When it comes to wrestling, South Dade builds state champions and, in some cases, it raises them.
The Bucs’ two top wrestlers are sons of their coach, Vic Balmeceda, and top assistant Humberto “Duck” Reyna.
Brevin Balmeceda, who is ranked the No. 1 junior in the nation in the 152-pound weight class, is a four-time national champion and a two-time state champ. Bretli Reyna, a 120-pound sophomore, has yet to lose in high school and is a three-time All-American. He went 58-0 last season, joining Balmeceda as a returning Bucs state champ.
This summer provided more proof of the strength of South Dade’s program and its top wrestler.
On Oct. 28, Brevin Balmeceda traveled to Greensboro, North Carolina, and became the first wrestler in Miami-Dade history to win the Super 32 national tournament. He beat six wrestlers by a combined score of 54-1, defeating Harvard-bound senior Joshua Kim 4-0 in the final.
“He’s the best wrestler in our county, and one of the best in the state,” said Mick Arteaga, the new coach at rival Southwest. “I’ve seen him grow as a wrestler, and he’s had a huge upper hand [because his father is a highly successful coach].”
Vic Balmeceda said that advantage can sometimes be flipped on Brevin.
“He has a target on his back,” Vic said. “Kids want to beat him because he is Coach Balmeceda’s son.”
The Bucs, who have won 12 state titles, including the past four in a row, return seven wrestlers who finished top-six in the state last season. Besides Balmeceda and Reyna, that list includes seniors Mikaell Fundora (170 pounds); Corey Harvey (182); and Christian Morales (132); and juniors Todd Perry (160) and Tyler Orta (126).
This season, though, could be different.
“We’re not quite as strong as the past three years — it’s hard to keep replicating that,” Balmeceda said. “I’m not as confident or as comfortable, but we have a realistic chance to win state.”
Balmeceda said Southwest and Southridge will be his toughest competition locally, adding that “Palmetto is on the rise.”
In Broward, St. Thomas Aquinas, which won district and regional titles last season but finished third at state, leads the way. Cypress Bay and Cardinal Gibbons are among other Broward powers.
As for other top individual wrestlers in Dade or Broward, Aquinas senior 138-pounder Grant Aronoff leads the way. He won state last season with a 53-3 record.
Southwest senior Alex Urquiza is another wrestler to watch. The 132-pounder went 56-2 last season, finishing third at state.
“Alex pushes his opponents on the mat,” Arteaga said of Urquiza, who finished fifth at state as a sophomore. “That’s the same way he practices.”
Starting this season, there will be two state-title trophies handed out per class. The first one will be dual-meet state champs, which will be crowned Jan. 19-20 at Osceola High.
The second set of state titles, which will be determined by the traditional points system, will be determined March 2-3 in Kissimmee.
Dual-meet finals are a format already used in other states.
“I love it,” Balmeceda said. “Anything that gives kids more exposure and another chance to be a state champ is great. This has been 10 years in the making, but I think it’ll be more fan-friendly. Fans can follow one team instead of scattering all over the place to watch individuals. There will also be strategy of moving kids around to different weight classes.”
Friday-Saturday: John Lyzott Tournament at McArthur, North Miami Duals
Dec. 15-16: Coral Park Duals, South Dade Duals, Miramar Team Battle, Bulldog Tournament
Dec. 19: District 15 Duals
Dec. 22-23: Longwood Lyman Tournament, St. Thomas Aquinas District Duals, Orlando Duals, Wellington Duals
Dec. 28-30: Deep South Bayou Duals, South Beach Duals
Jan. 5-6: District postseason dual meets, Manatee Tournament, Somerset Duals, Archbishop McCarthy tournament, Girls’ championship at McArthur
Jan. 11: Regional dual meets
Jan. 12-13: Coral Springs Duals, Battle of the Bay
Jan. 19-20: State dual meet championships at Kissimmee Osceola, Meyerson-Trichton Tournament at Deerfield Beach
Jan. 26-27: BCAA championship, Tri-County tournament
Feb. 2-3: GMAC championship, Cardinal Gibbons Duals, Tony Ippolito tournament, Harris Select Duals at Deerfield
Feb. 9-10: Raich Tournament at Jupiter
Feb. 12-17: Districts
Feb. 23-24: Regionals
March 2-3: State championships at Silver Spurs Arena
2016-17 STATE CHAMPIONS
Bretli South Dade; 2A: Brandon; 1A: Orlando Lake Highland Prep.
TOP RETURNING WRESTLERS - DADE
Bretli Reyna, South Dade, So.
Tyler Orta-Khawly, South Dade, Jr.
Christian Morales, South Dade, Sr.
Alex Urquiza, Southwest, Sr.
Brevin Balmeceda, South Dade, Jr.
Todd Perry, South Dade, Jr.
Mikaelle Fundora, South Dade, Sr.
Corey Harvey, South Dade, Sr.
Julian Hernandez, Southwest, Jr.
