Eight wrestlers representing five Manatee County schools retained state title hopes Friday after the first day of the state wrestling tournament at Silver Spurs Arena in Kissimmee.
And most of the pretournament favorites are right where they expected to be: in the semifinals one win away from a podium finish.
In Class 1A, Southeast’s Darrien Grant (Class 1A, 220 pounds) established himself as a clear favorite heading into the second day. He pinned his two opponents, including North Florida Christian’s Jon Wainwright in 30 seconds in the quarterfinal. Grant’s teammate, Alex Roldan (1A, 138), also advanced to the semifinals on the strength of two decisions.
The successful season Saint Stephen’s has been enjoying continues. Alan Morano (1A, 120), who was a regional runner-up, rolled into the semifinals. He won by decision against Jack Delaney of Bishop Kenny 7-1 and then pinned Brandon Moreau of Cardinal Gibbons in less than a minute.
However, Jake Ross, who earned the school’s first regional title last weekend, cannot bring home a state championship after losing a 5-1 decision in the quarterfinals to Jordan Gibson of Nature Coast. However, he can still medal from the wrestlebacks portion of the draw.
Among the large schools, two Manatee standouts, Marshall Craig (3A, 120) and Charles Small (3A, 160) went 2-0. However, Craig, who has lost only once this season, needed a narrow escape in the quarterfinals. He edged Smaill Saint Pierre of Orlando Freedom 5-3. Small had, perhaps, the easiest first day of the area’s Class 3A competitors, winning his opener by technical fall and then a 14-2 major decision against Guervens Jean of Miami Senior.
Lakewood Ranch’s Hunter Reed (Class 3A, 132 pounds) also cruised through two matches. He won his opener against Alexander Lopez of Miami Southridge by a tech fall and advanced to the semifinals with a major decision against Buchholz’ Gant Moore. Reed is 46-1.
In Class 2A, two Braden River wrestlers reached the semifinals: Chris Sharbono (2A, 138) and Brendan Bengtsson (2A, 285). Sharbono won two close decisions, beating Ean Morales of Springstead 5-2 in his opening match and then topping Nick Peglow of Olympic Heights 5-1. Bengtsson opened with a 10-4 decision against Bailey Barnard of Middleburg and then pinned Carter Harris of Harmony.
Palmetto’s Dominic Bass (2A, 152) and Brian Ormsby (2A, 285) still have a chance at a podium finish. Both went 2-1 on Friday and are in wrestlebacks, two wins away from the podium.
All wrestlers in the semifinals need win only once on Saturday to ensure a podium finish (top six). Even with one loss, they could finish as high as third.
Those who lost once on Friday face a tougher road in wrestlebacks. They must win twice more to ensure a podium placement. Among those finding themselves in that position are Manatee’s Brandon Dossey and Josh Booker. Both lost in the quarterfinals before bouncing back to win their first wrestleback matches. Booker eliminated Lakewood Ranch’s Logan Bounds.
Making an earlier than wanted exit was Southeast’s Stephen Kelle, who entered the weekend with a 47-2 record. He opened with a 19-5 major decision against Foster Hawthorne of Central. However he lost to Somerset’s Raul Gierbolini 10-5 in the quarterfinals and fell to Florida High’s Will Haigler 14-12 in wrestlebacks.
Where: Silver Spurs Arena, 1875 Silver Spur Lane, Kissimmee
Admission: $9 per session (in advance) $12 at the gate
Schedule: Saturday: Semifinals, 9:30 a.m. Finals, 6:30 p.m.