Wrestling | State Finals

Hall pursuing third state title


If you go

What: The state wrestling finals.

When: Friday-Saturday.

Where: The Lakeland Center.

Admission: $9 per session; Parking: $7 per day.

Defending state champions: Class 3A: Brandon; 2A: Springstead; 1A: Orlando Lake Highland Prep.

Friday’s schedule: First round, 10 a.m.; Wrestlebacks (first round), second round following first round of wrestlebacks; Wrestlebacks (second round, following second round of competition).

Saturday’s schedule: Wrestlebacks (third round), 9:30 a.m.; Semifinals following; Wrestlebacks (fourth round); Fifth and sixth-place finals and third and fourth-place finals; Championship finals, 5:30.

Special to The Miami Herald

It can be tough as the younger sibling, particularly when following in the footsteps of an older brother who left a legacy on the mat few can match.

This is the story of St. Thomas Aquinas senior Shiquan Hall, a four-time county and two-time state champion seeking additional hardware this weekend in Lakeland at the state wrestling finals.

Despite that résumé, older brother Earl is one of 13 wrestlers in Florida history to win four state titles — one at Homestead and three at South Dade.

“I always wanted to be better than him, and he always wanted to be better than me,” said Shiquan, who believes their rivalry pushes them to higher standards. “We do compete, but we have friendly competitions. If we have goals that the other hasn’t accomplished, we still want each other to do it.”

The brothers spent two years together on the South Dade team. As a freshman, Shiquan won the 103-pound title. He finished third at 112 the following year, forcing him to realize he needed to discover a passion for the sport.

Shiquan, who used to say, “I hated and just did” wrestling, wound up with the Raiders in the next chapter of his life.

“I think he got revitalized when he came over here,” Aquinas coach Rob Wimberly said. “He was missing a spark and was really down on himself. His whole sophomore year it seemed one thing after another was going wrong for him. The change was real good for him.”

Senior Alex Uhre, also a four-time county champion — just the second in Broward County’s history — lost to Hall in the 103-pound semifinal in 2010. Uhre, who wrestles at 113, would become Hall’s drill partner until their weights differed too much. Hall, currently competing at 132, mainly practices with junior Sal Guerrerio (126).

Instead of reverting back to his old ways and comfort zone, Hall began to practice moves Wimberly taught him. He learned to make adjustments during matches.

“He’s a really good upper- and lower-body wrestler,” Uhre said. “He tricks you a lot. He’ll have you going for one thing and then he’ll switch it up and hit you with something completely different. It’s good to train with someone like that.”

With one final weekend of high school wrestling ahead of him, Hall can reach the three-title milestone only Guy Gibson has accomplished in program history.

Bouncing back from that third-place finish, Hall capped a perfect 48-0 junior season with the 120-pound title. This year, he has posted a 52-1 record, the lone defeat in overtime against Christopher Columbus’ Damian Penichet.

“It bothered me a lot,” Hall said. “It wasn’t an instant wake-up call, but I had to get back with myself. Now I’m doing extra. I caught up with myself and I’m getting ready for that next level. Hopefully, it shows this weekend.”

On Sunday following the state tournament, Hall will begin to prepare for the next chapter — National High School Coaches Association Nationals, which take place March 29-April 1 in Virginia Beach.

Wrestling will remain a year-round commitment for Hall as he plans to choose between Illinois, Michigan State, N.C. State, Indiana and West Virginia for college.

Though two years separate them, Shiquan and Earl always have been close. They bonded during car rides across the state for wrestling meets and on runs in high school. When Earl left for Colorado’s Olympic Training Center, the pair would talk on the phone almost every day.

“I want him to be better than me,” Earl said. “I want him to be the best wrestler I’ve ever seen. It’s that drive to motivate each other to get to the top. I always said I wished we were in the same grade so we could’ve helped each other in school, on the mat and go to college together. I loved having him on my team. My senior year he was my motivation in the state final.”

Earl will be in Lakeland this weekend to cheer his brother on. Shiquan said that if he wins his third state title Saturday night, it will mean more to him than the previous two.

For one, Hall has made weight for every tournament this season, which shows the markings of a more mature and disciplined wrestler. Secondly, he still feels the need to make up for his finish as a sophomore.

“That was a bad feeling,” Hall said. “Me and my brother’s record in Lakeland together is 28-1. He counts that as his record. Us being in that Lakeland Center, we’ve only lost one match. We don’t plan on losing anymore.”

Read more Broward High Schools stories from the Miami Herald

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