It was only a week earlier that Miami Springs wrestler James Medal walked off the mat at Miami Central High School having just lost to Yancarlos Guerra from Mater Academy 6-3 in the championship match of the district tournament.
“I told him, ‘get ready, you might see him again next week at regionals,’ ” said Springs head coach Dave Ryan. “I had a feeling it might come down to those two again and it did.”
Indeed. Only last Saturday night (Feb. 8), the stakes were much higher.
Medal, who qualified for regionals anyway with his runnerup district finish (first through fourth go), turned in his best 24 hours of the season, knocking off three straight opponents, (two on Friday, a third in Saturday morning’s semifinals) one of them a No. 1 seed, to make it to Saturday evening’s championship match of the Class 2A, Region 4 tournament at Jensen Beach High School.
And on the other end of the mat? You guessed it, Yancarlos Guerra.
Only this time, there was a different winner.
With the score tied 2-2 and 30 seconds left in regulation, Medal, stuck underneath Guerra who was riding him, executed a perfect one-point escape and emerged with a 3-2 victory and was crowned regional champion.
“Before districts I had never faced him before so I was a little in the dark as far as knowing the opponent,” said Medal. “As a result I don’t think I may have been aggressive enough. I took that and learned from it. When I got another shot at him in regionals, I was definitely more aggressive and didn’t allow him to dictate and that’s more my style anyway so it all worked out.”
The reward for Medal will be his third straight trip to the state tournament in Lakeland, set for this Friday and Saturday, Feb. 14-15 in the Lakeland Civic Center.
Only this time, unlike the last two years, Medal, now 43-5 this season, will be going up as a regional champion and thus a No. 1 seed. His first round opponent will be a No. 4 seed from a different region, in the form of Corey Tisdal from Ocala Lake Weir on Friday morning.
How tough is the state tournament? Despite being a No. 4 seed, Tisdal will bring a 29-3 record into the match. Medal must defeat Tisdal on Friday morning and then another opponent on Friday afternoon in the second round just to make Saturday morning’s semifinals, something he failed to do his first two years up there.
As a sophomore two years ago and junior last year, he traveled north having finished fourth and second in regionals, respectively, thus he was a No. 4 and No. 2 seed.
The end result was a tougher first round opponent who he failed to beat either time. While he won his first wrestleback, you need to win twice more just to place and he lost both times in his second wrestleback.
“I feel like everything I’ve been working toward has led me to this ,” said Medal. “Everybody says that getting the experience of going up there and competing, seeing how tough the competition is, is an important step in the process of being able to go up there and succeed. I’m as ready as I’ll ever be.”
“He’s worked really hard to reach this point in his high school career,” said Ryan. “Hopefully he can go up there this weekend and do something great.”
Ryan actually took four other Springs wrestlers with him to Jensen Beach but none, Ussama Malik (113 lbs.), Ernesto Tendero (120 lbs.), David Sanchez (126 lbs.) or Jose Martinez (160 lbs.) was able to place in the top four in their respective weight classes which is where they needed to finish to make it to Lakeland.