LAKELAND -- Cardinal Gibbons junior Jamal Morris, a two-time defending state champion, faced arguably the most challenging bout of his high school career Friday in the quarterfinals of the wrestling state finals at The Lakeland Center.
Throughout the week, he and several teammates have battled flu-like symptoms. Morris needed a pair of injury timeouts in his 126-pound matchup against Cocoa Beach’s Philip Gross.
When Morris found himself down by two points heading into the final period, he had already been hit in the head, which made him dizzy. In the next stoppage, he threw up in a nearby garbage can. By the time Morris earned an 18-12 decision, his coaches supported him off the mat because his legs had given out.
“It’s pretty hard because you get tired quick,” said Morris, who is 39-0 on the season.
Freshman Dominick Gibson (113), junior Anthony Vasquez (132) and senior Nick Limperis (145) also reached the semifinals for the Chiefs. Six others remain in the wrestlebacks, including Morris’ twin, Jamel, who finished third and fourth the past two years. The back rounds could help Cardinal Gibbons (54) leapfrog Class 1A team leaders Lake Highland Prep (62.5) and Clay (62).
As most of the team recovers from the flu, coach Frank Pettineo emphasized the need for his guys to rest, saying they have a “tendency to think they’re Superman.” Pettineo joked about a 9 p.m. curfew as competition continued well past that time.
Somerset Academy sent three wrestlers to the Class 1A semifinals, with each beating his opponent in impressive manner. The Panthers are eighth with 31 points.
Eighth-grader Franco Valdes pinned Jacksonville Bishop Kenny’s Nick Toney at 1:14 in the 113-pound division after recording a tech fall in the opening round. Senior 120-pounder Vic Blasucci pinned Panama City Beach Arnold’s Brock Carlan at 1:44, building momentum off a major decision.
Chase Singletary, last year’s state champion at 113, reached the semifinals with a 15-0 tech fall in the 145-pound class. He improved to 36-2 on the season. He was runner-up as a sixth-grader at Tampa Bay Christian.
In Class 3A, St. Thomas Aquinas sent three wrestlers into the semifinals and could place up to six. Senior Shiquan Hall, seeking his third state title, escaped with a 5-3 overtime decision over South Dade’s Patricio Lugo in the 132-pound class.
According to coach Rob Wimberly, senior Alex Uhre — a four-time county champ — is “on fire” at 113 and could win the championship. Fellow senior Gio Jeovenetta looks to make up for last season’s runner-up finish at 170. He boasts a 53-1 record.
The Raiders are third in points with 44. Three wrestlers made state for the first time Friday. St. Thomas also faces a disadvantage competing without wrestlers in the heavier divisions because football players from the Class 7A state champions didn’t come out.
Other wrestlers hoping to set career-best marks in the postseason include Plantation senior Jonathan Francois, who is 42-1 on the year in the 106. Stranahan junior Kenny Boyd improved to 35-2 in the 152-pound class. He earned fifth place last year at 145. Cooper City senior Jordan Sanchez posts a 40-4 record at 195. South Broward senior heavyweight Kevin Jacques, 56-1 on the season, placed fifth last year.
Class 3A team scores: Brandon 105, Osceola 75, St. Thomas Aquinas 44, North Miami Beach 43, Palm Harbor University 37.5, Christopher Columbus 37, South Dade 34.5, Southwest Miami 30, Winter Springs 24, East River 20. South Broward 12, Miramar 10, Cypress Bay 8, Cooper City 7, Plantation 7, Nova 4, Everglades 3, Coral Springs 2, Western 2, Coral Glades 0, Flanagan 0, Piper 0, Taravella 0. Class 2A team scores: Springstead 53, Lake Gibson 45.5, Olympic Heights 36, Riverdale 28, Homestead 27, Jesuit 24, Nature Coast 23, Lincoln 21.5, Palm Bay 20, Palmetto Ridge 20. Archbishop McCarthy 11, Hallandale 8.5, Stranahan 8. Class 1A team scores: Lake Highland Prep 62.5, Clay 62, Cardinal Gibbons 54, University Christian 49, Wakulla 37, Pasco 33.5, Fivay 33, Somerset 31, Gulf 30, Robinson 25. American Heritage 14, Coral Springs Charter 8, Calvary Christian 1, Chaminade-Madonna 1. Class 3A semifinal match ups – 106: Ariel Dominguez (OSC) vs. Jonathan Francois (PLA); 113: Alex Uhre (STA) vs. Maleek Williams (SD); 132: Victor Fugate (BRA) vs. Shiquan Hall (STA); 170: Travis Berridge (BRA) vs. Gio Jeovenetta (STA); 195: Keiran Paulino (CYC) vs. Jordan Sanchez (CC); HWT: Colton Lynn (BRA) vs. Kevin Jacques (SB). Class 2A semifinal match ups – 106: Matt Landgraff (SPR) vs. Radley Gillis (AMC), Sean Nguyen (NC) vs. Randy Garay (HAL); 152: Emilio Cruz (WIN) vs. Kenny Boyd (STR). Class 1A semifinal match ups – 106: Jake Brindley (LHP) vs. Zach Sherman (AH); 113: Zach Malik (WAK) vs. Dominick Gibson (CG), Anthony Artalona (TBC) vs. Franco Valdes (SOM); 120: Vic Blasucci (SOM) vs. Tony Ruggerio (WSC); 126: John Galvin (WSC) vs. Jamal Morris (CG); 132: Anthony Petrone (LHP) vs. Anthony Vasquez (CG); 145: Shawn Brown (SUW) vs. Chase Singletary (SOM), Andrew Scherer (FIV) vs. Nick Limperis (CG).