KISSIMMEE — Nadine Fiege’s personal wrestling career was one built off success as the result of hard work.
That uncompromising approach was brought this year to the second-year Ponte Vedra girls’ team, with Fiege as head coach.
And the result? Success.
With a small group focused on quality, the Lady Sharks built a runnerup team finish Saturday at the inaugural FHSAA girls tournament at Silver Spurs Arena, with an unbeaten first day Thursday and an unbeaten day Saturday as well.
Ponte Vedra overcame four other coverage-area teams that finished in the top seven statewide, with 67 points for second, accepting the team runnerup trophy with all smiles and laughter after the arena announcer pronounced “Ponte Verda” as the runnerup.
“Yes. Oh yes,” Fiege said emphatically, regarding whether this kind of finish was the immediate expectation. “We set this goal a long time ago. Their work ethic is outstanding. Every day, they come in and work hard.”
And the Sharks’ team leader, junior Olivia Richie (140), was one of six wrestlers from the coverage area that became part of the first cadre of FHSAA girls state champions.
After being put to her back for an uncomfortably-long period of time in the second period against Miami Coral Park’s Sofia Delgado, Richie found herself trailing, 7-0, late in the third. Needing a big move, Richie found one to put Delgado to her back and secure a pin in 5:25.
Afterward, Richie broke out a Conor McGregor-styled strut around the girls’ title mat, having earned the Sharks’ first wrestling title.
“Honestly, I just focused on myself, on putting in all I could. Last year, I didn’t really understand what I could do and so this year I put in all I had,” Richie said, noting she couldn’t wait to kiss her medal, as Olympians so often do.
“I knew I was fine (after surviving the second period). Kept doing what we do in practice, and it worked. Our coaches have been great. Having female coaches, it’s nice to have that relatability.”
That Richie title at 140 pushed the Lady Sharks just ahead of Matanzas, which finished third with 66 points. The Lady Pirates also put a wrestler on the top of the podium Saturday night, as freshman Tiana Fries (110) became the first ninth-grade wrestler in Flagler County to win a state championship.
After a tactical first period with Mater Lakes’ Sofia Ferran, Fries was able to reverse out to open the scoring, completing a weekend of four pins with a fall in 3:26.
“I don’t know, honestly, but it feels pretty good,” Fries said of winning the title and making history on the FHSAA as an inaugural champion and Flagler’s first freshman champion, surpassing her father, Michael (an assistant coach for Matanzas), who’d been the only freshman finalist in county history.
“Just was thinking about what I was going to do, not getting nervous.”
On a night of firsts for the FHSAA and girls wrestling, the forever-first FHSAA individual state title was won by Mosley sophomore Valarie Solorio, who needed just one takedown in the finals at 100, riding Lake Gibson’s Gabriele Tedesco before putting her to back for a fall just before the first period ended, in 1:57.
“It means the world, to have won the very first title in the FHSAA,” Solorio said, fighting to hold back the emotion after being unable to fully compete in the boys’ post-season in 2020-21 due to injury. “It’s been one of the most nerve-wracking experiences. I took every match like it would be my last.
“Having three brothers has helped; their names are Alex Solorio, but he’s too young to wrestle here yet, and Derrick Williams and CJ (Calvin) Williams. We go to the same school together, train together at school, train at club together. I’m glad I have a partner like Derrick.”
The titles won by Solorio and, later, by Henlee Haynes at 170, helped the Dolphins finish sixth as a team with 60 points.
Like Solorio, Haynes pinned her way through the bracket to win her second state title (FHSAA first) and reached a girls’ state final for the third time, overcoming her finals loss in 2021.
“That loss just put me where I needed to be, to train harder. I appreciate it, looked at it as a learning experience,” said Haynes, who decked Celebration’s Hayeni Costa in 1:09 to win the championship. “I knew she liked throws; my game is doubles and singles and that’s a game-changer in my weight class.
“I can’t wait to call my family. Some of them are over in Alabama and I can’t wait to talk to them.”
Two weight classes featured a pair of wrestlers from the coverage area Saturday night. First up among those was the 120 final between Dr Phillips senior Juliana Diaz and Tocoi Creek junior Brielle Bibla.
After a largely 50-50 first-period, in which both wrestlers scored, Diaz secured the upper hand, with big turns in both the second and third periods, putting Bibla to her back twice. Bibla fought off the pin attempts, but Diaz’s ability to turn turned into a 12-5 decision and her third state title, with former coach Kirwyn Adderley in her corner for Saturday night.
“An amazing experience, everything I learned, every single one of the four years,” Diaz said of representing the long-time power of girls wrestling. “This year, too, I really wanted to be known as Juliana.
“It’s been a hard two days and it affected me. Now I can set up to get better for nationals. I’ve been practicing every day, killing my body, working so I can win nationals.”
