November 17, 2022 — 6 a.m.
Quantity or quality?
District 5 is going to tell the tale on that age-old question, as Dr Phillips and its tradition and (still) deep room takes on shorter-handed, but power-packed Apopka for top honors in the district this year.
This wasn’t a close call in 2021-22, as the Lady Panthers rolled to a 104-point victory in the District 5 IBT last year.
But one of the top Floridians to leave high school, multiple-time state champion Juliana Diaz, left Dr Phillips in May for graduation, along with two other post-season starters — including one state qualifier.
The Lady Panthers do bring back as many as nine projected key returners, led by 2022 FHSAA state qualifiers in seniors Victoria Ceballos (100 in March) and Amy Etienne (155), plus sophomore Tanyah McCain (235). DPHS also had three additional wrestlers reach the Region 2 blood round. And they have the tradition, although last year’s 15th-place finish was significantly off the pace from previous girls’ state finishes.
As for the Lady Blue Darters, though, Apopka can’t match that number of returners, with as many as five projected key returners.
But that didn’t seem to faze the returning group last year, as Apopka flew past DPHS into the top 10 at state (7th) behind state-medal efforts from juniors Jada Jones (3rd at 190), Shelby Sherman (6th at 110) and Nehemie Gregoire (7th at 140).
If Apopka can fill in a good part of the lineup with new faces, and bring them up to speed, they will be a force to overcome, not just in the district, but statewide.
New Matmen team South Lake and second-year area program Ocoee are probably among the stronger teams that can challenge for top-3 spots in the district race.
The Lady Eagles can call upon four projected key qualifiers from last year’s team. South Lake brings back two returning state qualifiers, led by senior medalist Zoe Williamson (5th at 140, Region 2 champ) along with senior qualifier Grisbet Guzman (135 in March).
As for the Lady Knights, Ocoee has five projected key returners back, led by state qualifier Cierra Young (170 in March). Like Apopka, if the Lady Knights can find a couple more at state, they’ll be more of a region threat.
As for the rest of the area teams, Olympia has two projected key returners back from last year, both post-season starters, while Wekiva, West Orange and Winter Park each have one. Lady Wildcats sophomore Aliyah Gonzalez (105, defending Region 2 champ) is the only returning state qualifier from those programs.
For teams outside the coverage area, Colonial, with five returning post-season starters (even after losing 4th-place state medalist Alanis Soler to graduation), is probably the best-positioned to challenge for a top-3 district finish.
Edgewater and Lake Buena Vista each have three projected key returners, while Jones has two and Horizon one, though that one, Jade Noble (145 in March), was fourth at state. LBV’s Denalie Dauphin (125) was the only other returner to qualify for state.
We aren’t projecting picks for the girls’ side yet, as very few programs have full teams.
Capsules for all teams in District 5, where there are returning or graduated wrestlers that competed in the post-season, can be found HERE: GIRLS DISTRICT 5 CAPSULES