Cardeionte Williams, Palmetto, Sr.
Trayvonne Jackson, Killian, Sr.
TOP RETURNING WRESTLERS - BROWARD
Grant Aranoff, St. Thomas Aquinas, Sr.
Adonis Concepcion, Cardinal Gibbons, Sr.
John James Yancey, Cardinal Gibbons, So.
Santiago Portilla, Cypress Bay, Sr.
Vinny Sessa, St. Thomas Aquinas, Sr.
Matthew Toribio, Cypress Bay, Sr.
Osvani Ley, Cardinal Gibbons, Sr.
Jordan Johnson, American Heritage, Sr.
NOTE: For team-by-team outlooks, visit the online version of this article at www.miamiherald.com/high-school
BROWARD TEAM OUTLOOKS
Coach: Matthew Burnett; Last season: 4-12; Top wrester: Jordan Johnson (sr., 171); Noteworthy: Johnson finished second at districts and in his regional.
Coach: Allen Held; Last season: 13th at state; Top wrestlers: Matthew Toribio (sr., 220); Santiago Portilla (sr., 120); Jack Tariche (sr., 182); Noteworthy: Team returns 11 wrestlers with varsity experience.
Coach: James Forbes; Last season: 23rd at regional; Top wrestlers: Davon Pavilus (sr., 152); Jaavon Duchatelier (sr., 160); Monica Pomales (jr., 106); Noteworthy: Team finished eighth at districts.
Coach: Mike Zarra; Last season: 20th at regional; Top wrestlers: Carlos Sorondo (jr., 138); Evelt Jeudy (sr., 126); Jonathan Bury (sr., 152); Noteworthy: McArthur is looking to repeat as district champion.
Coach: Kenny Gendason; Last season: 3rd in district; Top wrestler: Nico Cava (so., 106); Justin Picciolo (jr., 132); Ronnie Huff (sr., team captain); Noteworthy: Most of the wrestlers on this team have less than one year of experience.
Coach: Randy Qualitz; Last season: 5th at regionals, 33rd at state; Top wrestlers: Justin Maynard (jr., 152); Anthony Montanez (jr., 113); Alexander Bazan (jr., 132); Noteworthy: The team has been a district runner-up for two straight years.
ST. THOMAS AQUINAS
Coach: Robert Wimberley; Last season: 3rd at state; Top wrestlers: Grant Aronoff (sr., 138); Vincent Sessa (sr., 132); Gianni Guerriero (sr., 132); Noteworthy: Aronoff has already won two individual state titles.
DADE TEAM OUTLOOKS
Coach: Fidel Albelo; Last season: 6-3; Top wrestlers: Joseph Shultz (sr., 220); Alejandro Castro (so., 113); Rafael Ruiz (jr., 152); Noteworthy: Shultz was a state qualifier last season.
Coach: Thomas Hardy; Last season: 3rd at district; Top wrestlers: Angel Perez (sr., 126); Fashawn Renejuste (jr., 113); Kevoun Stewart (jr, 145); Noteworthy: This is first season under Hardy. Perez finished fourth at GMAC last season.
Coach: Miguel Dominguez; Last season: 15-13; Top wrestlers: Qifeng Zhu (jr., 126); Matthew Porry (jr., 152); Justin Pujol (so., 132); Noteworthy: Zhu finished sixth at GMAC last season.
Coach: Reinel Mansito; Last season: 23rd at regional; Top wrestlers: Ernesto Enrique (jr., 126); Chris Rodriguez (sr., 132); Raul Chavarry (jr., 145); Noteworthy: Team finished sixth at districts last season.
Coach: Fred Robby; Last season: 10th at regional; Top wrestler: Daishaun Felton (sr., 120); Noteworthy: Felton is a two-time GMAC champ and state qualifier.
Coach: David Ryan; Last season: NA; Top wrestler: Keith Ramos (jr., 138); Brandon Restrepo (jr., 145); Victor Dyer (so., 120); Noteworthy: Team has no seniors. Ramos and Dyer were regional qualifiers last season.
Coach: Vic Balmeceda; Last season: state champs; Top wrestlers: Brevin Balmeceda (jr., 152); Bretli Reyna (so., 120); Todd Perry (jr., 160); Noteworthy: The Bucs have won 16 straight district titles, five straight state titles and four straight state titles.
Coach: Mick Arteaga; Last season: 4th at state; Top wrestlers: Alex Urquiza (sr., 132); Julian Hernandez (jr., 126); Zack Luis (sr., 120); Noteworthy: Arteaga takes over after seven years as an assistant, and he inherits five state qualifiers.
Coach: Terry Parker; Last season: 13th at regional; Top wrestlers: Tommy Hughes (jr., 195); Tristan Roca (jr., 152); Marcus Valdes (jr., 145); Noteworthy: Team returns five wrestlers who finished top-three in their district.
NOTE: Schools not listed did not return outlook forms to the Miami Herald.