Miami-Dade might not have a team favored to win a state title, but the county has plenty of wrestlers aiming for individual gold
In the three seasons since wrestling juggernaut Brandon moved up to Class 3A — the highest in the state — Miami-Dade County wrestlers have won a combined six individual state titles in Class 3A.
But while upending the 12-time defending state champions doesn’t appear realistic heading into the season, there are still several Dade wrestlers who have a chance to increase the county’s supply of gold medals this year.
The one constant — even after the shift in the balance of power — has been South Dade, which has had at least one wrestler among the group keeping a streak alive that goes back 17 seasons.
This year, however, the Bucs’ grip on the county’s top spot and the gold medal stand will be challenged.
Columbus has several returning wrestlers who placed at state last year. Senior Nick Wethy (220 pounds) is ranked among the top contenders in his weight class a year after finishing fifth. Seniors Sonny Gulesian (152), Henry Powell (138) and Lazaro Rojas (113) and Daniel Harth (145) join junior Damien Penichet (132) on one of the deepest squads that legendary coach Jim Husk has had in his eight years at Columbus.
South Dade graduated seven seniors, and coach Vic Balmaceda said that for the first time in his 19 years as a coach in Dade his wrestlers will have to earn the label of “favorites” in each of their weight classes. Both squads will be challenged by a veteran North Miami Beach squad on the north end of the county.
“We will be as solid as any other team, but we know we have big shoes to fill,” Balmaceda said. “We always seem to find a way, but the newcomers need to step up.”
Junior Maleek Williams (113) and sophomore Justin Ramirez might be his best chances at a title. But each might have to beat two of Brandon’s best (defending state champs Kyle Norstrem and Dylan Lucas) to win it.
Fresh off a regional runner-up and a top-10 finish at state, Homestead figures to have a strong season again.
Senior Keith Simmons (182 pounds) and Demond Richardson (220), both regional champions last year, are early favorites to win state titles in Class 2A in their respective weight classes.
Around the county, there are a few other solid state title contenders.
Southwest’s Nosomy Pozo hopes to improve upon his third-place finish a year ago at 132 pounds.
Braddock and South Miami also return solid squads led by two of the state’s best 182-pounders. South Miami’s Jean Concepcion and Braddock’s George Knowles figure to battle for supremacy all season.
Palmetto’s Cornell Gilmore is among the top returning heavyweights in the state following a third-place finish.
The Class 1A bracket figures to be tough with Broward powers Cardinal Gibbons and Somerset returning strong squads. But Doral Academy might have a breakout season with several returning wrestlers and the addition of sophomore Chris Moreno, a transfer from Pace.