Resurrected wrestling program thrives at Central


Special to The Miami Herald

Like many city schools ruled by football dominance, Central struggled to garner enough support to field a wrestling team.

As a result, the sport disappeared during the 2009-10 season. It returned the following year after the urging of prospective wrestlers. The Rockets decided to hire two full-time coaches, one of whom had graduated in 2009 as a member of that final team.

“There’s a toughness about the sport and the endurance level,” said Javon Drayton, who works alongside Errol Bryant. “You rarely get a break in wrestling. It’s always fast-paced with stamina and toughness and endurance.”

That first year back, competitors stared in shock as wrestlers wearing Central’s name on their hoodies walked by. The Rockets would go on to finish ninth at GMAC. The program placed second in its district behind Homestead and ahead of Miami Springs.

The greatest accolade to promote the sport, however, arrived in 2012 via Keyon Burgess’ “it factor,” according to Drayton.

Burgess, now a junior, became the first student in school history to reach state in two different sports in the same academic year: He is a defensive tackle on the state-championship football team and wrestles in the heavyweight division.

“Wrestling came around when I used to tussle with my cousin,” said Burgess, who was the program’s first state qualifier in 20 years. “He told me I should take it up. Me being me, I was thinking no because I used to see how he would get tossed around. But when I got here to Central, it got to the point where I liked it more than football.”

It’s not unusual for football players to take up wrestling in order to improve their stance, stamina and core strength. Guys would tell Drayton they felt it helped them reach varsity quicker.

Booker T. Washington’s heavyweight, junior Jordan Ingram, is in his first year of wrestling. He earned third team All-Dade honors as an offensive and defensive lineman for the Class 4A state champion.

“Being in the offseason and not having any other sport to do because spring practice starts late, you might as well try wrestling,” Ingram said. “It’s more technical. It’s not just being aggressive or finesse. You’ve got to have a lot of technique when you wrestle.”

But unlike the rare situation at Central, most city schools hand the coaching position to someone who also helps out in another sport.

Pierre Senatus is also a fourth-year defensive line coach for the Tornadoes. When the football season runs long, he watches game film until midnight and then plans wrestling practices.

“The difficulty is that I’m so dedicated to football that it becomes so encompassing it’s hard to really develop a power wrestling program in the inner city, especially,” said Senatus, who is in his third year of wrestling and estimated 70 percent of his team consists of football players.

Jackson coach David Top Francis, who has been around the program since 2006, said it’s a challenge for city schools to recruit for wrestling when football reigns in South Florida.

His goal — through USA Wrestling’s year-round events — is to create a comfort level for kids in elementary and middle school. During the summer, five to six of the city schools come together for competitions to promote the sport.

On Wednesday, the Generals hosted their first event of the season — the inaugural Miami Jackson/Martin Luther King Jr. Duals Tournament with 10 teams from Broward, Miami-Dade and Monroe counties.

“There’s a stigma, especially in the high school level, where they think it’s more like entertainment television people getting slammed in their head,” said Francis, whose heavyweight, Alex Cruz-Smith, qualified for state last year.

Drayton, who saw the “death and revitalization of a program,” finds it amazing that success in the sport has gotten people talking at a state football championship school.

“It was a surreal moment down in Homestead,” Drayton said. “It was the district championship, and we actually brought the first trophy home in wrestling.

“Wrestling was just a sideline sport. Nobody cared about it, but we put our heart and soul into it.”


• District 15-5A final – Coral Park 0, Coral Gables 0 (CP wins PKs 4-2): One hundred minutes of soccer were not enough to settle the winner of District 15-5A at Tropical Park.

After No. 3 seed Coral Park and No. 4 seed Coral Gables upset Ferguson and Columbus, respectively, to reach the district final, the Rams (10-5-4) bested the Cavaliers (4-5-5) 4-2 in penalty kicks to settle the scoreless tie.

With a 3-2 lead, Juan Pablo Ganan belted Coral Park’s fifth penalty kick into the upper right corner to seal the deal and send the Rams rushing toward the bleachers to celebrate with their fans.

Most of the game was played with the ball in Coral Park territory, but time and time again Rams goalkeeper Edward Morales, converted from being a field player last year, protected his net.

“When I started this season I had no goalie,” Coral Park coach Michel Fotso said. “I asked him to volunteer to be trained to be goalie. He accepted it. He has improved tremendously.

“That’s the first time he’s ever played goalie.”

Coral Park will play the runner-up of the District 16-5A final between Coral Reef and South Dade in the regional quarterfinals, and Gables will face the winner of the match being played Friday.



Pace 60, Mater Lakes 18: Fastest pins: 132: Mel Hilarire in :20. 160: Aaron Fluitt in :27. 152: Ale Smith in :33. 128: Alex Perez in 1:34. 145: Godwin Ferrier in 1:50. 113: Mattias Wettergren in 1:54.


•  Late Wednesday — District 16-5A semifinal — Coral Reef 1,Varela 0


•  Hebrew Academy 58, Hillel 8 - HA (13-0): Gordon 21, Weiss 11, Moyal 9, Matis 16, Chami 2. HIL: Brener 3, Liebman 5. Halftime: HA 39-2. Rebounds: Gordon 8. Assists: Moyal 9. Steals: Chami 5

•  Palmer Trinity 54, Ransom Everglades 41 - RE (17-4): Crotty 6, Lopez 14, Smith 2, Oppenheim 4, Deutch 11, Hallman 2. PT (20-4): Gonzalez 2, James 2, Smith 7, Granada 24, Parten 9, Waldman 6. Halftime: RE 19-17. Three pointers: Granada, Lopez 3, Deutch, Smith. Rebounds: Parten 11. Assists: James 3. Steals: Granada 5.

