KISSIMMEE — All the work pays off when the happy tears flow.
And they flowed for Chiles senior Kyle McGill Saturday night after he completed the dream senior season, going undefeated in the season of Covid.
That meant being unable to travel outside of Tallahassee for interscholastic competition. To have competition inside the county be limited to just a very few teams. To compete in just one regular-season tournament at home. Compete on the road for both districts and regions. All things that McGill, the entire Chiles program, had to go through this one year that was new and different.
“There’s not enough words,” McGill said, emotion clear in his face and his words, while waiting to receive his state bracket and gold medal atop the 2A podium after winning the 195-pound weight class at Silver Spurs Arena Saturday night.
“Last year I was third and I was devastated. I knew how close I was. I just locked in on a state title.”
And that took McGill to places he didn’t expect to visit, during the preseason, in order to win that title. Places like Folkston, GA, to compete in events while Leon County was still shuttered.
The result was perfection.
After two pins in the round of 16 and quarterfinals, McGill (30-0) added a third fall in Saturday’s semifinal round, decking Harmony’s Juan Gomez in 5:10 to get to the finals, where he would face fellow unbeaten and fellow senior Gregory Dennard of Ft Myers.
Dennard had piled up the points en route to the finals, outscoring his Friday opponents by a 27-1 count — including a quarterfinal tech fall over a very good Doug Dittmer of New Smyrna Beach, McGill’s Region 1 finals opponent the previous weekend — and had falled McGill’s crosstown rival, Lincoln’s Wyatt Yown, in the semis.
But instead of the flurry of points Dennard wanted to bring, McGill imposed his will on the match instead, needing just one takedown and a masterclass in handfighting to secure a 3-1 victory over Dennard, and Chiles’ first state wrestling title along with it.
“His gas and his conditioning, nobody’s able to go six with him,” Timberwolves coach James Marschka said. “We were really hampered by what we could do, where we could travel. Had to stay in town, and not getting out put us at a disadvantage.
“But he just continued to train hard. He got really really strong. Just continued to grind. He’s the hardest-working kid I’ve ever coached.”
McGill hasn’t made a college decision yet, but programs may come calling now, because he does want to compete at the #NextLevel.
“Being the first state champion in school history, means a lot. Hopefully this gets more kids into the program,” he said. “If they work hard enough, they can do it, too.”
McGill’s title, plus a sixth from Femi Egberongbe at 138, catapulted the Timberwolves into the top Region 1 team finish at states, as Chiles was 13th with 41 points.
Lincoln, with three medalists in Cayden Bevis (3rd at 182), Elijah Hendley (4th at 113) and Yown (6th at 195) — 100% of their state contingent medaled — finished T-15th with 39 points. The two Tally squads were the only teams in the top 20.
Fletcher, with medal efforts from Ethan Hollenbach (5th at 220) and Joel Rodriguez (6th at 152); Mosley, behind a fifth from Nick Hejke (145); and New Smyrna Beach, with a fifth from Dittmer (195) all finished T-21st with 21 points.
Another threesome of local teams were T-26th with 18 points, as Robert E Lee and Westside both, respectively, got thirds from Ahmahd Denmark (160) and Ray Bolden (285), while Niceville got a fourth from David Polaski (220). Ft Walton Beach and Columbia tied for 31st with 15, with the Vikings’ Cedric Fairrow (220) grabbing third.
Orange Park and St Augustine both were T-37, with six points each, while Matanzas was T-42 with five. Leon was T-44, with four points, while Gulf Breeze and Pace both were T-49 at three. Belleview was 54th, with two points, while Deltona & Middleburg each were T-55th with one. Ponte Vedra was T-60th, with no points.
Action photos from Friday’s quarterfinals, Saturday’s semifinals & third-place round involving area 2A wrestlers, and McGill’s finals match can be found on our Instagram page, nflamatmen. We have all area medalists’ podium photos on there and on the Matmen Facebook page as well.
Brackets from the weekend’s wrestling can be found HERE.
A summary of Saturday’s wrestling can be found here:
Championship: After placing fifth as a freshman, Palmetto Ridge sophomore Tyler Washburn (46-1) rolled through this year’s field, with three pins and a decision. Saturday saw Washburn open with a 6-2 semifinal win over Springstead senior Dominic Nardini (42-3), then he came back in the championship match with a second-period fall (2:24) over Killian freshman Christian Vasquez (25-2). Vasquez reached the final behind three bonus-point wins, including a 16-8 major in the semis over Charlotte freshman Camren French (16-5).
