Wrestling | Season Preview

Pursuit of 3A wrestling title turns into ‘wide-open race’


With defending champ Brandon dropping to Class 2A this season, the fight for the 3A crown will be wide open.

Cardinal Gibbons' Jamal Morris nearly pins Phillip Gross from Cocoa Beach during the FHSSA 1A Wresting Finals at The Lakeland Center, Friday, Feb. 15, 2012 in Lakeland, Fla. Morris won the bout 18-12.
Cardinal Gibbons' Jamal Morris nearly pins Phillip Gross from Cocoa Beach during the FHSSA 1A Wresting Finals at The Lakeland Center, Friday, Feb. 15, 2012 in Lakeland, Fla. Morris won the bout 18-12.
Cindy Skop / Miami Herald Staff

Season overview

Key dates

Jan. 16-17: GMAC championships.

Jan. 27-Feb. 1: Districts.

Feb. 7-8: Regionals.

Feb. 14-15: State finals at The Lakeland Center.

Defending state champions

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

Team outlooks

ARCHBISHOP McCARTHY: Coach: Enzo Grossi (17th season, 2nd at AM). Last season: 20th at state. Top wrestlers: Radley Gillis (Sr. 120); Jake Gillis (Jr. 126); Bertran Saint-Preux (Jr. 132). Noteworthy: Radley Gillis won a state title last season, and his brother aims to join him in the winner’s circle this season.

CARDINAL GIBBONS: Coach: Frank Pettineo (26th season). Last season: 26-0, third at state in 1A. Top wrestlers: Jamal Morris (Sr. 132); Jamel Morris (Sr. 138); Kennedy Monday (Sr. 106). Noteworthy: With only five key seniors, the program is loaded for at least the next couple of years.

COCONUT CREEK: Coach: Devan Haripersuad (3rd season): Last season: 9-7. Top wrestlers: Michael Varela (Sr. 113); Benson Dorvil (So. 182); Jason Williamson (Jr. 145). Noteworthy: Dorvil has potential after showing flashes as a freshman.

COOPER CITY: Coach: Scott Sodergren (17th season). Last season: 20-9. Top wrestlers: Eric Perez (Sr. 160); Shawn Green (Sr. 132); Jacob Jordan (So. 113). Noteworthy: Perez finished third in the county last season.

CYPRESS BAY: Coach: Allen Held (26th season, 1st at CB). Last season: 18-8, third at regionals. Top wrestlers: Tyler Sage (Jr. 126); Jon Elder (Sr. 132); Javier Fuentes (Jr. 145). Noteworthy: Sage was a state qualifier, and Elder was a district champ, giving CB strength in lower weight classes.

DEERFIELD BEACH: Coach: James L. Forbes (5th season, 2nd at DB). Last season: 8-18. Top wrestlers: Brandon Smith (Sr. 120); Adoney Viexama (Sr. 112); Corey Lee (Sr. 130). Noteworthy: Viexama went 27-6 last season.

DOUGLAS: Coach: Joe Kent (1st season). Last season: NA. Top wrestlers: Chase Cruz (Sr. 126); John Diaz (Sr. 132); Tyler Martinez (Jr. 138). Noteworthy: Kent said the team lacks depth.

EVERGLADES: Coach: Jonathan Hughes (31st season, 8th at Everglades). Last season: 46-4. Top wrestlers: Steven Nogradi (Sr. 120); Randolph Prudhomme (Jr. 170); Khantrell Burden (Jr. 182). Noteworthy: Eight regional qualifiers return, including district champ Nogradi.

NOVA: Coach: Ron Schulz (44th season, 34th at Nova). Last season: 19-13. Top wrestlers: Colin Tucker (Sr. 160); Zack Shaw (Sr. 145); Alex Guerra (Jr. 126). Noteworthy: Schulz once coached Kelly Tucker, who is now his assistant and father of Colin Tucker.

SOMERSET ACADEMY: Coach: Joe Blasucci (3rd season). Last season: 25-5, fifth at state in 1A. Top wrestlers: Joey Lopez (fr. 113); Jonathan Astacio (Jr. 126); Raekwon Reggler (Jr. 170). Noteworthy: Two individual state champions graduated. Only one state qualifier returns.

