After a five-year drought, South Dade regained its state championship form this past February.
Miami-Dade County’s premier wrestling program appears to be stronger than ever.
With three state champions returning and another three poised to join them, the Bucs are major favorites to repeat in Class 3A.
The Bucs’ group is spearheaded by brothers Ozzy and Patricio Lugo III, state champions at 106 and 138 pounds last season, respectively.
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Ozzy, a junior, is expected to move up to either 120 or 126 coming off a 60-1 season. Patricio went 61-0 last season and moves up to 145 pounds this season.
Senior Isaiah Crosby, a state champion at 145 last season, moves up to 152 this season.
All three are All-Americans and nationally ranked in their age groups.
“This might be the best team South Dade has ever produced,” South Dade coach Vic Balmaceda said. “We return one of the most balanced and talented squads we’ve had in years.”
South Dade owns the most state championships of any Dade school with nine. But the most individual state titles in one season is five by Coral Park in 1967.
The Bucs have a chance to challenge that record this season.
The state championship potential isn’t confined to South Dade.
Southwest enters the season ranked No.2 in the county and led by sophomore Franco Valdes, already a two-time state champion.
Valdes, who is favored to win the 126-pound weight class, has the potential to become a five-time state champion should he stay on track.
The Eagles also have junior Adolfo Sotolongo, a state runner-up at 182 last year, contending for the 195-pound championship.
Braddock returns a strong squad led by 120-pound contender Nicholas Villamil, a state runner-up at 113 last season. He and Alex Victor lead the Bulldogs.
Columbus has a strong contender at 220 pounds in junior Kyle Mann, also the starting center on the Explorers’ football team.
Although contending with Brandon for the team doesn’t appear feasible, Homestead could be the county’s strongest again in Class 2A to produce an individual state champ. Senior Lucas Dominguez (132 pounds) leads the Broncos.
PRESEASON TOP 10 DADE TEAMS
1. South Dade; 2. Southwest; 3. Southridge; 4. Braddock; 5. Columbus; 6. South Miami; 7. Palmetto; 8. Monsignor Pace; 9. Keys Gate; 10. Homestead.
1. SOUTH DADE (Coach Vic Balmaceda, 19th year at SD, 22nd overall, 293-19). Last year: 18-0 (state champions). Top wrestlers: Patricio Lugo III (145/152, Sr.); Isaiah Crosby (152/160, Sr.); Ozzy Lugo (120/126, Jr.); Justin Ramirez (132/138, Sr.).
2. SOUTHWEST (Coach Joel Mendez, 17th year). Last year: 12-3 (10th at state). Top wrestlers: Franco Valdes (126, So.); Adolfo Sotolongo (182, Jr.); Julian Hernandez (152, Sr.); Maykel Dolorit (160, Sr.).
3. SOUTHRIDGE (Coach Kenneth Johnson, 8th year, 88-38). Last year: 14-4 (district runner-up). Top wrestlers: Jordan Marshall (113, Jr.); Randy McCray (106, Jr.); Christian Delgado (120, Jr.); Anthony Kinsey (132, So.).
4. BRADDOCK: Last year: 14th at state. Top wrestlers: Nick Vilamil (Sr.); Alex Victor (Jr.); Bryan Dominguez (Jr.); Milton Hope (Sr.)
5. COLUMBUS (Coach Jim Husk, 11th year at COL, 50th overall, 879-98-4). Last year: 15-3 (12th at state). Top wrestlers: Kyle Mann (220, Jr.); Chris Bentley (132/138, So.); Matt Dulon (HWT, Sr.); Mike Sierra (170, Sr.).
6. SOUTH MIAMI: Last year: 32nd at state. Top wrestlers: Joel Amaya (Sr.); Christian Guzman (Jr.); Emanuel Nordelo (Jr.).
7. PALMETTO (Coach David Soderholm, 28th year at PAL, 34th overall, 429-88-3). Last year: 10-3. Top wrestlers: Mel Moss (HWT, Sr.); Branden Morales (182, Sr.); Avery Davis (160, Sr.); Chris Hooker (152, Sr.).