3rd: Nardini, who was fourth a year ago, won twice on the back, teching Cape Coral sophomore Richard Albert (36-12), 16-1 in 4:15 (he’d also majored Albert, 9-0, in the first round on Friday), then held down Region 2 rival and Brandon freshman Thomas Gernhart, 1-0, in the bronze-medal match. Gernhart (26-5) had won four on the bounce in the consis after falling to French, 6-3, in round 1. The fourth of those wins was a 6-0 rematch with French in the consi semis.
5th: In a rematch from the Region 3 third-place match the previous weekend, French reprised his 5-2 region victory over Albert with a 4-2 win at states.
No locals in Saturday’s wrestling.
Championship: After a third-place finish in 2020, Brandon junior Tyson Lane (38-0) hasn’t lost in high school competition since his semifinals loss a year ago, with two pins Friday and dominant Saturday wins, starting with a 7-1 decision in the semis over Dixie Hollins junior Voshawn Baker (27-5) and wrapping up the title with an 11-1 major in the finals, a rematch of the Region 2 semifinal between the two, over Tampa Jesuit junior Danny Vargas (27-5). Vargas got to the final behind three decisions, including a 12-6 semifinal win over region rival and Springstead senior Jonathan Dominguez (37-10).
3rd: After falling, 2-1, to Vargas in Friday’s quarterfinal round, Charlotte junior Patrick Nolan (35-4) bonus-pointed through four consi-round wins, including Saturday dubs over Lake Gibson’s Austin Gehr (pin in 2:14) in state’s version of the “blood round,” the consi quarters, plus a consi-semi pin over Baker (2:41) and an 8-0 major for third over Hendley (37-3). Hendley, a senior for Lincoln, had two Saturday wins of his own after falling to Baker, 12-8, in the quarters, starting with a 4-0 consi quarters win over city/district rival and Chiles sophomore Garrett Marschka (27-5), followed by a 9-0 major over Dominguez in the consi semis.
5th: Baker would take the fifth-place medal with a medical-forfeit over Dominguez.
Championship: After finishing fifth in 2020, Mariner sophomore Christopher Minto (47-1) reached the top with four wins for the championship, starting with a semifinal pin (4:38) over Brandon junior Darrell Tabor (35-6), and wrapping up with a 12-3 major over Ft Myers senior Caleb Massari (34-6) in a rematch of the Region 3 final, which Minto also won by a 6-4 count. Massari had a Friday pin and decision to assure a medal, getting to the final behind a 13-4 major of his own over Barron Collier sophomore Lucas Giles (36-10), nearly duplicating his 16-3 Region 3 semis major over Giles the previous weekend.
3rd: After falling, 5-2, to Minto in the quarters, lake Gibson junior Alex Walker (28-3) rattled off four straight in the consis to rally back to third, with Saturday wins over Region 2 rival Christopher Albo of Jesuit (8-2), Giles (8-5) in the consi semis and a 5-0 shutout over another region rival in Tabor to take third. Tabor got to the bronze match behind a 5-2 consi-semi win over Southridge senior Conner Hueck (24-7). Tabor and Hueck had met in the opening round, with Tabor also winning, 4-2, in sudden victory on Friday.
5th: Giles bounced back from the two Saturday losses with a fall (4:45) over Hueck, who’d had to win three consi-side matches in order to make the podium.
No locals in Saturday’s wrestling.
Championship: Charlotte junior Andrew Austin (42-2) took the best shots Region 2 could throw at him through the weekend, repeating as champion after two dominant wins and two heart-stoppers. Saturday saw Austin open with a third-period tech (15-0 in 5:57) over Viera senior Andrew Pinzon (30-3) in the semis, then come back to hold off a fellow returning state champion in Tampa Jesuit junior Braden Basile (41-1) for a 6-5 decision. Basile had three pins prior to the final, including a third-period fall (5:19) over Palmetto Ridge freshman Demetri Zertopoulis (35-10) in the semis.
3rd: After falling in double overtime, 3-2, to Austin in the quarters on Friday, Lake Gibson sophomore Hayden Whidden (34-3) rolled through to four consi-side wins for third, with Saturday wins in the consi quarters over Southridge’s Nicholas Dukes (10-2), Zertopoulis (7-3) in the consi semis, and a fall (2:32) for third over Barron Collier senior Ethan Byrd (39-8). Byrd, who’d lost to Basile by fall in the quarters, camme back behind three consi-side wins, including Saturday victories over New Smyrna Beach junior Jamey Bruner (39-5) by fall (1:38) in the consi quarters and a 14-8 consi-semi win over Pinzon.
