In the minutes it took to change the lives of so many at Douglas High School during the Feb. 14 tragedy that killed 17 students, teachers and coaches, was how quickly it took for the school’s wrestling team to continue competing.
Wrestling for a district and region titles, but more importantly wrestling for their fallen coach, Chris Hixon.
During Friday’s first-round matches of the Class 3A State Wrestling Tournament at Silver Spurs Arena, Steven Erched’s and Jason Wolk’s desire and toughness were on display in remembrance Hixon, who passed away as a victim of the mass shooting.
On that Wednesday afternoon the team was scheduled to have their photo taken for the school’s yearbook.
“We just huddled together,” Douglas assistant coach Daniel Sanchez said. “I asked them if they wanted to be here, and if so we’ll practice. The kids called me later and said they wanted to continue.”
As for Erched and Wolk, Sanchez said he wasn’t sure of his wrestlers’ desire, but their heart said they were intent on earning a medal and doing it for their coach.
Wolk entered the state tournament with a 38-1 record while competing as a sophomore at 106 pounds.
“Everybody had the choice to continue wrestling,” he said. “Just about everybody chose to compete. Coach Hixon wouldn’t have wanted us to slow down. We had worked too hard to give up now.”
Wolk had to fight an uphill battle at the state meet after losing his first-round match to Christhope Busutil of Miami Southridge by a 13-5 decision.
Erched qualified for the state tournament for the second year. The junior qualified at 126 pounds with a 40-5 record.
Like his teammate, Erched also suffered a first-round loss. He was defeated by Smaill Saint Pierre of Orlando Freedom High by a 14-5 decision. Erched was later eliminated from the tourney in the consolation round.
In other weight classes, Grant Aronoff, a senior from St. Thomas Aquinas, successfully advanced into the semifinals at 145 pounds. He is seeking his third consecutive state title.
Team scores: 1. South Dade 99; 4. Wellington 45; 12. St. Thomas Aquinas 27; 13. Cypress Bay 20.5; 16. Forest Hill 15; 19. Coral Springs 13, Palm Beach Gardens 13.
Semifinal pairings (Broward results only): 113: Portilla (CB) vs, Naranjo (PHU); 138: Sessa (STA) vs. Martins (FPC); 145: Aronoff (STA) vs. Lovett (MISO); 220: Toribio (CB) vs. Howe (LA).
Team scores: 1. Lake Highland Prep 140.5; 3. Cardinal Gibbons 50.5; 5. American Heritage-Delray 44.5; 6. Somerset 30; 7. Jupiter Christian 32; 15. Coral Springs Charter 15.
Semifinal qualifiers (Broward results only): 106: Gillis (SOM) vs. Nini (LHP); 132: Sarron (CSC) vs. Estevez (SOM); 138: ; 145: Valledor (SOM) vs. Silva (LHP); 152: St. Amant (ARNO) vs. Concepcion (CG); 160: Bele (LHP) vs. Ley (CG); 170: Cannon (CG) vs. Cosmides (LHP); 220: Miranda (SOM) vs. Jean (LAWA).