8. NORTH MIAMI (Coach John Severe, 3rd year at NM, 9th overall). Last year: 17-1 (sixth at state, regional runner-up). Top wrestlers: David Mompoint (112, So.); Jonas Cherenfant (145, Jr.); Daniel Marcelin (152, Sr.); Deandre Chery (160, Jr.).
9. CORAL GABLES (Coach Angel Vazquez, 9th year, 125-60). Last year: 19-7. Top wrestlers: Anthony Vizcaino (120, Jr.); Ramon Ferrer (152, Sr.); Jaffari Stephens (HWT, Fr.); Daniel Tabares (138, Sr.).
10. CORAL REEF (Coach Miguel Dominguez, 3rd year at CR, 14th overall, 22-13). Last year: 9-7. Top wrestlers: Reuben Joseph (160, Sr.); Marc Hughes (152, Sr.); Jose Espinal (182, Jr.).
11. MIAMI BEACH (Coach Fred Robby, 6th year). Last year: N/A. Top wrestlers: Tyler Moore (170, Sr.); Christopher Cruz (103/112, Jr.); Cristian Cruz (145/138, Jr.); Pedro Castillo (Sr.).
1. HOMESTEAD (Coach Homer Vallejo, 2nd year, 14-3). Last year: 6-2 (third at regionals). Top wrestlers: Lucas Dominguez (132, Sr.); Travon Norman (160, Sr.); Isaac Eskenazi (152, Jr.); Fernando Melo (120, Sr.).
2. BELEN (Coach Fidel Albelo, 22nd year at BEL, 36th overall). Last year: 7-4. Top wrestlers: Julian Ramirez (138, 8th); Ariel Jimenez (170, Jr.).
3. CENTRAL (Coach Errol Bryant, 6th year). Last year: 36-14. Top wrestlers: Woody Jean-Louis (170, Sr.); Marvel Ahmad (145, Jr.); Milton Canton (138, Sr.).
4. MIAMI SPRINGS (Coach David Ryan, 31st year, 336-140). Last year: 18-11. Top wrestlers: David Sanchez (138, Jr.); Randall Sandoval (145, Jr.); Ussama Malik (120, Jr.); Jose Martinez (160, Jr.).
5. MATER ACADEMY (Coach Ed Lamazares, 10th year at MA, 12th overall, 243-81). Last year: 24-9 (district champions). Top wrestlers: Yasuan Rosa (145, Sr.); Miguel Capote (182, Jr.).
1. MONSIGNOR PACE (Coach Frank Pelegri). Last year: Fifth at state. Top wrestlers: Stephen Moreno (So.); Chris Moreno (Sr.); Alex Perez (Jr.); Ronald Jacques (Jr.).
2. KEYS GATE (Coach Chris Perez, 2nd year, 33-11). Last year: 33-11 (district runner-up). Top wrestlers: Brevin Balmaceda (126, 8th); Todd Perry (132, 8th); Aryam Bonnin (160/170, Jr.); Tremaine Roundtree (HWT, So.).
3. ARCHBISHOP CURLEY (Coach Prince Thompson, 2nd year). Last year: N/A. Top wrestlers: Scott Pomare (138, Sr.); Michael Calixte (160, Sr.); Rashod Pierre (126, Sr.); Alex Bernardin (145, Sr.).
4. JACKSON: Last year: N/A. Top wrestlers: Brandon Bodden (So.); William Pollock (Sr.).
5. WESTMINSTER CHRISTIAN (Coach Kevin Pedersen, 2nd year at WC, 3rd overall). Last year: 12-8. Top wrestlers: Pablo Schweip (126, Sr.); Jimmy Armstrong (170, Sr.); Tyler Orta (106, 8th); Anthony Machado (160, Sr.).
6. RANSOM EVERGLADES (Coach Michael Waite, 8th year). Last year: 3-5. Top wrestlers: Corey Kraftshaw (145, So.); Robert Baumann (180, So.); Gilberto Jose Mesa (135, Jr.); Harry Tandy (145).
NORLAND (Coach Brian Pascal, 1st year). Last year: N/A. Top wrestlers: Cednet Jean (145, Jr.); Christian Nealy (152, Sr.); Rayshad Jackson (220, Sr.).