LAKELAND — He persevered through defeats. Through chilly early morning runs. Through wrenching three-hour practices.
No way was an extra period of wrestling going to keep Jacob Gregory from reaching his ultimate goal.
Manatee’s 125-pounder capped his prep career with a Class 2A state title Saturday night, scoring a 6-4 overtime victory over Stuart Martin County’s Kevin Lowery at The Lakeland Center.
Gregory scored a reversal 40 seconds into the extra period, raised his arms toward Manatee’s cheering section and was lifted onto the shoulder of Manatee assistant coach David Mason.
This was it, everything Gregory had been working for. After finishing second in 2007 and ’08, Gregory finally reached the pinnacle by winning state with the 145th and final victory of his successful four-year run as a Hurricane.
His teammate, Alex Doran, nearly won his second straight title but fell 3-2 to Brandon’s Clark Glass in the finals of the 130-pound division. Only a sophomore, Doran has already won a state title and now a silver medal and has two more years left.
Gregory’s time as a Hurricane is up — albeit with a memorable finish.
“It feels great,” he said. “It’s all worth it in the end — all the extra seconds on the mat. You won’t think about that once you’ve won, you know?”
A four-time state qualifier, Gregory was pinned by Brandon’s Eric Grajales — who wrapped his undefeated prep career by winning his fourth straight state title Saturday — as a sophomore, and lost a decision to Venice’s Wade Consul last year.
Leading up to this year’s tournament, all signs pointed to a championship match with Brandon freshman Tyler Liberatore, who began the tournament with a record of 56-0. But he fell to Lowery in the semifinal — which didn’t come as too much of a shock to Gregory.
“He’s very solid,” Gregory said of Lowery.
The two clashed during Manatee’s dual-meet tournament in January, where Gregory won 2-1 on a late takedown.
The rematch was just as tight. Gregory led 4-3 but was docked a point for stalling with three seconds remaining in the third period, sending the bout into overtime. Gregory didn’t panic.
“Something I always like to believe in is God doesn’t give any more than he thinks you can handle,” he said. “I guess He thought I could handle that stall call.”
Gregory did, spinning his way toward a reversal. Relieved and overjoyed, Gregory bounded up The Lakeland Center steps and into the arms of his father, Lou.
“I just gave him a big hug,” Gregory said, “and told him I loved him.”
He had similar words for Mason and Manatee coach Andy Gugliemini.
The feeling is mutual.
“It’s his night,” Gugliemini said. “Outstanding work — not just this year, but the last four years. He’s a present that was dropped on our lap, and the hardest worker we’ve ever had. He deserves that.
“When you work that hard and do all the things right, you’re supposed to take first. Last year was a little stumble and didn’t work out our way, and a lot of people would have said, ‘Why didn’t I win?’ and blame it on a number of things. He never did that.”
Doran nearly matched him, jumping to a 2-0 lead with a first-period takedown.
But Glass, a freshman who pushed his record to 61-2, took the lead with a third-period reversal and kept Doran on his stomach the rest of the way.
Gugliemini, however, was happy with his sophomore, who helped Manatee finish second in the Class 2A standings for the second time in three years.
“Just fell a little short,” Gugliemini said. “He’s already got a state title, now he’s got a (second-place finish). He should feel very proud of what he’s accomplished, and what he’s done to help for that little celebration we’re going to have later.”
@z-BR Agate Bold Centered:FHSAA state wrestling
At The Lakeland Center
Team scores (top 10 and local)
1. Brandon 270, 2. Manatee 125.5 (M), 3. Spring Hill Springstead 108, 4. Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas 81, 5. Lakeland Lake Gibson 76, 6. Naples Palmetto Ridge 75.5, 7. Orange Park Ridgeview 70.5, 8. Gaineville 48, 9. Lakeland George Jenkins 42.5, 10. Ocala Forest 37.5, 46. Bayshore (B) 5.
@z-BR Agate Bold Centered:Finals
125 — Jacob Gregory (M) dec. Kevin Lowery (Stuart Martin County), 6-4 OT.
130 — Clark Glass (Brandon) dec. Alex Doran (M), 3-2.
@z-BR Agate Bold Centered:Semifinals
125 — Jacob Gregory (M) maj. dec. Nick Soto (Spring Hill Springstead), 15-5.
130 — Alex Doran (M) pinned Josh Burgess (Belleview), 2:37.
135 — Eric Grajales (Brandon) pinned Marshall Stewart (M), 3:20.
152 — Ben Carter (Naples Barron Collier) dec. Isaac Riley (Manatee), 2-0.
@z-BR Agate Bold Centered:Third-place match
135 — Marshall Stewart (M) pinned Brad Saxton (Naples Palmetto Ridge), :19.
@z-BR Agate Bold Centered:Fifth-place matches
145 — Daniel Dykes (M) maj. dec. Ryan Washington (St. Petersburg Dixie Hollins), 12-4.
152 — Isaac Riley (M) maj. dec. Tre Davidson (Auburndale), 8-0.
215 — Ronnie Daniels (M) pinned Kenny Shaw (Palm Beach Gardens Dwyer), 2:21.
@z-BR Agate Bold Centered:Fourth round consolation
135 — Marshall Stewart (M) dec. Santiago Martinez (Coral Springs Coral Gables), 3-1.
145 — David Isme (Naples Lely) dec. Daniel Dykes (M), 5-3.
152 — Adam Lessor (Ocala Forest) dec. Isaac Riley (Manatee), 4-3.
215 — Stephen Newsome (Lakeland George Jenkns) dec. Ronnie Daniels (M), 3-2.
@z-BR Agate Bold Centered:Third round consolation
119 — Cody Singletary (Naples Palmetto Ridge) dec. Kyle Ballard (M), 8-5.
145 — Daniel Dykes (M) pinned Corey Perry (Fleming Island), 2:51.
160 — Luke Weiss (Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas) maj. dec. Nathan Meschelle (B), 10-1.
215 — Ronnie Daniels (M) dec. Dylan Gamret (Naples Palmetto Ridge), 4-0.
@z-BR Agate Bold Centered:Class 1A
Third round consolation
189 — Kieffer Scott (Miami Monsignor Pace) dec. Trevor Barnes (Braden River), 7-3.