At 130, future Brewton-Parker College teammates and seniors Madisyn Blackburn (Clay) and Kaylee Easter (Wewahitchka) met for the final time as opponents. While they were set to wrestle two weeks ago at North Bay Haven, that match didn’t take place.
The reason for that was that Blackburn had just had appendicitis, which required surgery on Valentine’s Day, February 14. She had promised her family and coaches that she would only wrestle enough to qualify. When that was secured, she forfeited to Easter in the final.
Saturday night, still only three weeks removed from an invasive surgery, Blackburn won her second title, but not before Easter secured the first takedown. In the second, though, Blackburn’s mat game was on point, as she reversed out and turned Easter for the pin in 2:59.
“My coaches just wanted me to be safe. I’d been told my season was over and I couldn’t wrestle. It was emotional, but I pushed through. I had a gameplan,” Blackburn said.
“Honestly, I had just been training my ass off (to win state again). There’s a very big community at Clay that supported me in every way it could, a very big family. It’s going to be great (being teammates with Easter). I think we committed (to BPC) at the same time.”
The night closed out with Orange Park senior Andrea Smith (235) winning her second state title as well. It wasn’t easy, by any stretch, to knock off a fellow nationally-ranked wrestler and unbeaten senior in her own right in Freedom’s Kiara Brin.
As heavyweight matches often go, the win was found in the details rather than the big moves, as Smith was able to ride Brin out for the whole of the second period, and forced two stall warnings on Brin while on bottom in the third to go up, 1-0. Brin was forced to let her up very late in the match, unable to turn her, and there wasn’t time to hit a takedown from there, as Smith took a 2-0 decision.
“Winning the first was sweeter, because I had lost the previous year (as a sophomore) and I shouldn’t have, and that was my biggest defeat,” Smith said. “This win did top off my career.
“There’s a lot of pressure, being nationally-ranked, and I think I do better at national tournaments than state ones because of that. Can’t wait to see my mom. She’s the only reason I’ve stayed out here. Works two jobs so I can do this. Time to go get some sweet tea and hug my mom.”
And, as much as Saturday night was about success for the area’s five champions, it was also about going back to the drawing board for Bibla and Timber Creek’s Chloe Shull (155), and about preparing what’s next in college wrestling for Easter.
As for Shull, she led the Lady Wolfpack to a fourth-place team finish, with 63.5 points, but couldn’t get her offense untracked against North Miami unbeaten freshman Mya Bethel. Both wrestlers were hit with stall warnings in the first period; Bethel rode Shull out in the second, incurring a second stall warning and point in Shull’s favor. In the third, Shull rode Bethel for around 50 seconds, taking a second stall warning herself that tied the match, and Bethel escaped shortly afterward for a 2-1 lead, keeping Shull at arm’s length for the win.
Our North Florida Matmen Facebook page has galleries from each day of the tournament, including action photos from Saturday’s medal round and finals session as well. Or, those same photos can all be found on our Instagram page, nflamatmen.
A complete listing of medalists for the state, with all coverage-area wrestlers first-listed in bold print, follows.
Championship: Valarie Solorio (Mosley) p. Gabriele Tedesco (Lake Gibson), 1:57.
3rd: Hope Eastes (North Port) d. Kohana Martinez (Zephyrhills), 8-3.
5th: Emma Bauknight (Springstead) p. Madelyne Helms (McKeel), 1:52.
7th: Maite Coutinho (Freedom) p. Katelyn LoCastro (Tarpon Springs), 3:55.
Championship: Clare Booe (Palm Harbor) p. Hailee Moder (First Baptist-Naples), 1:09.
3rd: Mariah Mills (Matanzas) d. Dianna Pineda (Deltona), 8-2.
5th: Iilliana Ferns (Park Vista) p. Sigrun Metzger (Crestview), 2:23.
7th: Natalie Duran (South Dade) md. Tristany Smallwood (Venice), 15-2.
Consi semis: Mills d. Ferns, 3-2; Pineda d. Metzger, 4-0.
Championship: Tiana Fries (Matanzas) p. Sofia Ferran (Mater Lakes), 3:26.
3rd: Rachel Silva (Somerset) d. Aleksandra Vukajlovic (East River), 2-1.
5th: Mayangelie Colon (Mulberry) md. Shelby Sherman (Apopka), 16-6.
7th: Brianna Visocky (South Fork) p. Gracie Bradshaw (Middleburg), :46.
Consi semi: Vukajlovic p. Sherman, 3:37.
Championship: Cameron Galvin (Freedom) d. Lourdes Macias (Western), 8-1.
3rd: Erin Rizzuto (Ponte Vedra) ID over Alanis Soler (Colonial).
5th: Javanica Mickens (Jones) d. Aryana Leverock (Pinellas Park), 12-11.
7th: Lahela Grady (Tate) d. Janet Gomez (LaBelle), 4-3.
