With Cardinal Gibbons the favorite in Class 1A, and St. Thomas Aquinas among a handful of strong contenders in 3A, Broward County could emerge from this weekend’s state finals with a historic first — two championship wrestling teams in one year.
This year’s state finals, set for Friday and Saturday in Lakeland, could mark the return to the top for Gibbons, which last won a title in 2011.
Gibbons is ranked No. 1 in Class 1A and has qualified 13 wrestlers, including eight regional champions.
Two-time defending champion Lake Highland Prep, ranked No. 2 in 1A, qualified only eight wrestlers.
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“But six of their guys are ranked No. 1 in the state in their weight class,” Gibbons coach Frank Pettineo said.
Three of Gibbons’ best wrestlers — Kennedy Monday at 106 pounds, Jamel Morris at 132 and his twin brother, Jamal, at 138 — figure to go head to head with LHP wrestlers in either the semifinals or finals.
Jamal, a senior, is 34-2 and will be trying for his fourth state title in a row.
If he wins, that would tie the school record set by Jonathan Taylor from 2000 to ’03.
Jamel Morris (35-0), a three-time bronze medalist, hopes to cap his career by winning his first state title.
Monday (34-0), who moved here from Oklahoma, where he finished third at state last season, has made a smooth transition to Florida wrestling.
“Kennedy is an extremely good mat wrestler,” Pettineo said of Monday, whose father, Kenny, was an Olympic wrestler who won a gold medal in 1988 and now serves as an assistant coach at Gibbons.
“He’s a great kid and has acclimated very well, especially with the twins. He’s a team player.”
Another Gibbons star is senior 126-pounder Anthony Vazquez, who is 34-0. He finished in the top three for three consecutive years and is gunning for his first title.
Gibbons, which has yet to wrestle LHP this season, is hoping to win its fifth state title, which would tie Oviedo for the fourth-most championships in Florida history.
Meanwhile, Region 3-3A champion Aquinas qualified nine wrestlers for state, including five region champions: Nick Abenoza (132), Sal Guerrero (138), Brian Perez (152), Jeremy Scott (160) and John Weiss (170).
One of the most highly anticipated matches in the tournament would be Guerrero, who finished fifth at state last season, against South Dade standout Patricio Lugo III. Earlier this season, Lugo beat Guerrero 3-2.
Another Aquinas wrestler to watch is senior heavyweight Colton Lynn, who finished fifth at state last season and second last week at regionals.
“I’m pretty confident he will be in the final this weekend,” Aquinas coach Robert Wimberley said.
Wimberley said that South Dade, which qualified 11 wrestlers, has to be considered the favorite. But he said that Aquinas, Osceola and Palm Harbor could all win, too.
“And I wouldn’t count out Winter Springs,” he said.