•  Late Tuesday — GMAC quarterfinal — South Miami 58, Northwestern 33 - SM: Brown 10, Puertas 6, Graham 14. KD Brown 4, King 10, C. Ayerdis 3, Evans 11. NW: Noble 3, Allen 11, Dawkins 4, Horne 2, Gun 4, Stalworth 9. Rebounds: Evans 10, Brown 10. Steals: Graham 10. Assists: Graham 3


•  Westland Hialeah 52, Hialeah Miami Lakes 50 - WH (5-12): Chirino 17, Menendez 9, Canedo 9, Gonzalez 8, D. Hernandez 7, Suarez 2. HML: Boidanich 18, Culestino 17, Carvajal 8, Santana 2, Franscois. Halftime: WH 30-22. Rebounds: Gonzalez 12. Assists: D.Hernandez 8. Steals: Canedo 4, D.Hernandez 4.

•  Palmetto 60, Columbus 45 - PAL (16-7): Povea 14, Coffey 10, De la Cruz 11, Malagon 8, Mulett 7, Koss 4, Parlic 2, Larmon 2, Tobar 2. COL: Minervino 15, Rico 11, O’Brien 8, Vanzant 4, Durant 2, Sawyer 2, Cortina 2, Fernandez 2, Melendez 1. Halftime: COL 22-21. Three-pointers: Minervino 3, De la Cruz 2, Mulett, Povea, Rico, O’Brien. Rebounds: Coffey 8. Assists: Schulz 3. Steals: Povea 2. Blocks: Povea

•  Palmer Trinity 56, Princeton 23 - PT (7-11): Becker 14, Chumbley 8, Bonet 8, Portrondo 6, Marley-Minto 4, Peterson 3, Beauperthuy 3, Chao 2, Roberts 2, DaGrosa 2, Dorsy 2, Miller 2. PRIN (1-14): Sejas 9, Herrmann 8, Victoria 4, Colao 2 Halftime: PT 26-8. Three-pointers: Herrmann 2. Rebounds: Becker 5. Steals: Dorsy 2, DaGrosa 2. Assists: Bakes 2, Dorsy 2. Blocks: Becker 2

•  Dade Christian 55, Hillel 42 - DC: Miller 11, Sampson 15, Dana Ferguson 3, Dev Ferguson 18, Vallejo 2, Batten 4, Young 2. HIL: Kaswan 14, Wainer 9, Elharrar 2, Fromizon 2, Burstyn 2, Babani 3, Teichner 2, Otiayon 9. Halftime: DC 25-17. Three-pointers: Miller 3, Ferguson 3, Kaswan 4, Wainer, Babani. Rebounds: Sampson 13. Assists: Sampson 7. Steals: Dev Ferguson 6

• Hebrew Academy 65, MAST 23 - HA (12-6): Schechter 22, Abramowitz 17, Esformes 9, Masin 7, Paul 6, Furst 4. MAST: Zarate 6, Martinez 6, Hiller 5, Morales 4, Michel 2. Halftime: HA 51-17. Three-pointers: Abramowitz 2, Esformes, Masin, Martinez, Hiller. Rebounds: Abramowitz 10. Assists: Abramowitz 6, Schechter 6. Steals: Abramowitz 5

• Late Wednesday — Archbishop Carroll 67, Calusa Prep 27 - AC (20-4): Brimah 11, Lima 10, Leon 10, Levitt 7, Amaro 7, Gabuardi 7, Brown 6, Garcia 6, Cohen 3. CP: Desinor 10, Uyaelunmo 6, Leonard 4, Bowes 3, Alfonso 2, Vargas 2. Halftime: AC 36-19. Three-pointers: Leon 2, Amaro, Levitt, Gabuardi, Bowes. Rebounds: Brimah 8, Brown 8. Assists: Garcia 5. Steals: Amaro 3

•  Late Wednesday — TERRA 52, Coral Shores 40 - TER (12-10): Morales 6, Fernandez 15, Munoz 11, Guttierez 2, Melamud 4, Mayor 2, Guzman 6, Martinez 2, Schau 4. CS: Cabral 7, Scott 2, Anderson 7, Mokher 4, Ismer 20. Halftime: TER 27-17. Assists: Morales 6

•  Late Wednesday — Miami Country Day 68, Hillel 32 - MCD (16-5): Clements 4, Cordero 5, Parizo 17, Woodside 11, Alvarez 10, Sherwood 2, Zimmer 2, Gomez 2, Kydd 14, Thixton 1. HIL: Wainer 6, Elharrar 5, Paniry 2, Burstyn 3, Babani 8, Serfaty 6, Teichner 2. Three-pointers: Parizo 2, Alvarez 2, Elharrar, Burstyn, Babani 2, Serfaty 2 Rebounds: Kydd 8. Assists: Sherwood 6

• Late Wednesday — Champagnat 56, Hebrew Academy 39 - CHA: Holanda 18, Labranche 16, Domingues 11, Leadon 8, Mackey 2, Nairm 1. HA (11-6): Abramowitz 20, Schechter 7, Furst 4, Esformes 3, Masin 3, Paul 2. Halftime: CHA 22-18. Three-pointers: Abramowitz 2, Holanda 2, Esformes, Masin, Labranche. Rebounds: Abramowitz 13. Assists: Schechter 4. Steals: Masin 3

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