By MATMEN, Friday, 6:05 p.m.
KISSIMMEE — Establishing the early momentum and setting a tone were critical for both Suwannee and Episcopal, both first-time 1A-Region 1 duals finalists, Friday afternoon at Osceola HS.
Suwannee middles Marshall White, Austin McKinney, Austin Howard and Dustin Wood understood the assignment.
Their building of a 21-0 lead gave the #8 Bulldogs a lead that they would never relinquish, as Suwannee picked up its 35th dual victory of the season, claiming an FHSAA region duals title by defeating the #11 Eagles, 51-27.
Suwannee (35-3) will face top-ranked Jensen Beach in Saturday’s 1A state semifinals at 10 a.m. (weighin 9 a.m.). Jensen Beach advanced with a 42-25 win in the Region 4 final over #3 Mater Lakes Academy.
Pins from White (12th at 145), McKinney (7th at 152) and Wood (10th at 170), plus Howard (3rd at 160)’s 9-2 win over the Eagles’ #14 John Fernandez, gave Suwannee (35-3) a 21-0 lead it would not give up.
Episcopal (22-6) did make the Bulldogs try, though, winning three of the next four between 182 and 285, thanks to pins from Matt Salek (220) and Mark Rinaman (285), a 7-6 win from the Eagles’ #12 Christian McGarity over #19 Benjamin Lewis at 182, cutting the lead to 27-15.
But Torynn Johns’ pin at 195 gave the ball to the Bulldog hammers down low, and they did their job against young ESJ wrestlers, with Eli Jolicoeur (2nd at 106), Justin Contreras (9th at 113) and Topher Pearson (2nd at 120) all winning by fall, Pearson’s pin effectively clinching the dual as Suwannee was up 45-15 with three weights left.
The Eagles kept scrapping, though; at 126, #17 Scott Busey falled #5 Brody Boehm in a senior matchup, and #13 Nicholas Pressley (132) would add another pin before Suwannee’s Ayden Kirby (#19 at 138) would end the dual as it began, with a Bulldog pin, this time over #13 Cohen Chesser.
Region 4: Jensen Beach won six of the first seven matches and was not closely challenged against Mater Lakes Academy, though there were several tight individual weights.
Jewell Williams (5-4 at 145), Dylan Fox (5-2 at 152) and Colten Byrd (4-0 at 160) got the Falcons out to a lead they would not lose; though the Bears’ Calogero Mazzrillo racked up a 17-0 tech at 170, Jensen Beach would max-point at 182, 195 and 220, with Malachi Harriel (182) winning by fall and Toby Rooney (220) by injury default.
The teams traded points at 106 and 113, with the Falcons’ Ben Norris (10-9 at 106) and Bears’ Kellen Mesina (14-9 at 113) taking decisions, but Jensen would lock up the dual on pins from Sebastian Degennaro (120) and Ryan Mooney (126).
MLA won by forfeit at 285 and also at 132 and 138, after Jensen Beach didn’t send out starters.
Region 2: #7 Hernando roared off the deck with a 27-0 run from 285 through 126 to push past #9 Palm Bay, 33-31, and win its first Region 2 title.
After trading points through three weights, with decisions from James Gadson (7-4 at 145) and James Garrett (8-1) at 160) equalizing the fall from the Pirates’ Nathan Furman at 152, the Foxes couldn’t stop a four-match Palm Bay run.
The Pirates got a fall from Octavion Osby (195), a 12-1 major at 170 from Brycen Turner, and decisions from Elliott Bell (10-6 at 182) and Christopher Brunson (10-4 at 220) to establish a 22-7 lead at the halfway point.
But the Foxes had Palm Bay at bay despite the deficit, kicking it off with a 6-0 win from Devin Williams, followed by back-to-back-to-back-to-back pins from Savannah Valle (106), Kyle Pearson (113), Jordyn Valle (120) and Vitaliy Boyer (126 in extra time) to go up 34-22. When Palm Bay’s Roman Maldonado couldn’t get a necessary pin at 132, winning instead by 6-2 decision, Hernando had the dual clinched and forfeited to the Pirates at 138.
Region 3: Third-ranked First Baptist (Naples) came in as the higher “seed” and fresh off a win over #2 Lemon Bay in the region semis, but it was 10th-ranked Zephyrhills Christian that will get a chance to wrestle for the 1A state title after a 42-35 win.
An 18-0 close for the Warriors, with Talon Maple (132) winning by fall, proved to be enough, as Zephyrhills Christian took advantage of two First Baptist forfeits at 126 and 138.
A largely back-and-forth first half of the dual saw Zephyrhills Christian get pins from Jeremiah Chavis (170), Kashaun Christopher (195) and Elijah Austin (220), plus a 5-3 win from Javier Lopez at 152 and 6-1 decision from Reid Yakes at 106.
The Lions got early pins from Gavin Patton (160), Christian Moder (182) and Caleb Rodriguez (285), plus a 17-2 tech from Michael Kersey at 145 that kicked off the dual. First Baptist had back-to-back pins from Asher Bacon (113) and Jonathan Moder (120) that put it up by 11, 35-24, the Lions’ biggest lead of the dual.