After the first day of GMAC wrestling at Hialeah Gardens High, reigning champion South Dade leads the 32 competing schools, but just four points separate the Buccaneers and fourth place.
South Dade (15-2) sent nine into the semifinals, including wrestlers in five of the first six weight classes. An eight-time state champion, the program finished as a distant runner-up in the Class 3A team title last February.
Sophomore Justin Ramirez, who was pinned in the 126-pound state final by five-time champion Rossi Bruno of Brandon last year, will vie for the county title. Junior Maleek Williams, the returning GMAC champion at 113, had an asthma attack on Wednesday night and failed to make weight.
“It’s going to take a complete team effort when you’re minus one of your best wrestlers,” South Dade coach Victor Balmaceda said.
“I would be really surprised if we hold onto this lead. Columbus, Southwest and Homestead look strong.”
Columbus (17-2) came in second with 122 points and eight semifinalists. Last year, the Explorers tallied 76 points at state.
Three wrestlers from that squad — Damian Penichet (132), Sonny Gulesian (152) and Nick Wethy (220) — earned spots in their respective semifinals.
“We’re very pleased,” Columbus coach James Husk said. “When you come to a tournament and there are 14 boys, there’s some disappointment. They’re wrestling well, so we’ll see what [Friday] brings. In the wrestling world, that’s always exciting.”
If the Explorers stand atop the standings at the end of competition, it would mark their first GMAC wrestling title.
“We’ve had a good season thus far, and we’re coming to the end, and the GMAC’s a real good indicator of how the team’s gelling,” Husk said.
“I think we’re in good shape. Barring any injuries, we’ll see what we do [Friday].”
Six wrestlers made the semis for Braddock, third among the teams.
Southwest’s Nosomy Pozo qualified for the 132-pound division semifinal. Last season, he lost in the state semifinal round to Bruno. Four others made it for the Eagles, who collected 120 points.
Class 2A’s Homestead, which scored 40 points at state last year, sent five wrestlers to the semifinals and tied for third with Southwest. Keith Simmons made the 182-pound state semifinal and did the same for the GMAC.
“It’s an important tournament for us, the most important one we’ve had so far,” Balmaceda said. “It’s usually proof that you’re the best team in the county. We knocked off Columbus and Southwest in a dual meet. This would be icing on the cake.”
The team scores were: South Dade 124, Columbus 122, Southwest 120, Homestead 120, Braddock 112.5, North Miami Beach 97.5, Palmetto 83, Coral Reef 73.5, Southridge 64, Ferguson 64.
Semifinal matchups – 106: Erik Zorrilla (SWM) v. Olson Delisca (HOM), Nick Villamil (BRD) v. Brandon Gonsalvez (SDA); 113: Marcus Martinez (NMB) v. Anthony Codinach (COL), Gus Villamil (BRD) v. Ricardo Rendueles (GOL); 120: David Temple (PAL) v. Rogelio Gonzalez (SDA), Alex Edwards (SR) v. Yadiel Perez (HOM); 126: Justin Ramirez (SDA) v. Lucas Dominguez (HOM), Lerch Omar (NMB) v. Daniel Preciado (MSP); 132: Damian Penichet (COL) v. Joel Alvarez (BRD), Nosomy Pozo (SWM) v. Patricio Lugo III (SDA); 138: Isaiah Crosby (SDA) v. Wayne Tarpley (MIA), Geoffrey Nicholas (BRD) v. Henry Powell (COL); 145: Dan Harth (COL) v. Immanuel Pierre (REA), Pedro Miranda (SWM) v. Alex Duran (MSP); 152: Sonny Gulesian (COL) v. JR Pedraza (SDA), Milton Hope (BRD) v. Ritchie Guillaume (NMB); 160: Marvins Joseph (NMB) v. Kier Rodriguez (COL), Anthony Cooper (SDA) v. Giovanni Lins (MB); 170: Courtney Stubbs (NMB) v. Reakon Reggler (AM), Diego Garcia (COL) v. Miguel Valles (SM); 182: Keith Simmons (HOM) v. Charles Decca (PAL), George Knowles (BRD) v. Jean Concepcion (SM); 195: Anthony Wint (HOM) v. Henry Haynes (SDA), Adolfo Sotolongo (SWM) v. Tirso Batista (NMB); 220: Nick Wethy (COL) v. Juan Herrera (SWM), Dominick Pierre (CEN) v. Demond Richardson (HOM); 285: Donald Mesier (SDA) v. Sterling Shippy (CR), Cornell Gilmore (PAL) v. Daniel Leon (NMB).