By now, the bar for wrestling at South Dade High School is set so ridiculously high, one would imagine it’s hard to top anything.
But the Bucs found a way to do it again on Saturday. South Dade put a record 12 kids out of a possible 14 in the finals and came through with a record 10 champions as the Bucs made a mockery of the Region 4-3A tournament at Hialeah Gardens High School by running away with the regional title.
With three defending state champions leading the way, Elijah Varona (113 lbs), Chei Hill (220 lbs.) and Kyron Taylor (285 lbs.), South Dade finished with 306 points, 108 ahead of nearest pursuer Southwest.
“We’ve set ourselves up nicely,” said South Dade head coach Vic Balmeceda. “You can’t win a state championship this weekend but you can certainly lose it by not taking some of your studs and be pretty much took everybody including some higher than I even thought they would even place.”
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Another record? The Bucs will take 12 wrestlers up to the state tournament at Silver Spurs Arena in Kissimmee, the most they’ve ever done in that category as well and will be solid favorites to bring back a fourth consecutive team state title and 12th overall. They will also be looking to become the first team in Dade or Broward County history to win four straight.
“What I keep preaching to the kids is that they have to build their own legacy and the only way they’re going to do that around a program like this is if they break records of the kids that were here before,” said Balmeceda. “The higher the bar, the higher you have to reach. Make your own legacy, build your own mark and to the credit of these kids, they’ve stayed hunger. When you think they get complacent, you set new challenges.”
Hill easily defeated Michael Mireles of Southwest 16-4 to move his record to a perfect 56-0 and has now won 95 straight matches dating back to last year.
“I just want to go back up there, execute my game plan and take what’s mine,” said Hill who defeated Southwest’s Adolpho Sotolongo in last year’s state title match. “Our team has worked very hard. We have a great support systems, great coaches and this is the end result. None of this comes unless we outwork everybody and that’s what we do around here.”
There weren’t a lot of non-South Dade moments but one of them belonged to Southwest’s Franco Valdes who gave the Bucs one of their two defeats when he beat Joel Ramirez 6-3 to win the 138 lbs. division.
I didn’t have an ideal season last year and have worked hard to get back my regional title and get the No. 1 seed,” said Valdes who won two state titles as a freshman and sophomore before losing a heartbreaker to Jordan Marshal of Southridge in last year’s title match. “I’ve been on a mission all year and now I want to go back up there and get that state title that I lost last year.”
After the disappointment of not even making it to the second day of last year’s state tournament, Killian’s Marshal Sweet has been on his own mission this year. Not only did he win the GMAC championship, but improved his perfect record this year to 34-0 when he beat Ronald Reagan’s Gabriel Barrocas 10-5 to win the 195 lbs. division.
“It’s been a great year and I thank my teammates for pushing me,” said Sweet. “I think I’m ready to go up there and bring it home. Last year was a big disappointment but I’ll learn from that.”
Barrocas was one of two Reagan wrestlers to make the finals along with Richard Mayol in the 170 lbs. division. Even though they both lost and will settle for being No. 2 seeds, they still became the first two Reagan wrestlers to ever qualify for state.
Teams: 1. South Dade 306.0, 2. Southwest 197.5, 3. Southridge 133.5, 4. Columbus 114.0, 5. Killian 98.5, 6. Cypress Bay 73.0, 7. Coral Gables 62.0, 8. Coral Park 57.0, 9. Ronald Reagan 52.0, 10. Miami Beach 47.5, 11. Nova 46.0, 12. Mater Academy 44.0, 13. Cooper City 42.0, 14. North Miami 35.5, 15. Everglades 35.0. Championship: 106: Reyna (SD) d. Valdes (COL) 17-2, major dec.; 113: Varona (SD) d. Hernandez (SW) 16-5; 120: Orta-Khawl (SD) d. Hernandez (BR) 6-4; 126: Morales (SD) d. Abreu (CP) 5-0; 132: Urquiza (SW) d. Mursuli (SD) 22-7, maj. dec.; 138: Valdes (SW) d. Ramirez (SD) 6-3; 145: Balmeceda (SD) d. Lovett (SR) 13-0; 152: Perry (SD) d. Kinsey (SR) 2-1; 160: Fundora (SD) d. Jean (MHS) 11-1; 170: Delcueto (SW) d. Mayol (RR) 15-3; 182: Harvey (SD) d. Bencid (CP) 9-3; 195: Sweet (KIL) d. Barrocas (RR) 10-5; 220: Hill (SD) d. Mireles (SW) 16-4; 285: Taylor (SD) d. Stephens (CG) 6-0. Consolation: 106: Portilla (CB) d. Vazuez (SW) 19-8; 113: Boncamper (KIL) d. Huffman (COL) 6-4; 120: Felton (MB) d. Luis (SW) 9-2; 126: Mompoint (NM) d. Martinez (HG) 7-0; 132: Fuertes (CB) d. Lopez (SR) 8-0; 138: Mendoza (SR) d. Saleh (WB) Fall, 2:58; 145: Wilson (PAL) d. Jones (CC) 5-3, OT; 152: Jones (CC) d. Fernandez (COL) 3-2; 160: Hyacinthe (NOVA) d. Morgan (MB) 8-3; 170: Rios (SR) d. Perez (MB) 7-2; 182: Wooten (SR) d. Benitez (SW) 8-4; 195: D’ascoli (COL) d. Antencio (EVER) Fall, 5:14; 220: Toribio (CB) d. Mentor (KIL) Fall, 1:30; 285: Jackson (KIL) d. Perez (COL) Fall, 2:52