When we add new territory to cover, even when we have a passing familiarity to it, getting ready to make predictions about it becomes a nervy enterprise.
Such is the case in 3A-District 3, one of our two new districts this year, but at least the top of the heap in this year’s configuration are familiar to our site if not necessarily all of our readers. This year’s District 3 chase again appears to boil down to a two-way race between 2021 duals champ Hagerty and traditional champ Timber Creek.
We’re tapping the Huskies to return fully to the top spot in the district, and be one of the top three teams — at least — in the region race as well.
As classifications currently stand, Hagerty’s the only team in 3A-Region 1 to make more than one appearance in the region duals final, with appearances in 2019 and 2020, plus a district duals title last year. The Huskies then were second in both District 4 and Region 1 competition, and were the top Region 1 team in 3A at the state tournament, finishing eighth as a group.
True, Hagerty does have a graduation loss to overcome that includes 3 girls’ state competitors (tops among them Brooke White, who was fifth at 154). And even harder to overcome might be the graduation losses of bigs Ethan Lopez (182 last year) and Bertilus Bornelus (220), both of whom were state runners-up in March.
But otherwise, what the Huskies lost to graduation was depth. And they’ve got plenty of that back, with up to 16 potential key returners for this year. That includes a boys’ group with 10 post-season starters, nine with Region 1 experience and including 3A state qualifiers Kamdon Harrison (junior, 3rd at 138 last year), Blake Watts (senior, 152 last year) and Ethan Gomez (senior, 170 last year). It also includes four girls with returning state experience, led by 2021 state champion and senior Jada Llamido (134 last year).
As for Timber Creek, the Wolfpack got to the Region 1 duals final last year, overcoming a district loss to Hagerty along the way, and then took the District 4 IBT title, finishing fifth at Region 1 and T-15th at 3A states.
The graduation loss from that group was heavy, as eight seniors moved on in May, seven with Region 1 experience and two with state experience on the boys’ side, including 2021 Kissimmee medalist Jayden Tapia (3rd at 132). Girls’ state medalist Giovanna Diaz (5th at 140 last year) also has graduated.
But the cupboard is not bare by a long shot, as Timber Creek can bring back as many as 12 key returners, five with region-tournament appearances last year. Senior Trenton Dominguez (6th at 3A state 106) headlines that group, and fellow senior Bailey Waltz (girls’ state 4th at 122) will look for another deep tournament run herself in February and March.
I’m looking at Winter Park as the likeliest for third. Star power’s the biggest reason, as the Wildcats return as many as 10 key returners, fueled mainly by senior and defending state champion Joe Gonzalez (unbeaten at 145 last year), along with fellow Kissimmee qualifier James Gonzalez (sophomore, 120 last year, where he won the Region 1 title).
Graduation losses didn’t hurt Winter Park too badly, although the Wildcats did lose two regular-season starters, including one 2021 state qualifier.
Returning numbers are Oviedo’s friend as the Lions enter the season, even after losing three multi-year starters via graduation, including departed state medalist Marcus Patrick (5th in Kissimmee at 145 in 2020-21).
Oviedo can look to as many as 11 key returners from last year’s group, with three holding region-tournament experience. The Lady Lions have a nice cadre coming back as well, with three girls’ state competitors back, two of them taking three wins in their respective weights.
I’m looking at Lyman as the potential surprise team in the district, a team that could finish anywhere from seventh to maybe even third, with an influx of talented new blood. That started in the offseason, with transfers coming in to join a group of up to five key returners. That group numbered two Region 1 competitors from last year; the transfers doubled that amount, so the Greyhounds are potentially a team on the move up.
Lake Howell isn’t all that far off from finishing in the top half, but the Silver Hawks have to build back some numbers after losing five starters via graduation or transfer, and overcome a recent history where they’ve finished seventh or eighth in the district IBT round. They do have up to six key returners back, four with Region 1 experience.
Numbers are going to be the biggest need for both Lake Brantley and University (Orlando) this year. The Patriots were District 4 runnerups a year ago, but did not get a wrestler to states; graduation hit Lake Brantley pretty hard, as it lost six regular-season starters, plus this year’s returning group had just one victory at Region 1 last year. University (Orlando) has all of its post-season starters back on the boys’ side, but just one got to the region round; the Cougars’ girls cadre was hit hard by graduation, with half moving on in May, but University does have two girls who wrestled at state back.
Projected finish: 1. Hagerty. 2. Timber Creek. 3. Winter Park. 4. Oviedo. 5. Lyman. 6. Lake Howell. 7. Lake Brantley. 8. University (Orlando).
CAPSULES HERE: 3A-DISTRICT 3 CAPSULES