South Dade’s vice grip on the top spot among wrestling teams in Miami-Dade County will be seriously be challenged this season.
The Bucs are still considered a favorite to win their third consecutive state title and a Miami-Dade County-record 11th overall in Class 3A. But with Southwest fielding one of its strongest squads and Southridge returning four wrestlers who finished third or better at state last season, South Dade’s continued reign at the top is not guaranteed.
South Dade, Southwest and Southridge will meet in a regular-season tri-meet on Jan. 14 at the Southridge gym. The “Clash of the Titans” as it’s being billed should give fans a glimpse of the three powerful squads a month before the postseason begins.
“The three best teams in the state are from Miami-Dade County, which should make things interesting,” South Dade coach Victor Balmeceda said. “Nothing is more motivating than to know a school 6 miles away and another 12 miles away have the potential to dethrone you.”
Southwest is looking for its first state title and best performance at state since finishing second in 1972.
Led by junior Franco Valdes, a state runner-up at 126 pounds last season to South Dade’s Ozzy Lugo, the Eagles have one of their deepest teams in quite some time. Senior Adolfo Sotolongo and Angel Del Cueto each placed at state last season, and a pair of state qualifiers in senior Willie Brown (195 pounds) and sophomore Alex Urquiza (132 pounds) also return with a chance to improve this season.
The Bucs have a pair of reigning state champions and state runners-up on a squad that may still have the edge in a tournament format.
Lugo, a two-time state champion, is 108-7 for his career and leads the squad, which got stronger with the addition of freshman Brevin Balmeceda, a freshman transfer from Keys Gate and coach Balmeceda’s son.
Balmeceda won the 120-pound state title in Class 1A as an eighth-grader. Lugo will likely wrestle at either the 138- or 145-pound weight class.
Juniors Chei Hill and Kyron Taylor, both members of South Dade’s regional finalist football team, were state runners-up last year and are ranked among the best in their respective weight classes. Junior Elijah Varona, a five-time All-American, enters the year as a favorite at 106 pounds as well.
Southridge has the capability to not only finish in the top three as a team, but also walk away with some individual state gold. The Spartans have not won a state title since winning the last of their seven state titles in 2000.
Senior Jordan Marshall is coming off a state championship at 120 pounds and moves up to 126 pounds this season. Senior Randy McCray and junior Darius Hamilton (220 pounds) each were state runners-up a season ago and return as favorites to win this time around.
McCray finished second at 106 pounds last year and moves up to 120. Junior Antony Kinsey (third at state last year at 132 pounds) could end up battling Lugo if the two end up wrestling in the 145-pound weight class.
Dec. 4-5: Beach Brawl tournament at Miami Beach.
Dec. 11-12: Graves Invitational.
Dec. 18-19: District 16 Duals; Coral Park Duals.
Jan. 15-16: Battle at the Bay Duals.
Feb. 5-6: GMAC championship.
Feb. 12-13: Raich Invitational.
Feb. 15-20: Districts.
Feb. 26-27: Regionals.
Mar. 4-5: State championship at Silver Spurs Arena in Kissimmee.
DEFENDING STATE CHAMPIONS
Class 3A: South Dade; 2A: Brandon; 1A: Orlando Lake Highland Prep
TOP RETURNING WRESTLERS
106: Elijah Varona, South Dade, Jr.; 113: Alex Victor, Braddock, Sr.; 120: Randy McCray, Southridge, Sr.; 126: Brevin Balmeceda, South Dade, Fr.; 126: Jordan Marshall, Southridge, Sr.; 126: Franco Valdes, Southwest, Jr.; 138: Alexander Perez, Pace, Sr.; 145: Ozzy Lugo, South Dade, Sr.; 145: Antony Kinsey, Southridge, Jr.; 152: Todd Perry, South Dade, Fr.; 182: Adolfo Sotolongo, Southwest, Sr.; 195: Chei Hill, South Dade, Jr.; 220: Darius Hamilton, Southridge, Jr.; HWT: Kyron Taylor, South Dade, Jr.