SOUTH BROWARD: Coach: Robert Valverde (20th season, 1st at SB). Last season: NA. Top wrestlers: Robert Valverde (So. 220); Miguel Aguilar (Sr. 125); Andrew Vicovan (So. 113). Noteworthy: There are few experienced wrestlers after a state champ and two state placers graduated.

SOUTH PLANTATION: Coach: Mike Davis (4th season). Last season: 1-14. Top wrestlers: Christopher Grunewald (Jr. 152); Michael Cardwell (Sr. 145). Noteworthy: Davis said the program is “starting over.”

ST. THOMAS AQUINAS: Coach: Robert Wimberley (16th season). Last season: 19-1, fourth at state in 3A. Top wrestlers: Sal Guerriero (Sr. 138); Colton Lynn (Sr. 285); John Weiss (Sr. 170). Noteworthy: Aquinas has won the BCAA title four of the past five years but will get a stiff challenge from Gibbons this season.

STRANAHAN: Coach: Thomas Harrison (9th season). Last season: 17-10. Top wrestlers: Kenny Boyd (Sr. 152); Dilano Taylor (Jr. 160); Lormar Rahming (Jr. 132). Noteworthy: Boyd was second at state last season. He is trying to become the school’s first state champ since 1982.

Broward County has never won two state wrestling titles in one year — but it could happen this season.

According to Scout.com, Cardinal Gibbons is ranked No. 1 in the state in Class 1A and St. Thomas Aquinas is fourth in 3A.

Aquinas — along with favored Homestead South Dade and the rest of the 3A powers — received a huge break when the FHSAA moved Brandon down to 2A because of a slight decrease in student enrollment.

Brandon is by far the most dominant wrestling program in Florida history, having won 24 state titles, including 13 in a row.

But at least until the FHSAA reviews enrollment figures again in two years, Brandon is no longer Aquinas’ concern.

“It’s now a wide-open race,” Aquinas coach Robert Wimberley said. “[Brandon’s departure] opens things up for four or five teams.”

Those teams include Osceola, which finished second to Brandon last season. Osceola won state in 2009, which was the last time Brandon was not in 3A.

In addition to those teams, Palm Harbor and North Miami are also considered legitimate 3A threats this season.

Aquinas will be led by three seniors: Sal Guerriero, a 138-pounder who finished fifth at state last season and is a two-time BCAA champ; Colton Lynn, a 285-pounder who was also fifth at state; and John Weiss, a 170-pounder who also won a BCAA title last season.

Wimberley said Aquinas will get a boost in mid-December when he expects 10 to 14 football players to join his team, including Lynn, a nose guard who transferred from Boca Raton after last season, and 218-pound linebacker Vel Faulkner.

The Raiders have a tough schedule, which includes matches against South Dade and other state powers.

“The more time we wrestle those schools it’s to our advantage, because they lose their mystique,” Wimberley said. “We have a really good coaching staff, and we can make the adjustments.

“We never dodged Brandon, so I won’t say it’s a relief they’re in 2A. But I will say it’s an opportunity. In the past [four years], if you were being honest with yourself, everyone competing against Brandon was just looking for second place.”

Second place is not at all Gibbons’ goal in 1A. Gibbons is looking for its fifth state title, which would be a Broward wrestling record.

Gibbons coach Frank Pettineo, who is entering his 26th season and has been at the school for all four of its title runs, most recently in 2011, has five wrestlers he figures have a strong chance to win individual state championships.

The five are senior twins Jamal and Jamel Morris; senior 126-pounder Anthony Vazquez, who has finished in the top three for three years in a row; sophomore 106-pounder Kennedy Monday, who transferred from Oklahoma; and junior 152-pounder Alex Lopouchanski, who transferred from South Broward.

Gibbons has great depth. Pettineo started with 100 wrestlers and is currently four deep at every position.

The coach also expects big things from sophomore 120-pounder Dominick Gibson, who was sixth at state last season, and two regional champs: junior Diego Bell (220) and sophomore Ryan Thomas (195).

Jamal Morris has the most bragging rights on the team, having won three consecutive state titles. Jamel Morris has finished third three times. Both are ranked No. 1 in the state entering this season — Jamal at 132 pounds and Jamel at 138.

Monday is also ranked No. 1 at his weight class. His father, Kenny Monday, won an Olympic gold medal in wrestling (1988) and recently got a job as an MMA instructor in Boca Raton.

Read more Broward High Schools stories from the Miami Herald

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