5th: Zertopoulis came back from the two Saturday losses with a fall in 2:40 over Pinzon for fifth.
Championship: Palmetto Ridge junior Brennan Van Hoecke (49-0) ran the table this year after losing by fall in last year’s final to Basile, with two pins on Friday and a 14-3 semifinal major over Harmony junior John McNichols (43-3). Van Hoecke then reprised his Region 3 semifinals match from the previous weekend in taking on Charlotte junior Isaac Church (42-5). Where the previous match ended by fall, this one was tighter, but still Van Hoecke’s, in a 9-3 decision. Church got to the final behind two Friday bonus-point wins and an 8-3 semifinal win over Brandon freshman Gianni Maldonado (36-2).
3rd: McNichols, who won all of his matches by fall aside from his loss to Van Hoecke, took two consi-side pins, starting with a fall (3:48) over Ft Myers junior John Vadyak (39-8) in the consi semis, then a revenge pin (3:50) for third over Region 2 rival and Lake Gibson junior Blake Walker (31-6), who’d beaten McNichols, 9-5, in the Region 2 semis the previous weekend. Walker, who’d lost by fall to Van Hoecke in the quarters, won three matches on the back to get to the rematch, starting with a 10-2 major in the consi quarters over Gulf Breeze sophomore Colson Elliott (35-2), and a 9-7 sudden-victory win in the consi semis over Maldonado, who’d decisioned Walker, 6-2, in the Region 2 final.
5th: After the two semifinal losses, Maldonado came back for fifth, decisioning Vadyak, 7-2, in a rematch of Friday’s quarterfinal between the two (which Maldonado also won, 8-2 in that case). Vadyak had two bonus-point wins to fight his way onto the podium.
Championship: Tampa Jesuit junior Tom Crook (41-0) repeated as champion, going undefeated behind three bonus-point wins on the weekend. Saturday began, however, with a war in the semis from Countryside sophomore Ethan Mojena (33-2), who pushed Crook to the brink before falling, 4-3. Crook had an easier time with Region 2 rival and Winter Springs junior Riley Chapdelaine (34-10) in the final. In a rematch of the region quarterfinal, which Crook won by a 15-4 major, Crook this time added a half bonus-point with a third-period tech fall (19-3 in 4:51). Chapdelaine had three decisions to get to the final, including a tight 3-2 semifinal win over Egberongbe (28-5), a senior for the Timberwolves.
3rd: As might be expected, Mojena came back with two bonus-point wins for third, teching Springstead junior Joe Gallo (46-9) in the consi semis (18-3 in 3:36), then majoring Harmony senior Fletcher Small (34-9), 14-5, for third place. Small, who’d lost in the opening round to a non-placer on Friday, won four on the back to get all the way to the third-place match, including Saturday wins over Island Coast’s Jaden Harrah (pin in 2:23) and Egberongbe (14-4 major) in the consi semis.
5th: Gallo, who’d lost by tech in the opening round as well as the consi semis to Mojena, then won four matches in the consis, with Saturday wins over St Thomas Aquinas’ Frank Messina (8-1) in the consi quarters and over Egberongbe (fall in 2:57) in the medal match.
Championship: For Tampa Jesuit junior Jack Crook (42-0), this year’s path to the title was sweet revenge, as he had three bonus-point wins as well as a Saturday semifinal win, 4-2, over Golden Gate sophomore Christian Moder (49-4). Moder had knocked off Crook (who’d come back for to take 3rd) in the 2020 quarterfinals. Crook then teched Palmetto Ridge junior Carson Miller (20-4), 21-6 in 5:22, to take the bracket and gold medal. Miller got to the final behind two Friday bonus-point wins and a 5-4 semifinal victory over Tampa Freedom senior Ryan Bennett (38-9).
3rd: Moder came back for third behind a pair of bonus-point wins, falling (2:06) Winter Springs junior Davis Deal (32-13) in the consi semis. The pin was a rematch of their opening-round draw, which Moder also won by fall on Friday. Moder then shut out Bennett, 8-0, in the third-place match. Bennett got to the third-place match with a 3-0 win over Hejke (48-9) in the consi semis.
5th: Hejke, a junior for the Dolphins, won three of four consi-side matches after losing by fall in the quarters to Crook, with Saturday wins by pin over McArthur’s Rashad Hannon (:54) in the consi quarters and over Deal (1:39) in the fifth-place match. Deal had had to win three consi-side matches of his own to get to his rematch with Moder and get on the podium in the process.
