High School Sports

State wrestling | Manatee's Fulk reaches mountaintop with first championship

KISSIMMEE -- There was only one thing left on Jesse Fulk's high school bucket list.

No more.

Showing a bit of blood and guts, the Manatee High senior won his first state title, capturing the Class 3A championship in double overtime in the 182-pound weight class Saturday night at Silver Spurs Arena.

He defeated Miami Braddock's Milton Hope 4-3 in a match that seemed to be going the wrong way, before suddenly turning when Fulk got a takedown with five seconds left in the second overtime for the victory.

"I haven't grasped this yet, and I don't know if I will tonight," Fulk said. "Maybe tomorrow. Right now, I just have pure adrenaline going through me. I was pretty gasped and tired at the end of the match."

It seemed as if Fulk was going to win it 1-0 in regulation, but with 30 seconds left he was called for a full nelson, and a point was awarded to Hope (54-5).

"He found a way to win the way champions always find a way," Manatee head coach Andy Gugliemini said. "We thought we were in great shape in overtime. Jesse works hard, and being in condition has never been a factor of us losing a match. He got his hand raised and is a state champ. He is a legend at Manatee now."

Fulk did many legendary things at Manatee before getting that elusive state championship. At 70-3, he holds the program's single-season record for victories, surpassing the 59 wins he had last year when he set the record, and his 230 career victories are the most ever in Manatee and Sarasota counties. He is Manatee High's first state champion since 2009, when Jacob Gregory won the crown. Fulk's brother, Andrew, won a title in 2008.

Fulk might have won a state title last year but lost in the 160-pound final against Fox Baldwin, who won his fifth state title Saturday night at 170 pounds.

Those bouts with Baldwin, a good friend, taught Fulk a lot, and he capitalized on that knowledge to win his first state crown.

"It always comes down to the very, very end; you have to know how to deal with that," Fulk said. "I won it with moves I've done millions and millions of times over the years. I tried some early that didn't work too much, but you keep going."

The match was delayed with less than five seconds left in the third period because of Hope's bleeding, and Fulk used the time to gather his thoughts heading into overtime.

"During the break, I was a little frustrated at myself, but I knew I would have to earn it if I was going to win the state title," Fulk said "I always knew you can't let the refs decide the match. It almost happened, but I couldn't let that happen. I was frustrated, but like in my quarterfinal match I was able to shake it off."

Leonel Barboza didn't win a state title, but he made history by placing third in his 152-pound Class 2a division to record the highest finish in the history of the Palmetto wrestling program.

Barboza (45-8) lost his semifinal match early Saturday to Brandon's Troy Joyce, the top-ranked wrestler in his weight class.

"I didn't finish first, but there is next year and I got the highest finish at Palmetto, so you have to feel good about that," Barboza said. "My motivation was pretty good. Everybody was expecting a lot of from me, and I am just happy I am coming home with a third-place medal. He got the best of me in my loss, but you have to forget about it quickly."

Palmetto's Chase Washington (44-6) came into states with his eye on winning the Class 2A, 138-pound crown and found himself dealing with multiple issues, none more challenging than Andrew Smith from Springstead, who beat him twice.

Washington lost to Smith in their quarterfinal match and again in their match for third place. Washington's fourth-place finish is the second best in school history.

The senior also had to deal with a weight problem, which forced him to run Friday night and get up Saturday at 5 a.m. to run for what he said was about an hour.

"Was I tired? Well, I am always tired and you just do what you have to do," said Washington, who attends the Manatee School of Arts. "Losing that first match was tough because I was on a long winning streak and not used to being let down. You have to adjust, but I can't complain. The kid that beat me was a better wrestler."

Bryan Wilkes, who is Palmetto's only head wrestling coach, said he couldn't have happier by notching the two best finishes in school history on the same weekend.

"They both did a great job. Chase was down last night, and it was courageous what he did. He ran last night and this morning," Wilkes said. "I feel great. There are more than 400 wrestling schools, and we had two place. I can't be much happier. We are not greedy. We will take it. You can't win them all."

Manatee's Caleb Rudisill (73-4) bounced back from his disappointing semifinal round loss to eventual state champion Ozzy Lugo to capture third place with a 7-2 decision over Michael DeAugustino from Fort Pierce Central.

"I am happy. My goal was to get a top three," Rudisill said. "I am obviously not happy about my one loss, but I have next year to make up for that. I didn't show up and wrestle at my best in the semifinal, but my opponent did. At this level, you have to be almost perfect, and I didn't wrestle perfectly."

Lakewood Ranch's Hunter Reed (59-2) finished second in the 106-pound class year. Wrestling at 113 this time, the sophomore lost his quarterfinal match, but fought his way through the wrestlebacks, winning four matches to claim third place with a 2-1 decision over Pablo Asenjo from Forest Hill.

"It's tough to come back after losing. There are a lot of extra matches, but my conditioning got me through it," Reed said. "I forgot about the loss and told myself it's done and I can't change anything and concentrate on tomorrow."

After losing his quarterfinal Class 2A, 126 pound match, Lakewood Ranch's Dylan Cameron (55-6) fought his way into a third-place match, where he lost 7-2 to Aaron Wiechel of Jensen Beach.

"We are thrilled. The kids wrestled through adversity after losing their quarterfinal match. It's a tough road back," Lakewood Ranch head coach Pat Ancil said. "We told them last night (Friday). You can't wrestle that match again. Take five minutes and put it out of your mind. You have to reset your goals. Then it's how bad you want it. It's the fourth straight year we placed at least one at state."

Manatee's Tim Dinsdale (64-9) finished in fifth place in the Class 3A, 152-pound class, earning a 7-2 decision over Jace Moselund from Palm Beach Gardens.

Making his third trip to the state tournament, Southeast's Ricky Almodovar (39-10) got his first medal by finishing fifth in the Class 1A, 160-pound division. The senior defeated Lavaris Preston of Fort Myers Dunbar 5-2 in their fifth-place match.

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