South Dade Bucs wrestler Patricio Lugo III, the defending state champion at 138 pounds, is expected by Friday to stretch his win streak to 100 consecutive matches.
Perhaps even more amazing is the fact that Lugo has not been taken down even once during that streak. The no-take-down streak is a school record.
“A lot of people think I have the streak because my defense is so good,” said Lugo, who is wrestling at 152 pounds this season. “But it’s because I’m pushing the pace, and that doesn’t allow my opponent to take me down. I’m always on the offensive.”
As good as Lugo is, however, he’s far from the only Bucs weapon. There’s a reason why South Dade is undefeated and ranked seventh in the nation by Wrestling USA Magazine, tying the highest spot in the poll ever by a Bucs squad.
The Bucs are also No. 1 in the state, regardless of class. They beat Brandon, which has won 14 consecutive state titles, in December at the Graves Invitational.
South Dade didn’t just beat Brandon – the Bucs dominated, finishing 100 points better than their rival.
“It built our confidence, but we went in there knowing we were going to win,” Lugo said. “Maybe to other people we were the underdog, but not to us. It made the season fun beating Brandon.”
There have been times when South Dade and Brandon were on a collision course at state. But the two powers – Brandon leads Florida with 25 state titles, and South Dade is second with nine – were separated last year.
Now South Dade is hunting its second straight state title, and things will begin to get serious with districts championships, which begin Feb. 23. That will be followed by regionals, March 6-7, and the state finals, March 13-14 at Kissimmee.
Bucs coach Vic Balmeceda returns three individual state champs. The other two are senior Isaiah Crosby and junior Ozzie Lugo, who is Patricio’s little brother.
In all, 10 of 14 starters are back from last season, including three others who placed high at state.
Added to that nucleus are two move-in transfers from Varela and Hialeah Gardens.
“We’re pretty stacked,” Balmeceda said in an understatement. “We’re solid top to bottom.”
Nine of the 14 starters this season are starters, but the Bucs are getting excellent contributions from sophomores such as heavyweight Kyron Taylor and 195-pounder Chei Hill, both of whom are football players also.
Things are going so well for the Bucs that overconfidence might be a potential stumbling block.
But Balmeceda doesn’t see any signs so far.
“You can read your kids,” he said. “If anything, the fact that we are nationally ranked and we’re crushing everyone has motivated them to be possibly the best team in school history.
“They may have swagger, but I don’t think they’re overconfident.”
Lugo said he and his teammates train too hard to let down.
“Every day, we run before practice,” Lugo said. “They we practice for three hours straight, with maybe one water break. We’re hungry to win state again.”