Championship: Lake Gibson junior Brendon Abdon (38-0) repeated as a state champ behind two Friday bonus-point decisions and two Saturday wins. Abdon’s semi with Southridge senior Cyrus Williams (21-2) was one of the best matches of the weekend as he got put to his back, rallied, then found an escape from down position in the ultimate tiebreaker for a 10-9 victory. Abdon had a bit easier time in the final against Palmetto Ridge sophomore Roman Garcia (39-8), but still had to go a full six minutes for a 5-0 decision and the title. Garcia had a pin and two decisions to reach the final, including a 6-2 win in sudden victory over Rodriguez (33-4).
3rd: Williams came back for third behind two consi-side decisions, edging Brandon junior Frank Diaz (37-5), 3-2, in the semis, then getting to open up for some more offense in a 12-5 third-place win over Port Charlotte sophomore Koen Hoffman (34-6). Hoffman, who’d lost 9-3 to Williams in the quarters on Friday, won three times to get back to the third-place match, including two Saturday wins over Region 1 kids, starting with a 7-0 decision in the consi quarters over Mosley senior Nick Kendrick (29-14), then taking an 8-3 decision over Rodriguez in the semis.
5th: Diaz, who’d fallen 5-1 to Garcia in the quarters, won three of four on the back, with a consi-quarter pin over Winter Springs’ Elijah Penton (2:31) and a 3-0 decision over Rodriguez, a senior for the Senators.
Championship: Charlotte senior Lucas Willis (34-2) completed his fifth state-championship run in seven tries, bonus-pointing through the tournament with three pins and a major. Willis needed just 1:18 on the mats Saturday, falling Winter Springs senior Harlan McCandless (22-8) in :14 in the semis, then coming back to fall Tampa Jesuit junior Sergio Desiante (40-2) in a rematch of their 2020 state semifinal matchup, with a pin time of 1:04. Desiante had two bonus-point wins on Friday, then pushed past Robert E Lee’s Denmark, 6-3, in the semis.
3rd: Denmark (42-2), a senior for the Generals, came back for third behind two decisions, as he knocked off Lake Gibson sophomore Frank Solorzano (36-3), 9-6, in the consi semis, then found a takedown in sudden victory for a 4-2 third-place win over Mariner senior Mack Koselke (39-9). Koselke, who’d lost 10-1 in the quarters to Desiante, had three consi-side wins to get to Denmark, including a 10-0 consi-quarter major over Braden River’s Jacob Holland and a 5-2 win over McCandless in the semis.
5th: Solorzano, who was the only wrestler to get past the first period with Willis on the weekend (lost by 10-2 major), had three consi-side wins, including Saturday wins over St Thomas Aquinas’ Skyler Hall (pin in 3:26) and a 3-0 win over McCandless for fifth.
Championship: Charlotte senior Cody Rice (43-3) won his first title behind a pin and three decisions, including Saturday wins in the semis over Lake Gibson senior Raul Soto (24-1), 8-4, and then again in the championship match, where he took a 5-2 win over Countryside sophomore Brian Burburija, a match that was a rematch from the previous weekend’s Region 3 semifinal (which Rice won 4-3). Burburija had two Friday bonus-point wins and reached the final with a 12-9 decision over Region 3 rivaland Barron Collier junior Cory Cannan (39-7).
3rd: Soto wrestled back to third with a pair of decisions, pushing past Heritage senior Julian Stoneman (36-5), 5-3, in the consi semis, and then edging Cannan, 4-3, for third. Cannan reached the bronze match with a five-minute tech fall (17-0) in the consi semis over Southridge junior Quiton Johnson (25-8).
5th: After falling, 6-0, in the quarters to Cannan, Stoneman won three of four matches in the consis, with Saturday wins in the consi quarters over Columbia junior Joseph Rice (39-7), with a 6-3 decision, and then again in the medal round, decisioning Johnson, 8-4. Johnson had to win twice on the back end, going to sudden victory in the consi quarters to his podium space.
Championship: Winter Springs junior Dylan Deal (27-9) powered through four decisions to take the championship, with Saturday wins in the semis over Golden Gate senior Lais Cordero (43-7), 3-2, and then again in the finals with a 7-3 win over St Thomas Aquinas senior Michael Moss. Moss had three first-period wins to reach the title round, including a Saturday semifinal pin over Lincoln junior Cayden Bevis (28-1) in 1:47.
