PUNTA GORDA -- Chance Sarbono sets the tone for Braden River. The Pirates brought five wrestlers to this weekend's Class 2A-Region 3 meet in Punta Gorda largely because of the example Sharbono sets, head coach Clarence Arrington said.
Sharbono, who reached the state tournament each of the past two seasons, is still a step ahead of his teammates, though. With his third-place finish at 138 pounds Saturday at Charlotte High School, Sharbono became the only Pirate to reach the Class 2A state tournament. Palmetto's Dom Bass, who finished fourth at 152, is the only other Manatee County wrestler off to the 2A tournament Friday in Kissimmee.
"We had a rocky start to this tournament," Arrington said, "but (Sharbono) did finish strong."
Sharbono and Bass, both juniors, will travel to Silver Spurs Arena after different
trajectories for their three years in high school. Sharbono won his region last year at Sarasota and brought BRHS a serious state contender.
His eventual place in Kissimmee was inevitable.
Bass had never even been to a district tournament before this year. He wasn't a fixture for the Tigers as a freshman and broke his ankle before the county meet as a sophomore. The road to state was new for him and nabbing a fourth-place finish to qualify for the 2A tournament is already an accomplishment.
"I made it," Bass said. "I'm really happy and I know next year I'm going to pick it up even more."
Both Sharbono and Bass began their tournament with consecutive wins on Friday. Sharbono scored a pin and overtime victory. Bass advanced via forfeit and then a nine-point rout. Saturday morning, they wrestled in the quarterfinals.
Sharbono dropped a two-point decision -- a match he says could have gone either way.
"I probably should've come out with a win," Sharbono said. "I can't let refs be in position to make calls."
Bass lost on a pin and shuffled off to the consolation bracket with Sharbono. Both managed easy wins in the consolation semifinals to clinch their trips to Kissimmee. Sharbono closed his weekend with a gritty 1-0 win. He took an early lead and played defense through the final round.
Bass stumbled in the final, taking a 5-1 loss to Naples Gulf Coast's Devin Price, who Price beat by nine in the second round Friday.
Splitting a pair of matches with another state finalist affirmed Bass' confidence in the progress he's made down the stretch this season. Facing top-flight competition has forced Bass to embrace his strengths and learn his identity as a wrestler.
"I'm becoming more aggressive. I've find more of my game," Bass said. "I kind of proved that with the second guy. He was never able to take me down and right after he'd try to take me down I'd go in for another shot."
Sharbono already has his identity and a disappointing third-place finish wasn't enough to tamper his expectations for his final tournament of the season next weekend.
"I'm wanting to come out on the podium, if not on the top," Sharbono said. "My goal is to be the champion."