Others to watch — 106: Ryan Boncamper, Killian, Jr.; Gabriel Dihart, Norland, So.; 113: Edgar Martinez, Columbus, Sr.; Angel Perez, Southwest, So.; 120: Christopher Cruz, Miami Beach, Sr.; Alean Gonzalez, Southwest, Sr.; Anthony Vizcaino, Coral Gables, Sr.; 132: Marcos Abreu, Coral Park, Sr.; Bryan Dominguez, Braddock, Sr.; Alex Urquiza, Southwest, Sr.; 138: Jesse Acedo, Southwest, Sr.; Anthony Codinach, Columbus, Sr.; 145: Angel Del Cueto, Southwest, Jr.; Emanuel Nordelo, South Miami, Sr.; David Sanchez, Miami Springs, Sr.; 152: Salvador Lopez, Braddock, Sr.; Romoan Chester, Palmetto, Sr.; 160: Aaron Flores, South Dade, Jr.; Jonas Cherenfant, North Miami, Sr.; 170: Deandre Cherry, North Miami, Sr.; 195: Willie Brown, Southwest, Sr.; Shemar Smith, Southwest, Sr.; 220: Kyle Mann, Columbus, Sr.; Geovany Mentor, Killian, Jr.; HWT: Melchesidek Jeudy, Southridge, Jr.
1. South Dade; 2. Southwest; 3. Southridge; 4. Braddock; 5. Columbus; 6. North Miami; 7. Palmetto; 8. Coral Gables; 9. Kilian; 10. South Miami
On the rise: Monsignor Pace, Miami Beach, Miami Springs, Coral Park.
Team-by-team capsules: www.miamiherald.com/ high-schools
1. SOUTH DADE (Coach Victor Balmeceda, 20th year at SD, 23rd overall, 316-19). Last year: 24-0 (State champions). Top wrestlers: Ozzy Lugo, Sr. (138-145); Brevin Balmeceda, Fr. (126-132); Chei Hill, Jr. (195-220); Kyron Taylor, Jr. (HWT); Elijah Varona, Jr. (106); Todd Perry, Fr. (152).
2. SOUTHWEST (Coach Joel Mendez, 20th year). Last year: 13-1 (Fourth at state). Top wrestlers: Franco Valdes, Jr. (126-138); Adolfo Sotolongo, Sr. (182-195); Angel Delcueto, Jr. (138-152); Alex Urquiza, So. (126-138); Willie Brown, Sr. (195-220); Jesse Acedo, Sr. (126-138).
3. SOUTHRIDGE (Coach Kenneth Johnson, 9th year, 102-41). Last year: 14-3 (Sixth at state). Top wrestlers: Jordan Marshall, Sr. (126); Randy McCray, Sr. (120); Darius Hamilton, Jr. (220); Antony Kinsey, Jr. (145); Melchesidek Jeudy, Jr. (HWT); Marcos Perez, Sr. (152).
4. BRADDOCK (Coach Saul Tejada). Last year: 21-6 (Ninth at state). Top wrestlers: Alex Victor, Sr. (113); Sal Lopez, Sr. (152); Jesus Bencomo, Jr. (160); Hartley Mesadieu, Sr. (120); Luis Hernandez, So. (126); Saul Tejada, Jr. (132); Marcieus Brown, Sr. (138).
5. COLUMBUS (Coach Jim Husk). Top wrestlers: Kyle Mann, Sr. (220); Anthony Codinach, Sr. (138); Edgar Martinez, Sr. (113).
6. CORAL GABLES (Coach Angel Vazquez, 10th year, 145-30-3). Last year: 28-6. Top wrestlers: Anthony Vizcaino, Sr. (120); Carlos Leon, Jr. (113); Jaafari Stephens, So. (HWT); Alexis Izaguirre, Sr. (195); Gabriel Garcia, Sr. (145); Mike Castro, Fr. (126).
