BRADENTON - Orlando Hamilton thought he was in shape. He'd survived a football season, which can pound even the biggest and toughest of boys into the ground.
So when the time came for his first-ever wrestling practice, Hamilton didn't think he'd have a problem.
To be blunt, Hamilton lost his lunch that first day. That's when he knew this wrestling business might work out.
"Just coming out of the football season, you try and jump on that mat and it's like, 'Oh, man,' " Hamilton said. "I was like, 'I got this.' But as soon as I got on that mat those two minutes felt like forever. I like being challenged already, so I knew this was the sport for me. If you work hard, you take away the weakness from the body."
In his first year of wrestling, Hamilton improved to 16-2 with a 5-0 record Saturday at the Southeast Duels. Wrestling in the 160-pound class, Hamilton helped Southeast to victories over Bayshore and Braden River as one of 11 wrestlers to emerge from the meet without a loss. Naples Barron Collier went 5-0 to win the team competition, handing second-place Englewood Lemon Bay its only loss.
Southeast, Bayshore and Palmetto all finished with a 2-3 mark, while Braden River did not win a duel.
Since a couple Southeast athletes didn't make weight, Hamilton competed up a weight class at the 160 level. He said in some cases his competitors had about 20 pounds on him.
"It's very competitive and physically demanding," said Hamilton, a backup tailback for the Noles in the fall. "When two guys are fighting each other no one is going to quit, so whoever keeps that pressure on wins in the end."
Though he didn't win an individual medal, Bayshore freshman Matt Orzech had one of the top performances of the meet when he took defending state champion Scott Bouthiller of Lemon Bay too late into the third period before being pinned.
Though he admitted he was "a little scared at first" facing a defending state champ, Ordech came out of the matchup with more confidence in his development.
"I'm very proud to get seven points my freshman year against him," said Orzech, who is still working his way back into shape after taking time off to visit his father in Ohio over the break. "My goal was to go three periods, and I almost made it. I really feel good about that."
Bruins coach Trevor Johnson wasn't at all happy with his team's overall performance, but he pointed to Orzech as one of the bright spots of the afternoon.
"He stepped up big time. He's gonna be a good one." Johnson said. "He just has this uncanny God-given ability to always stay in good position. That's something you can't coach. You got it or you don't."
Palmetto seems to have it against Braden River. Tigers coach Bryan Wilkes said the Pirates are the program he measures his team's growth against because they are both second-year programs. After a 60-9 win over Braden River, the Tigers seem to have the edge.
"It is all matchups, and we match up well against Braden River," Wilkes said. "They are coming along real well, but we just keep happening to get those victories."
SOUTHEAST DUELS at Buzz Narbut Gymnasium
Team results - 1. Naples Barron Collier 5-0, 2. Englewood Lemon Bay 4-1, 3. (tie) Southeast 2-3, 3. (tie) Palmetto 2-3, 3. (tie) Bayshore 2-3, 6. Braden River 0-5
Round 1 - Barron Collier def. Southeast 54-14; Lemon Bay def. Palmetto 52-27; Bayshore def. Braden River 48-33
Round 2 - Palmetto def. Southeast 42-27; Barron Collier def. Bayshore 54-18; Lemon Bay def. Braden River 66-18
Round 3 - Lemon Bay def. Southeast 47-19; Barron Collier def. Braden River 60-24; Bayshore def. Palmetto 43-34
Round 4 - Southeast def. Bayshore 36-30; Palmetto def. Braden River 60-9; Barron Collier def. Lemon Bay 38-24
Round 5 - Southeast def. Braden River 45-30; Lemon Bay def. Bayshore 45-30; Barron Collier def. Palmetto 54-27
103 - Jeff McCloskey (Palmetto) 5-0; 112 - Scott Bouthiller (Lemon Bay) 5-0; 119 - Joe Kessler (Barron Collier) 5-0; 125 - Erick Torres (Barron Collier) 5-0; 130 - Marshall Greene (Bayshore) 4-1, 135 - Aaron Garlock (Lemon Bay) 5-0; 140 - Chad Morris (Barron Collier) 4-0; 145 - Dave Tomcick (Lemon Bay) 4-1; 152 - Matt Slaughter (Barron Collier) 5-0; 160 - Orlando Hamilton (Southeast) 5-0; 171 - Mitch MaCluggage (5-0); 189 - (tie) Benson Eustache (Barron Collier) 4-1, Anthony Hubbard (Palmetto) 4-1, Gage Cannon (Braden River) 4-1; 215 - Adam Tanner (Palmetto) 5-0, 285 - T.J. Avery (Barron Collier) 5-0