3rd: Bevis, the Region 1 champ, came back for third with two decisions, pushing past Tampa Jesuit senior Joe Santana (31-10), 9-5, in the consi semis and then shutting out Cardero, the Region 3 champ, with a 2-0 win for third. Cardero came back to the bronze match with a consi-semi pin over region rival Gregorio Herrera in 4:27. That almost duplicated Cardero’s pin over Herrera in the region final the previous weekend.
5th: Herrera (34-11) won three of four in the consis after losing by fall to Moss in the quarters, with a 4-3 win in the consi quarters over region rival Cael Newton of Charlotte, and a 9-4 win for fifth over Santana, who won a pair of one-point decisions, one each day, to secure a podium space.
1st: See above about McGill; Dennard (42-1) rolled to Saturday’s competition behind two Friday bonus-point wins, advancing to the final with a pin (4:26) over Lincoln senior Yown (30-10) in the semis.
3rd: After a 5-2 loss to Harmony’s Gomez in Friday’s quarters, Port Charlotte junior Okten Logue (35-7) won four times in the consis to rally back to third, with Saturday wins in the consi quarters over region rival Antonio Petraglia of Palmetto Ridge (6-2), then a 5-1 win over Yown in the semis, followed by a 10-4 win over Harmony senior Gomez (22-6) in the bronze match. Gomez advanced to that round with a 6-3 decision over New Smyrna Beach’s Dittmer (40-5) in the semis.
5th: In a matchup of area/region rivals competing in their last high school match, Dittmer finished on top with a 7-1 win. Dittmer had won three of four consi-side matches to claim fifth after his quarterfinal loss to Dennard Friday, with a pin over Sebastian River’s Rafael Camarena (1:27) in the consi quarters.
Championship: After finishing second last year, Lake Gibson senior Tristan Middlebrook (28-1) completed the mission of a state championship, with a fall and three decisions, including Saturday wins in the semis over Fairrow (a junior for the Vikings), where Middlebrook needed a takedown in overtime for a 3-1 decision, and in the championship match over Ida Baker senior Angel Alverio (28-1), with another 3-1 decision, in six minutes this time, handing both wrestlers their first loss of the year. Alverio had a pin and two decisions prior to final, taking a 6-2 win over Niceville’s Polaski (18-7), a senior.
3rd: Fairrow (41-1) rallied for a pair of wins in the consis, downing two Region 1 rivals for his bronze medal. He turned back Fletcher senior Ethan Hollenbach (33-6), 7-3, in a rematch of the region final that Fairrow had taken by a 7-2 count the previous weekend. In the third-place match, Fairrow and Polaski — district rivals and the Panhandle’s only state medalists — met for the final time, with Fairrow going out to take an 8-1 win. Polaski got into the bronze match by pinning Osceola-Pinellas Park’s Maikeli Tuinakauvadra in 2:43 in the consi semis.
5th: Hollenbach, who’d fallen by a 6-3 decision to Alverio in Friday’s quarters, came back for three wins in the consis, including Saturday wins in the consi quarters over Harmony’s Nelson Toro (5-0 decision) and Tuinakauvadra by fall in the fifth-place match, with the pin time 2:17.
Championship: After a runnerup effort at 220 in 2020, Winter Springs senior Marvin Collins (27-1) pinned his way through the 285 bracket, including Saturday falls in the semis (2:48) over Charlotte sophomore Nathaniel Box (40-10), then again in the championship match late against Kathleen sophomore Jeremiah Jackson (42-2), in 5:53. That finals match reprised the Region 2 final, in which Collins took a 6-1 win. Jackson had three wins prior to final, including a semifinal 4-3 win over Westside senior Ray Bolden (24-2).
3rd: Bolden rallied for two consi-side victories to claim third place, starting with a 5-1 win in the semis over Palmetto Ridge sophomore Austin Foye (34-10). Bolden then battled to the limit with Box in the bronze match, going into double overtime before taking advantage of a Box mis-step and pinning him near the edge of the mat as time was about to expire at that end of that double OT. Box got into the third-place match with a 4-2 consi-seni win over Harmony senior Darren Davis (25-7).
5th: Davis had to win three of four matches in the consis after losing by fall to Bolden in the final match of the Friday quarterfinal round, with a 3-0 win in the consi quarters over Orange Park senior Gabriel Hecht (10-5) and a 9-5 decision in the medal match over Foye, who had two consi-side pins to punch his podium ticket.