomore Jonathan Conrad (47-4) needed just 2:31 to make podium, then shut out his two Saturday opponents, with a 1-0 semifinal win over Lake Highland Prep senior Dominic Isola, then a 7-0 decision in the title match over Hernando junior Josh Pritz. Pritz (34-7) had a fall and two decisions to get to the final, with a 3-1 win in the semis over Coral Springs Charter junior Terrell Taylor.
3rd place: Isola (42-8) came back for third behind a 14-2 major in the consi semis over West Nassau senior Requan Works, then turned back Taylor (50-6), 5-1, in the bronze-medal match.
5th place: After a 10-4 loss to Isola in the quarters, Somerset Academy senior Caleb Casas (48-13) won three of four on the back, with a 4-3 blood-round win over Am Heritage-Delray’s Joseph Nicolosi, then later winning by injury default in the medal match over Works.
Additional local note: After losing to Nicolosi in the first round, Works (26-5) won three matches in the consis to punch his podium ticket, with a 13-9 blood-round win on Saturday over Wakulla junoir Cole Baggett (57-10).
Championship: Lake Highland Prep junior Bailey Flanagan bonus-pointed his way onto the podium Friday, with a pin and major, then took two decisions on Saturday, with a 5-3 Saturday semifinal win over Am Heritage-Delray senior Shane Cannon, followed by a 5-0 victory over Lemon Bay sophomore Lance Schyck in the championship match. Schyck (43-1), a 2019 state champ, had two pins on Friday and advanced to the final with an overtime 4-1 win over Raines junior Raynarde Thomas.
3rd place: Cannon (49-9) took two wins in the consis to wrestle back to third, with a 4-2 consi-semi win over Pedro Menendez junior Connor Spossey, then a fall in 4 minutes for third over Thomas.
5th place: Spossey (48-7) rebounded from a quarterfinal loss by fall to Schyck, with three wins in four on the consi side, including Saturday wins over Villages’ Ethan Hatcher (17-5 in the blood round) and then an 8-2 decision in the medal round over Wakulla sophomore Jayvon Brown.
Additional local notes: Brown came back from a 8-0 loss to Flanagan with two consi-side wins, including a Saturday double-overtime decision over Miami Edison’s Carl Henry Pierre, 4-3, that secured his podium place. Thomas then won by injury default in the consi semis over Brown.
Championship: Somerset Academy junior Sean Concepcion pinned his way onto the podium; on Saturday, Concepcion had two wins to win the title, with a 3-1 sudden-victory decision in the semis over Lake Highland senior Hunter Brinkman, then a 7-2 win in the final over Citrus junior Blake Coleman. Coleman (41-5) reached the final with an injury-default win and decision on Friday, turning back Palm Bay senior Matthew Lewis, 7-2, in the semis.
3rd place: Brinkman (36-10) didn’t give up a point in the consis, falling Admiral Farragut seventh-grader Payton Cramer (:47) in the semis, then shutting out Lewis (57-12), 7-0, for third place in a rematch of the Region 2 final.
5th place: Jensen Beach senior Tom Fehling (24-7) won four of five matches on the back after a first-round injury-default loss to Coleman, with Saturday wins over Key West’s Craig Silimon (fall in 3:56) in the blood round and over Cramer (8-3 in the post-season), 7-3, for fifth.
Additional local note: After losing by fall in the quarters to Lewis, Cramer won twice by fall to reach the podium, with a blood-round fall on Saturday over Bolles junior Ethan Asbury (23-11) in 2:37.
Championship: After a max-point win and decision on Friday, Lake Highland Prep senior Easton Tobia (31-9) rallied for two more win on Saturday, and the title as well, with a fall in the semis over Clearwater Central Catholic senior Tyler Barnett (2:29). Tobia then took an 8-7 sudden-victory decision in the championship over Am Heritage-Delray sophomore Mikey Tal Shahar (9-2 in the post-season). Tal Shahar had two pins in 2:04 to get to the semis, with a 16-3 Saturday major over Wakulla senior John Trevor Hinsey in that round.
3rd place: Somerset Academy senior Daniel Miranda (54-8), who’d fallen 6-3 to Tobia, won four matches on the back to wrestle back to third, with Saturday wins over Key West’s Ricardo Camay (1-0 in the blood round), over Hinsey (8-1 in the consi semis), and by fall in 1:41 in the third-place match over Florida High senior Marcus Haigler.
5th place: Hinsey (55-5) would find a win on Saturday, taking a 50-second fall over Barnett (47-13) in his final high school match.
Additional local note: After losing by fall to Miranda in the first round, Haigler nearly duplicated the run of his older brother Will, with four wins on the back to get back to the third-place match. That run included Saturday wins over Merritt Island’s Daylyn Randolph (2-2 rideout in the ultimate tiebreaker) in the blood round and over Barnett (escape in the ultimate tiebreaker for a 3-2 decision) in the consi semis.
Championship: Lake Highland Prep senior Matthew Kaplan (44-7) bonus-pointed his way to the final, with two pins and a major, including a 43-second fall over Region 2 rival and First Academy senior Jacob Forbes in the semis, going on to take a 6-3 win over Somerset Academy senior Nicholas Benton in the final. Benton (63-3) also bonus-pointed to the final, with two Friday pins and a 15-5 major over Clay sophomore Garrett Tyre.
3rd place: After falling, 9-0, in the quarters to Kaplan, Am Heritage-Delray sophomore Chase Thompson (45-4) won four matches on the back to wrestle back for third, including Saturday wins over Miami Northwestern’s Jonathan Vil (10-6) in the blood round, over Tyre (1-0) in the consi semis and over Hernando senior Qwenton Coney (40-9), 3-1, in the bronze-medal match.
5th place: Tyre (47-16) would get a win on Saturday in the medal round, falling Forbes (32-11) in 4:06 for fifth.
Championship: Aside from one match, Zephyrhills Christian senior Malik Jones pinned his way through the draw in keeping an unbeaten season (34-0), with two Friday pins. But, in the semi, Jones had to rally from two takedowns secured by Raines senior Jamon Goodwine, coming back in double-overtime, 5-4. Jones then falled Key West senior Patrick Barnett in 6 minutes for the title. Barnett (32-7) had a pin and decision on Friday, coming back with a Saturday semifinal pin over Cardinal Gibbons junior Jertavis Black (1:32).
3rd place: After a 7-3 quarterfinal loss to Barnett on Friday, Rockledge senior Jordan Love (67-3) won four matches on the back to rally back to third, with Saturday pins over Palm Bay’s Carlos Gerardino (:53) in the blood round and Goodwine (3:59) in the consi semis, followed by a 3-0 decision in the third-place match over Black (38-8).
5th place: After a 3-1 loss to Goodwine in the quarters, Mater Lakes Academy sophomore Ethan Vergara would gain — a little — revenge, with wins in three of four consi-side matches, with Saturday wins over Godby’s Jordan Yarbrough (21-5; 3-1) in the blood round, and an injury-default win over Goodwine (48-5) in the fifth-place match.
Complete brackets can be found HERE.
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