LAKELAND -- For Miami-Dade’s large schools, the state wrestling tournament has turned into a sometimes frustrating experience.
The top four 3A teams competing from Miami-Dade on Friday were regional champ North Miami Beach, South Dade, Southwest and Columbus — and they all knew their fate would not include winning the team championship.
At best, they are competing for second place. There’s little or no doubt about whom the Class 3A winner has been in the past, and will be in the future — as in Saturday night when these state finals end.
That would be Brandon, dominant through much of Florida wrestling history, and that includes the Eagles amassing the longest high school winning streak in any sport nationally — 459 victories over 34 years, with coach Vic Balmaceda’s South Dade team ending the string in the Brandon gym in 2008.
“The team championship has been out of reach for a few years,” said Balmaceda, who is still the coach at South Dade. “It hurts, but I’ve had to change my speech to the kids at the start of the season in terms of what we can accomplish.
“We’ve been finishing second to Brandon in recent years, and it’s not even close.”
A year ago, South Dade took second at state but trailed Brandon by a healthy 81 points, and in 2011 the difference was an even-healthier 118 points between first-place Brandon and second-place South Dade.
After Friday’s first day of competition, it was the same-old, same-old: Brandon holding the lead. Brandon had 105 points with Kissimmee Osceola (75) in second and Broward’s St. Thomas Aquinas (44) third. The top Dade team, North Miami Beach, was fourth with 43. Columbus was sixth (37), South Dade seventh (34.5) and Southwest eighth (30).
In Class 2A, Homestead was the top Dade school in fifth place with 20 points. Miami Springs was 12th and Mater Academy 14th. In 1A, Doral Academy was the top Dade school in 14th place.
The specter of not being able to keep up with Brandon wasn’t the only disappointing news for Balmaceda on Friday. In the first round, the Bucs advanced five wrestlers, and the only person who did not move on was Henry Haynes, a 195-pounder with a 33-10 record. He lost without stepping on the mat.
“He came down with a nasty case of the flu,” Balmaceda said. “He ended up going to the hospital. ... It’s a shame. It was a question mark if he would even qualify for state and then he pulls it off, and then he can’t wrestle.”
Like Balmaceda, Columbus coach Jim Husk — the longest-serving and most successful coach in Dade history — had to concede the title to Brandon before the meet started. “No stopping them,” he said.
Nevertheless, Husk could smile about his 220-pounder, Nick Wethy, who upped his record to 58-0 after his two victories Friday. Wethy is trying to bring the Explorers their first individual title in 20 years.
Wethy remained undefeated at the expense of Brandon. In the quarterfinals, he eked out a 3-2 victory against the Eagles’ Robert Enmon, and it was a little more satisfying because “... a Brandon wrestler beat my brother in a state championship match a while back.”
Wethy is well aware of what his magic number is. “It’s 60-0,” he said confidently, referring to another two victories on Saturday that would leave him undefeated and a state champion.
North Miami Beach suffered a setback late in the quarterfinals when Courtney Stubbs, who went into his match with a 36-0 record, lost to Kissimmee Osceola’s Spencer Lacey in a 170-pound showdown. On the positive side for the Chargers, Ritchie Guillaume of NMB defeated Brandon’s Troy Joyce in the quarterfinals. Two other wrestlers advancing to the semis for NMB were Steve Decius at 220 and heavyweight Daniel Leon.
“I’m a little disappointed,” Chargers coach James Pierre said. “A couple of calls went against us, but we’ll come back strong Saturday.”