After advancing 11 wrestlers to states on Friday by getting them into the semifinals of regionals, South Dade’s goal was now to lock up the team title and collect as many individual regional championships as possible.
The Buccaneers ended up with five regional champs, and with 262.5 points, more than 100 more than second-place North Miami, cruised to win the Region 4-3A finals at Reagan High on Saturday.
South Dade had 10 wrestlers reach the finals in their weight classes. The 10 went 5-5.
“A perfectionist like I am, we want to win all 10,” said South Dade coach Victor Balmeceda, who has coached the Bucs for 21 years. “Is that realistic? No. But we lost matches out there that I thought we could win.
“It doesn’t take away from the fact that it was an awesome team effort. Just getting 10 into the regional finals in the toughest region is something.”
The Lugo brothers won regional titles for the Bucs on Saturday. Patricio Lugo III (138 pounds), a junior who is undefeated at 53-0 and hasn’t even been taken down all season, pinned North Mami’s Lerch Oremar 1:15 into his match. Ozzy Lugo (106), not far behind his brother with a 52-1 record, won a 9-7 decision over Miami Beach’s Erik Zorilla.
Ozzy, a sophomore, says the family vibe he gets from his teammates helps him on the mat.
“I’m wrestling next to my brothers, my family,” he says. “I’ve got people behind me. They’ve got my back and I’ve got theirs, so I ain’t got no worries.”
In the 220-pound division, senior Demond Richardson won a regional title for the fourth time in his career by pinning Palmetto’s Jeremy Greenidge 34 seconds into their match.
“I had to get it over with. My coach was telling me, ‘Get out there, get it over with,’ so I did,” says Richardson, who says he has poster brackets of all four titles hung up at home. “All four years I worked hard to get this.”
Despite all the regional gold, Richardson still hasn’t won a state title. He finished fifth last season and is confident he’s winning the whole thing this time around.
Also winning regional titles for South Dade were Maleek Williams (120), who beat defending state champion Franco Valdez of Southwest in the semifinals, and Anthony Cooper (152).
Now the Bucs, a team so rich in wrestling tradition, look to win their first state title since 2008. South Dade did not have an individual state champion last season. It was the first time that happened in Balmeceda’s coaching career.
With Florida wrestling powerhouse Brandon, which has won 24 state titles, now in Class 2A, South Dade has a decent shot at taking the throne back in 3A.
“We’re very hungry,” Patricio Lugo said. “We have good coaches in our corner that make us push harder in practice, good teammates and everyone’s just working hard.”