For St. Thomas Aquinas head wrestling coach Rob Wimberly, this was a bittersweet weekend. He brought a number of wrestlers to Lakeland for the annual state tournament, advancing three to the finals and winning 1. The veteran coach was also inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame - Florida Chapter, which will hold its ceremony in August.
But no matter how well his team did, and the Raiders performed very well this year and into the championships, there was no way a 3A team title would be in the discussion. Not when powerhouse Brandon was winning 6 individual titles and scoring 216 points.
Even though they would finish more than 100 points back in fourth place, the Raiders did bring home a state title
when unbeaten junior Shiquan Hall won his second state championship, beating his former South Dade teammate Isaiah Varona in the 120-pound class.
The Raiders also had two state runner-ups. In the 145 pound class, Kris Iglesias was beaten by a Miami-Dade standout in Yoanse Mejia of Southwest Miami. The other was one of those things for 160-pounder Gio Jeovenetta, who had been one of the best in the state. The only thing is that THE best in the state and perhaps in the nation, Clark Glass of Brandon, was looking squarely at history. A win over the St. Thomas junior and he would join teammate Rossi Bruno, who earlier in the evening, won his record fifth state title. Glass won 16-0!
The only other BCAA wrestler in the 3A finals was Flanagan 220-pounder Justin Smith, who lost a 7-3 decision to William Ford of South Dade.
Other BCAA wrestlers placing were Jonathan Francois (106, Plantation), Alex Uhre (113, St. Thomas), Anthony Colon (St. Thomas, 138), Western heavyweight Gavin Ricketts, Sal Guerrio (126, St. Thomas), Bryan Betancourt (132, South Broward) and Kevin Jacques (285, South Broward).
GIBBONS HANGS TOUGH IN 1A
Cardinal Gibbons head coach Frank Pettineo knows the pressures of competing for a state title. He already has three of them and was in the thick of things last weekend for yet another.
Heading to Lakeland with one of his good teams, Pettineo and his Chiefs became a victim of two solid programs in champion Orlando Lake Highland Prep and Green Cove Springs Clay, which finished 1-2, just 10 points better than Cardinal Gibbons.
In a year where the Chiefs looked to rebuild, some positive things happened in the state tournament - like bringing home a pair of individual state titles - by Jamal Morris (126), who pinned Somerset's Brandon Conroy, and for the second straight year, Andrew Wisdom, who edged Jupiter Christian's David Kestner, who had beaten him last week in the region finals.
While the Chiefs had just two finalists, they did make up some ground with Jamel Morris (120) and Anthony Vasquez both placing. Speaking of placing, congratulations to Alex Rosa (160), who was the first wrestler in Coral Springs Charter history to place at the state tournament.
STRANAHAN, BLANCHE ELY GET 2A RECOGNITION
While nobody will confuse Stranahan and Blanche Ely for wrestling powers, the two schools continue to make major strides on the wrestling mat.
With Springstead (Spring Hill) wrapping up yet another 2A team title, it was during the consolation matches where sophomore Kenny Boyd (145) of Stranahan and Carvens Joseph (160) of Ely got their chance to shine.
Both had the opportunity to place in a state tournament that is getting better and better every year, and that gives two very promising programs and two competitors plenty of confidence for the future.
You can reach Larry Blustein via e-mail at FloridaKids1@hotmail.com. He can also be heard every Thursday night (9-10) on the Miami Dolphins High School Gridiron Report on WQAM (560 AM).