Consi semi: Rizzuto p. Mickens, 2:31.
Championship: Juliana Diaz (Dr Phillips) d. Brielle Bibla (Tocoi Creek), 12-5.
3rd: Analy Banuelos (Braddocks) d. Christina Turner (Sarasota Military), 7-2.
5th: Abby DiCenzo (Bell Creek) p. Emma Smith (Westside), 2:10.
7th: Sophia Lahik (Windermere) p. Christina Borgmann (Matanzas), 4:05.
Consi semi: Turner p. Smith, 4:26.
Championship: Kailey Rees (Freedom) p. Gabriela Caro (Douglas), 3:12.
3rd: Lucy Maris (Satellite) d. Emma Gagnon (Riverview), 2-1, TB-1.
5th: Kelliana Mack (Osceola) d. Jameson Hannigan (Wellington), 5-2.
7th: Natalia Choquegonza (Ponte Vedra) p. Aubrianna Apple (Clay), 4:28.
Championship: Madisyn Blackburn (Clay) p. Kaylee Easter (Wewahitchka), 2:59.
3rd: Bailey Waltz (Timber Creek) d. Rachel Ferreter (Freedom), 7-0.
5th: Kendall Bibla (Tocoi Creek) p. Callie Alfieri (Gulf), 3:31.
7th: Bryanne Kaminsky (University-OC) d. Alejandra Notni (Doral Academy), 2-1.
Consi semi: Waltz d. Bibla, 6-2.
Championship: Gabriella Perez (Treasure Coast) d. Tydaisa Mack (North Miami), 3-2.
3rd: Keyla DeLeon (Freedom) d. Madison Waltz (Timber Creek), 7-3.
5th: Angelyn Glazier (McKeel) d. Isabella Tietje (Matanzas), 3-2, UTB.
7th: Aurora Guadiana (Wellington) d. Isabel Santos (Western), 5-0.
Consi semi: Waltz p. Tietje, 2:53.
Championship: Olivia Richie (Ponte Vedra) p. Sofia Delgado (Coral Park), 5:25.
3rd: Jada Llamido (Hagerty) p. Janice Quiroa (Mater Lakes), 1:56.
5th: Zoe Williamson (South Lake) d. Carla Roman (East Lee County), 4-3.
7th: Nehemie Gregoire (Apopka) p. Olivia Carr (Nease), :43.
Consi semi: Llamido p. Roman, :25.
Championship: Tasha Matkovich (Anclote) p. Lilly Lutrell (Tampa Freedom), 4:56.
3rd: Jennah Mustafa (Lake Wales) d. Jade Noble (Horizon), 2-1.
5th: Anisah Paz (South Dade) ID over Teigan Slauson (Palm Harbor).
7th: Katherine Stewart (Bartram Trail) p. Taesha Inelus (North Miami), 2:36.
Championship: Mya Bethel (North Miami) d. Chloe Shull (Timber Creek), 2-1.
3rd: Gabby Tutera (Palmetto) p. Jah’Mya Hill (Mainland), 2:03.
5th: Karla Ortiz (Westside) p. Gabriela Segre (South Dade), 1:34.
7th: Jayden Dodge (West Port) p. Isabella Castellanos (Ft Myers), 2:30.
Consi semi: Hill p. Ortiz, 1:39.
Championship: Henlee Haynes (Mosley) p. Hayeni Costa (Celebration), 1:09.
3rd: Ferny Hernandez (South Dade) p. Lilly Yambor (Gateway), 1:00.
5th: Jazzmine Moore (Oakleaf) p. Hannah Matalobos (Bartram Trail), 2:46.
7th: Chella Antoine (Ft Myers) d. Banishca Derilus (Freedom), 3-1.
Consi semi: Hernandez p. Moore, 3:57; Yambor p. Matalobos, 1:16.
Championship: Alyssa Favara (Palmetto Ridge) d. Megan Preston (Wiregrass Ranch), 12-8.
3rd: Jada Jones (Apopka) p. Cheyenne Cruce (Middleburg), 3:37.
5th: Day’Jah Clark (Norland) ID over Emiliana Martinez (Gateway).
7th: Maggie Moss (Lincoln) d. Aurika Kashayeva (Barron Collier), 9-5.
Consi semis: Jones p. Martinez, 2:00; Cruce p. Clark, :59.
Championship: Andrea Smith (Orange Park) d. Kiara Brin (Freedom), 2-0.
3rd: Shanakay Chambers (Norland) p. Aniya Harbin (Jefferson), 2:07.
5th: Jada Arnold (Raines) p. Dania Taylor (Boca Ciega), :10.
7th: Cheyenne Wigley (Mainland) p. Daphney Pierre (Ft Myers), 2:03.
Consi semi: Chambers p. Arnold, 3:31.
Final brackets for the state tournament can be found HERE.