LAKELAND -- Before his Class 1A FHSAA final on Saturday night, Cardinal Gibbons junior Jamal Morris donned a black shirt with the Superman logo on the front and “Triple Threat Jamal” on the back in red lettering.
Morris, seeking his third state title, earned a 5-1 decision over Lake Highland Prep’s Nick Vestal in the 120-pound division to become the first Gibbons wrestler since Jonathan Taylor (2000-03) to achieve the feat.
During his perfect 41-0 season, Morris wore calf-high pink socks with orange trims at every tournament. Teammate Anthony Vasquez’s father had given him the pair to honor cancer awareness. Following Friday’s bouts, he had refused to wash them because of superstition.
“Trying not to go too hard too quick and wrestle hard,” said Morris, who battled fatigue on Day 1 after facing flu-like symptoms all week. “I was pushing myself in the beginning of the year, and now [it’s] winning my third state title.”
Four other Broward wrestlers captured individual titles at the Lakeland Center, including one that also continued his reign at the top.
Somerset eighth grader Chase Singletary experienced a growth spurt between last year’s title at 113 and the start of this season. He went from 5-8 to 6-1, competing in the 145-pound class.
It took a few matches for him to discover the different styles — 113 is always moving whereas 145 is a bit slower — and ease into his new body. His pin at 1:38 over Cardinal Gibbons junior Nick Limperis capped a 38-2 season in Class 1A.
His teammate, fellow eighth grader Franco Valdes, earned a 9-4 decision over Wakulla’s Zach Malik at 113. As a seventh grader, Singletary brought Somerset the first individual title in program history.
“It feels amazing, there’s nothing like it to win two,” said Singletary, who finished as a runner-up as a sixth grader. “Some people never get a chance to win. To be blessed like that to do what I’m doing is amazing.”
Archbishop McCarthy junior Radley Gillis concluded his year 65-1 with the Class 2A state title at 106 in a 4-2 decision against Nature Coast’s Sean Nguyen.
Gillis, who started wrestling when he was 4 years old, gave up the sport before returning in eighth grade. Four years later, he helped avenge his father, Keith, the 103-pound runner-up in 1988.
“It’s the best feeling in the world,” Gillis said. “I’m on top of the world right now just finishing what I’ve been training for my whole life. I never took my eye off the prize, and I finally got it. And I can still do it again next year.”
South Broward senior Kevin Jacques ended the night on a high note, making up for 2012’s fifth-place finish with his 6-2 decision over Gainesville Buchholz’s Deontrae Neal in the heavyweight division. He went 58-1 in his final year.
With 22 seconds left in a tied bout, Jacques converted a takedown, unaware of the time. Afterwards he said he didn’t think it would go to overtime and that worrying about the clock would “mess up the match.”
“It’s something I’ve been working for a long time,” said Jacques, who began wrestling in fifth grade under coach Allen Held. “Now I’ve finally got it. Last year, I failed, and senior year I got it. It shows what I was working for.”