South Dade could win the state tournament before the finals start.
South Dade pushed nine wrestlers into the semifinals at the FHSAA state championships on Friday at Silver Spurs Arena and could win its 13th consecutive IBT state title — and 14th overall — before the finals take place at 6:30 p.m. Saturday. South Dade already won the first FHSAA Duals 3A state tournament in January.
“The semis are where the cream rises to the top and where we separate the men from the boys,” South Dade coach Victor Balmeceda said. “We can win this thing in the semis and that is where we have dominated when we have done our best. That is where we have taken the big lead and run away with it.”
South Dade, racking up 99 points and a solid 38-point lead over second-place Orange Park Fleming Island (61), entered the tournament with 13 wrestlers, one in every division but the 138-pound bracket, and won 10 first-round matches. Its lone second-round loss came at 170, when Mikaelle Fundora was forced into the wrestlebacks.
“As a coach you always want perfection but we had one kid who slipped up out there. It could have been a perfect [second] round,” Balmeceda said.
Wrestlers qualifying for the semifinals are guaranteed at least a sixth-place medal, and South Dade has two wrestlers, sophomore Bretli Reyna (120) and Brevin Balmeceda (152), who will be vying for multiple individual state championships. Balmeceda is Victor Balmeceda’s son.
“[Reyna] is a coach’s son as well. He grew up as baby in wrestling and is every bit as dominant as my son,” Balmeceda said. “I don’t see anybody standing in his way.”
Brevin Balmeceda is vying for his third individual state title. He has qualified for the semifinals four straight years. He won state titles as an eighth-grader (120) and as a sophomore (145).
South Dade wrestlers also qualifying for the semifinals were Luis Peraza (106), Isaac Duran (113), Tyler Khawly-Orta (126), Joshua Swan (132), Todd Perry (160), Corey Harvey (182) and Trayvonne Jackson (285).
“This is every bit as good as we have ever done. The last couple of years we have been really, really dominant and won the state championship on the first or second day. We are close to that right now outside of a big-giant collapse or me getting kicked out. We are in a really good situation right now,” Balmeceda said.
The South Dade coach was also very thrilled with Duran’s performance, who is making his first state finals appearance and was not even a starter last year.
“I don’t think anybody even recognizes his name, but with as many studs that we have on our team, the other coaches were here saying, ‘Where did you get this kid Isaac Duran?’ You never know how they are going to react with their first trip to state, and he is reacting like a veteran.”
Columbus junior Charles Huffman reached the 120-pound semifinal and will face Southridge senior Elvin Bryant, who upped his record to 29-13 after two big wins.
“We beat him last week and [Bryant] pulled an upset today, so at this point and time, we are real happy,” said Columbus head coach Jim Husk, who has been coaching high school wrestling in Miami schools for 54 years. “We got two Miami kids going at it. Two kids out of the same region. We are very excited about it.”
Southridge brought five wrestlers to the state tournament and pushed two into the semifinals, Bryant (29-13) and junior 145-pounder Johnny Lovett, who is making his second trip to the state tournament.
“[Lovett] knocked off last year’s state runner-up. They met earlier in the season and he lost to him in overtime. So this time we got revenge,” Southridge coach Kenny Johnson said. “Hopefully we can keep the run going and upset Huffman. Lovett a had tough tournament last year, and now he is doing better.”
Three teams, South Dade, Orlando Lake Highland Prep (1A) and Lakeland Lake Gibson (2A), are looking to become the first teams to win two FHSAA wrestling state championships in the same season. All three finished the Day 1 in first place with solid leads.