#Recap: 3 Area Medalists At Knockout

Bartram Trail’s Ethan Vugman (top) looks for a turn during the 2022 Knockout Christmas Classic semifinals on Thursday. Vugman would have the top area finish among area competitors, taking 3rd at 132 (Photo by Brant Parsons,

By MATMEN, Friday, 9:35 a.m.

KISSIMMEE — Three wrestlers from the Matmen coverage area walked away with some very hard-won hardware Thursday night at Silver Spurs Arena at the conclusion of the 2022 Knockout Christmas Classic.

Bartram Trail senior Ethan Vugman placed third and Hagerty freshman Nikolas Blake fifth at 132, while Buchholz senior Kason Nichols was sixth at 195.

Four teams competed in the Knockout, won by 3A’s South Dade with 206 points, nearly 50 ahead of runnerup Lake Gibson in 2A. Florida teams were 1-2-3, with favorites in each classification covered, as 1A’s Jensen Beach was third.

Bartram Trail was the top area team in the 62-team field, placing 31st with 55 points. Buchholz and Hagerty tied for 44th with 35 points, while Matanzas was 50th with 29.5.

Vugman (1st-3A at 126) reached Thursday’s semifinal round with four wins over Florida opponents, defeating Lemon Bay’s Brycen Warren (3rd-1A at 126, 12-0 major); First Baptist-Naples’ Jonathan Moder (7th-1A at 126, fall in 5:22); South Dade’s Tyree Graham (fall in 1:17) and Winter Springs’ Ryan Phillips (1st-2A at 132, fall in 1:08) to get there.

Vugman then exchanged scoring moves in the first period with Point Pleasant WV’s Gunner Andrick, but gave up a late reversal in the second and was hit with two stall warnings from bottom in the third, falling by a 5-2 count to the eventual champ. In the consis, Vugman falled Blake in 52 seconds in the semis, and then used first escape to advantage in a 2-1 ultimate-tiebreaker win over Jefferson GA’s Dallas Russell, getting out with 17 seconds left.

For his part, Blake (5th-3A at 132) reached the quarters after a bye into the round of 32, majoring Dobyns-Bennett TN’s Gavin Armstrong, 11-0, and then winning a battle of freshmen with Somerset Academy’s Tristan Sainz (3rd-1A at 132), 11-1, to reach the eventual runnerup, Mill Creek GA’s Amantee Mills, where he lost by fall in 3:27.

Blake then took two pins in the consis to guarantee a medal, falling Tampa Jesuit’s Jayden Bowles (9th-2A at 132, fall time 4:07) and Buford GA’s Maddox McArthur (3:24) to get to Vugman. In the fifth-place match with Phillips, Blake was briefly put to back early in the second period, but tied the match with a reversal; in the third, he overcame a Phillips takedown with a reversal seconds later, earning a 2-point turn shortly after to secure a 6-4 win.

Nichols (7th-3A at 182) reached the 195 quarters after a bye into the round of 32; from there, he pinned Auburndale’s Antonio Martinez (2:52) and took a 5-1 win over Osceola’s Jomar Sanchez (6th-3A at 220) before falling to Georgia state champion Luke Cochran of Jefferson, 8-0, in the final eight.

Like Blake, Nichols then had to win twice in the consis for his podium spot, pinning multiple-time Georgia placer Aaron Riner of Buford (4:33) and decisioning Summit TN’s Luke Justice, 4-3, in the blood round to secure top-six. Nichols then took decision losses against Hewitt-Trussville AL’s Hunter Jones (5-1) in the semis, and couldn’t solve Jensen Beach’s Nate Sopotnick (4th-1A at 195) in the fifth-place match despite a successful second-period rideout, as Sopotnick had takedowns in the first and third periods for a 5-0 decision.

Rankings are per

Results from the two-day tournament can be found HERE.

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