November 24, 2022 — 6 a.m.
Hagerty has recently seemed to be that team that comes oh-so-close, but just short, in 3A-Region 1.
Three-time district duals champs, three-time region runners-up. Defending district IBT champ (after 3x runnerup finishes), with three 2nds and one 3rd at Region 1.
Last year, after losing a pair of state runners-up, the Huskies still finished among the state’s top 10. This year, after losing five seniors, including three who qualified for states and two that medaled there), we’re looking at Hagerty as the preseason favorite in the region.
The Huskies do lose 2022 state medalists Ethan Gomez (5th at 170) and Blake Watts (8th at 152), plus an additional state qualifier and two additional region qualifiers, and that leadership will need replacing.
But Hagerty has as many as 10 projected key returners (all but one were post-season starters) from a year ago, and most of them are well battle-tested. Senior 2022 3A runnerup Kamdon Harrison (160) leads the returning mix of kids, which includes returning state qualifiers in junior Hunter Tate (195 last year) and sophomore Aiden Vick (106).
We’re projecting Timber Creek, with the room that it has consistently had and level of competition it has engaged year-in and year-out, as the runnerup, but the gap has probably closed some between the Wolfpack and their challengers.
What worries us is the graduation loss that the Wolfpack sustained, as they lost seven Class of 2022 wrestlers in May, led by state medalist Trenton Dominguez (3rd at 113) and an additional state qualifier. That will be a difficult loss to overcome.
But Timber Creek will have eight projected key returners back, including a pair of 2022 state qualifiers in senior Peter Nesheiwat (285) and sophomore Josue Batista (138). Six of those eight returners were post-season starters for the Wolfpack, so there is a nucleus to build around, and the depth in the room should cover most of the rest.
If the Wolfpack falters at all, Winter Park will be there to pick up the slack. The Wildcats lost four seniors to graduation, but just two of those wrestlers had region experience a year ago.
Winter Park matches Hagerty’s 10 in projected key returners, led by junior Jorge Gonzalez (6th at 132 in 2022), a returning district and region champ. Senior Joseph Parker (145 last year) and junior Liam Glassmeyer (220) join Gonzalez as returning state qualifiers, and if the Wildcats can fill out a little bit more of their lineup, they will be a tough opponent.
We’re looking at Oviedo to round out the top half of teams in the district. The Lions have the benefits of both a large returning — and still young — group, and, as well, a small graduation class in May, as just two seniors (both post-season starters, one who shared time in the regular season) moved on.
Oviedo has the biggest returning group in the district, with no fewer than 13 projected key wrestlers able to come back. What the Lions are going to have to do, though, is make the leap necessary for the team to graduate from also-ran to threat, and the proof that they’ll have made that leap will be found in their offseason and preseason work.
Watch out for Lake Brantley; the Patriots could be a team on the move this year, under first-year HC Jason Jessee. They’ve lost five seniors from last year’s group, four of which competed in the post-season, but they’ve got at least 12 projected key returners or transfers back from a year ago, with just one senior in the group, so the large majority of the group will have two years together.
Even though Wekiva lost just one graduated starter from last year’s team, the Mustangs are probably too short-handed to earn a lot of team success. Individually, though, they’ll have highlights, with seniors Seth Galvin (state qualifier at 145 last year) and Holley Saintmelus (region champ at 285) both returning to highlight a cadre of five projected key returners.
First-year coaches will be heading up the programs at Evans and Lake Howell, respectively. For the Trojans, under new HC Brent Bourgeois, they move over from District 4 and will have up to six projected key returners, but just one of those six had wins at regions last year; Evans will have to replace three key seniors from last year’s group. At Lake Howell, under new HC Kyle Harrison, the Silver Hawks lost just one from last year’s team, but it was probably the team’s top performer, and via transfer. Still, there’ll be as many as seven key returners back, but just one advanced to the region round.
Projected finish: 1. Hagerty. 2. Timber Creek. 3. Winter Park. 4. Oviedo. 5. Lake Brantley. 6. Wekiva. 7. Evans. 8. Lake Howell.
CAPSULES HERE: 3A-DISTRICT 3 CAPSULES