EAST MANATEE -- The yearly runs to the state wrestling tournament have become routine for Chance Sharbono during his first three years in high school.
As a freshman at Sarasota, Sharbono made his debut in Kissimmee and won a pair of matches. The next year, when he was still a Sailor, he won two more, including a his first match of the tournament to start in the winners' bracket.
The routine he's grown familiar with tends to lead wrestlers to a similar point during their third and fourth trips to Silver Spurs Arena. Sharbono expects to contend for his first state title at 138 pounds in his first season at Braden River.
"My first few trips there I don't really think I was at my peak," Sharbono said. "This year I feel great."
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The state tournament truly begins a week before matches actually begin when wrestlers fight for region titles. Sharbono's state title push took a hit then. A disappointing second day at the Class 2A-Region 3 tournament in Punta Gorda left Sharbono with a No. 3 seed at Friday's Class 2A tournament. His success at the state meet during each of the past two seasons, though, gives the Pirates optimism Sharbono can continue to make BRHS history.
Sharbono begins the state tournament Friday at 10 a.m. against Crestview's Diego Calonje. As the No. 2 wrestler at his weight in Florida, according to Scout.com, Sharbono is the highest-ranked grappler from Manatee County heading to Kissimmee this weekend.
Dom Bass, a junior from Palmetto, also will compete in the Class 2A tournament. He's a No. 4 seed at 152 pounds and opens the tournament against Boca Raton Olympic Heights Community's Dan Georges. The tournament concludes with championship rounds Saturday at 7 p.m.
Sharbono has already lifted Braden River to unprecedented heights this season. The Pirates sent a program-record five wrestlers to regionals last week. Sharbono has helped change the program's culture.
"The program's going," head coach Clarence Arrington said. "We've got a winning attitude this year because we've got someone
who's actually winning."
The Sharbono family has a history of excellence on the mat in the area. Sharbono's father, Cezar Sharbono, was a state title contender for Bayshore in the late 1980s and then was the head coach at Sarasota. Sharbono wrestled for his father with the Sailors for the past two seasons before transferring to BRHS this year.
Sharbono was named the most outstanding wrestler at his first Manatee County meet and then claimed the Pirates' only Class 2A-District 10 title. He's Braden River's first to qualify for the state meet in seven years.
And he's felt the culture change since he transferred. The earliest offseason practices only had three or four other wrestlers in the room.
On the first day of class, Sharbono's goal was to recruit. The Pirates have tried to make inroads with the football and boys basketball teams. At points this season, BRHS has had as many as 15 wrestlers in the program.
"It's legal hand-to-hand combat, basically," Sharbono says as his pitch. "You're basically fighting people without getting in trouble for it."
In many ways, Sharbono's season has already been a success. He's been the leader for Braden River he set out to be, he's ended a long-standing postseason drought and pieced together one of the most successful seasons in program history. Success this weekend, he feels, would bolster the Pirates.
"I would love to win this weekend, but even if I don't it's great advertisement, like showing the Braden River wrestling team isn't terrible," Sharbono said. "Kids should come out and participate and also be able to see some great things happen."
David Wilson, Herald sports writer, can be contacted at 941-745-7057 or on Twitter @DBWilson2.