7. PALMETTO (Coach C.J. Singleton, 1st year, 19th overall). Last year: 14-3. Top wrestlers: Romoan Chester, Sr. (152); Malik Bell, Sr. (160).
8. NORTH MIAMI - Top wrestlers: Deandre Chery, Sr. (170); Jonas Cherenfant, Sr. (160).
9. KILLIAN - Top wrestlers: Ryan Boncamper, Jr. (106); Geovany Mentor, Jr. (220).
10. SOUTH MIAMI - Top wrestlers: Emanuel Nordelo, Sr. (145).
11. MIAMI BEACH - Last year: N/A. Top wrestlers: Christopher Cruz, Sr. (120); Martin Castillo, Sr. (132); Yisrael Londono, Sr. (138); Christhian Cruz, Sr. (152); Adrian Perez, Jr. (170); Jonathan Darius, Sr. (182).
(Coach ). Last year: . Top wrestlers: .
12. CORAL REEF (Coach Miguel Dominguez, 4th year, 45-30). Last year: 14-10. Top wrestlers: Leo Hernandez, So. (138); Seth Wooten, So. (182); Juan Rouco, Sr. (220); Jason Kaercher, Sr. (160).
13. HIALEAH GARDENS (Coach David Labi, 2nd year at HG, 16th overall). Last year: N/A. Top wrestlers: Gio Martinez, Jr.; William Martinez, Sr.; Nick Benavides, Jr.; Zack Rendoeles, Sr.
14. MATER ACADEMY (Coach E. Lamazares, 9th year, 147-57). Last year: 1-20.
1. MIAMI SPRINGS (Coach David Ryan, 34th year, 348-150). Last year: 12-10. Top wrestlers: David Sanchez, Sr. (138); Ussama Malik, Sr. (126); Ryan Ramos, Jr. (120); Alex Rodriguez, Jr. (160).
2. CENTRAL (Coach Errol Bryant, 7th year). Last year: 13-4-2. Top wrestlers: Kahris Blackman, So. (132); Kristallion Valentine, Fr. (152); Julio Burgos, So. (160); Kahran Blackman, Fr. (138); Marvell Ahmad, Jr. (170); Amir Augustin, Fr. (126).
3. GOLEMAN (Coach Reinel Mansito, 2nd year, 15-10). Last year: 15-10. Top wrestlers: Ivan Martinez, Sr. (195); Enrique Kelly, Sr. (182); Anthony Bello, Sr. (HWT); Jesus Perez, Sr. (160); Richard Norat, Sr. (170).
4. DORAL (Coach Jairo Sandoval, 2nd year, 9-13). Last year: 9-13. Top wrestlers: Fernando Arcia, Sr. (220); Kevin Martinez, Jr. (126); Gian Rosado, Sr. (195); Edwin Adams, Fr. (113).
5. BELEN JESUIT (Coach Fidel Albelo, 24th year). Last year: 3-5. Top wrestlers: Ariel Jimenez, Sr. (170); Damian Cuesta, Fr. (145).
1. MONSIGNOR PACE (Coach Frank Pelegri). Last year: 20th at state. Top wrestlers: Alex Perez, Sr. (138).
2. WESTMINSTER CHRISTIAN (Coach Kevin Pedersen, 4th year at WC, 5th overall, 76-8). Last year: 8-4. Top wrestlers: Dylan Charlton, Sr. (220); Anthony Machado, Jr. (170); Matthew Sanchez, So. (160); Sam Bond, Sr. (160).
3. RANSOM EVERGLADES (Coach Michael Waite, 10th year). Last year: N/A. Top wrestlers: Robert Baumann, Jr. (182); Josen Mesa, Sr. (135); Corey Kraftsow, Sr. (145); Will Miller, So. (145); Harry Tandy, Jr. (135).