KISSIMMEE — Each of the previous two seasons, it took the juggernaut of the US Southeast, Lake Highland Prep, to end Wakulla’s runs at the FHSAA 1A state dual tournament.
Saturday, in the FHSAA 1A state semifinals at Osceola, it was Palm Bay, and not the Highlanders, that represented Region 2, but the Pirates sure seemed equally formidable from the War Eagles were standing.
Palm Bay allowed just one Wakulla victory, a third-period fall from Julian Harvey at 106, in suffocating the War Eagles’ hope for a third straight 1A finals appearance with a 57-6 semifinal win.
“He’s opening up. Being super offensive, and he’s really embraced it,” Wakulla coach William Pafford said. “His dad was a state champ, and it’s tough to follow in those kinds of footsteps.
“But he’s done a really good job.”
The Pirates delivered big hits and small blows in otherwise mostly throttling the War Eagle attacks Saturday morning. Palm Bay had four pins, three of them coming early as the Pirates built a 28-0 lead.
Wakulla (26-3) had hopes that Harvey’s fall would jumpstart a restart, but Palm Bay did to the War Eagles what they do to most teams, closing out the dual with seven straight victories, four of them ending by decision.
That gave a sense that Wakulla was in it, competitively, against the Pirates, but at the same time the War Eagles were swimming in cement.
“For me, life’s about moments, and these kids got this moment, and I’m thankful for that, because many states out there aren’t wrestling right now,” Pafford said of his team, which is scheduled to host the MyHOUSE Big Bend one-day IBT on January 30.
“In terms of the matches, we had about four swing matches there. Of course, I want them to do better, and of course we have things to work on, but I’m just glad we were here.”
As good as Palm Bay was, Somerset Academy was just a little bit better on Saturday. The Panthers opened with a rout of Lemon Bay, 67-9, in the semis, racking up 10 pins and an 11th bonus-point win with a major. Somerset won by fall at nine weights in a row, from 285 through 152.
In the championship dual, the Panthers became the first 1A school other than Lake Highland Prep, which won the title each of the previous three seasons, to win a state duals title, after taking a 33-28 victory over Palm Bay. Four straight wins from 132 through 152 helped the Panthers rally back for the win, as Skyler Caban (132) won by fall, Darian Estevez (152) took a 12-2 major and Chase Gillis (7-3 at 138) and Bas Diaz (4-3 at 145) both won by decisions.
Box scores for all of the 1A matches from Friday and Saturday can be found HERE.