#3Astateduals: Riverdale Pins Take Down FIHS

Fleming Island wrestlers gather for a team photo Saturday afternoon at Osceola HS in Kissimmee (Photo by Meridyth Smith; action photos from Saturday can be found on the Matmen Instagram account, nflamatmen).

KISSIMMEE — If you’re feeling faint in the heart, perhaps just stay away from the North Florida Wrestling Academy facility, locally just known as “the warehouse,” over the next couple of days.

There’ll be a keyed-up group of Fleming Island kids rallying back behind a set of hard practices after Saturday’s 39-27 3A state semifinal loss to Riverdale at Osceola HS.

“Not now,” said Golden Eagles coach PJ Cobbert, asked if it would be difficult for his group to regain motivation after the loss.

“Not now. Sometimes you don’t learn much from a win. There’s some hurt boys over there, but that hurt’s got to be short-lived. We’ll get back to work tomorrow, get right back in the mix. They’re going to have to learn how to overcome adversity.”

Cobbert had noted Friday night after the Golden Eagles’ Region 1 title win over Timber Creek that defending against turns and nearfall situations was going to be critical on Saturday.

It was.

While several Fleming wrestlers had success setting the pace on top, with seven wins and turns for back points in all but one of them, Riverdale proved equally adept, if not even a little more so, racking up six pins, five of them coming in a six-match run that ultimately doomed the Golden Eagles’ chances of reaching the state final for the third time in the four-year history of the FHSAA duals tournament.

“Gotta wrestle six minutes, and I told them you’ve got to get bonus (points),” Cobbert said. “They’re a big-move type of team that likes to swing for the fences, while we want to wear people down. Sometimes you’ve got to take body blows, and we didn’t take them well.”

The Golden Eagles had a solid run between 170 and 106, dropping just one match in that stretch — and in overtime on a 50-50 call to boot. Joseph Forte (106) won by fall in the second period, with Jhoel Robinson (13-1 at 170) and Hunter Williams (18-6) having their way with turns for major decisions. Gavin Smith (6-5 at 182) and Raul Gonzalez (3-0 at 220) added decisions during that stretch.

After that, though, Fleming Island (14-1) took just two victories, giving up five pins in the closeout of the dual. David Parkes (152) ended the dual with a 14-4 major and Riley Holton (126) took a 9-2 win.

“I have so much respect for Fleming Island. We knew we had to match their intensity; if we didn’t come out and meet them punch-for-punch, we would be in trouble,” Riverdale coach Kris Hayward said. “Every single match was tough. We wrestle that dual 10 times, we probably get five and they probably get five.”

In the other semifinal, Ft Pierce Central took the opening lead against defending three-time champion South Dade, but the Buccaneers took win streaks of four, four and three weight classes to roll to a 55-13 victory.

In the championship, South Dade trailed again early, but back-to-back-to-back wins from Joshua Swan (182), Sawyer Bartelt (195) and Craig Silimon (220), and again from Luis Acevedo (106), Adrian Morales (113) and Joshua Aviles (120) allowed the Buccaneers to nearly double up Riverdale, 45-24, for their fourth FHSAA duals title, a feat no other Florida school has accomplished.

Box scores for all of the 3A matches from Friday and Saturday can be found HERE.

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