For a change, they got pushed.
But when push came to shove and the 2018 GMAC boys’ wrestling tournament officially went into the books early Saturday evening at Reagan High School, once again and for the eighth year in row, it was the South Dade wrestlers stepping up and claiming the first place trophy.
The Bucs, who came into the tournament having to leave three of their wrestlers back for various reasons including top seeded Luis Peraza in the 106 lbs. division, led second place Columbus by just 22 points entering Saturday morning’s semifinals.
But they had no problem taking care of business as eight South Dade wrestlers made it to the finals and six emerged as champions as the Bucs pulled away to finish with 339 points, well ahead of second place Columbus at 251.
“We were a little worried coming into this weekend because we were short a couple of studs and there was little margin for error so I just wanted our kids to come in here and see how much fight they had in them,” said South Dade coach Vic Balmeceda. “And they all stepped up. I was especially proud of my 220 [Kenneth Crouse], who is not the most athletlic kid in the world who had 10 losses this season, but he got in there and got it done.”
Not only was it eight GMAC titles in a row for South Dade but 11 in the past 12 years and a total of 15. Now with another GMAC trophy in the case and one month after winning the state’s first ever dual wrestling meet in Kissimmee (defeating Orange Park Fleming Island), Balmeceda and his wrestlers will set their sights on a return trip to Kissimmee next month and an unprecented fifth straight state title.
“We’ve been working hard all year and we know we have big things we’re shooting for here,” said South Dade wrestler Bretil Reyna who was one of two defending state champions for the Bucs in action on Saturday and won a close hard fought match over Alex Godinez of Hialeah-Miami Lakes 8-5 to win the 120-pound class. “The idea is to be state champs again and we have a lot of new guys so we want to get up there and get it done again.”
The other defending state champion to roll through the field was the coaches’ son, Brevin Balmeceda. Just a junior, Balmeceda has won three state titles in the last four years (he won as an eighth grader) and easily mowed down Cardeionte Wilson of Palmetto 14-0 in the 152-pound final.
Other South Dade champions were Todd Perry who technical falled Adrian Vidaud of Southwest 16-1 in 160, Mikael Fundora who decisioned Southwests’ Michael Fernandez 5-2 in 170, Trayvonne Jackson who took down another Southwest wrestler, Christian Sanchez to win the heavyweight division and finally Crouse who pinned Henry Fernandez of Columbus to win at 220.
Outside of South Dade, Sunset, Hialeah Gardens and Miami Beach had the feel-good stories of the day.
Sebastian Calmet became only the second Sunset wrestler to win a GMAC title in the last 10 years when he won a major decision over Justin Valdes (13-1) to win at 113, and Julio Pardo became the first ever wrestler from Hialeah Gardens to win a title when he decisioned Christopher Smith of Norland 11-6 to win at 195.
“What an honor,” said Pardo as he left the mat and was informed of his feat. “I did it for my coaches, for my program and my school.”
But the most dramatic final of the day went to Daishaun Felton of Miami Beach. Felton became the first Beach wrestler in 25 years to win a GMAC title a year ago when he knocked off Tyler Orta of South Dade and the two were at it again on Saturday afternoon at 126. And after squandering a 5-1 lead entering the third period, Felton snapped the 5-5 tie with an escape with 30 seconds left and hung on for the 6-5 win.
Team standings: 1. South Dade 339.0; 2. Columbus 251.0; 3. Southwest 237.5; 4. Southridge 196.0; 5. Palmetto 173.5; 6. Coral Park 125.5; 7. Ferguson 107.5; 8. Hialeah-Miami Lakes 88.5; 9. Norland 87.0; 10. Goleman 83.5; 11. Coral Gables 81.0; 12. Sunset 72.0; 13. North Miami 71.0; 14. Krop 56.0; 15. Northwestern 55.0
Finals: 106: Chris Busutil (SR) d. Delanow Noel (NM) Fall, 0:43. 113: Sebastian Calmet (SUN) d. Justin Valdes (COL) 13-1. 120: Bretli Reyna (SD) d. Alex Godinex (HML) 8-5. 126: Daishaun Felton (MB) d. Tyler Orta (SD) 6-5. 132: Julian Hernandez (SW) d. Joshua Swan (SD) 6-4 (OT). 138: Alexis Urquiza (SW) d. David Milton (COL) Fall 4:17. 145: Johnny Lovett (SR) d. Ryan Gonzalez (COL) 14-4. 152: Brevin Balmeceda (SD) d. Cardeionte Wilson (PAL) 14-0. 160: Todd Perry (SD) d. Adrian Vidaud (SW). T-Fall 16-1. 170: Mikael Fundora (SD) d. Michaeal Fernandez (SW) 5-0. 182: Leonard Wooten (SR) d. Sammy Bencid (CP) 3-1. 195: Julio Pardo (HG) d. Christopher Smith (NOR) 11-6. 220: Kenneth Crouse (SD) d. Henry Fernandez (COL) Fall 1:18. HWT: Trayvonne Jackson (SD) d. Christian Sanchez (SW) Fall 1:32.
Consolation: 106: Nicholes Rios (SW) d. Gavin Buck (COL) Fall, 4:55. 113: Isaac Duran (SD) d. Jacob Delgado (SD) 13-4. 120: Charles Huffman (COL) d. Fashawn Renejuste (CG) 6-4. 126: Destin Jones (PAL) d. Sebastian Melguizo (COL) 3-1. 132: Angel Perez (CG) d. Ryan Doll (COL) 4-2. 138: Jason Duarte (SD) d. Brandon Ochoa (SM) 4-2. 145: Andy Dematas (SW) d. George Llanes (CP) 7-1. 152: Chris Ordones (CP) d. Christian Dorta (SR) 8-2. 160: Malik Nottage (PAL) d. Bryan Luster (NOR) 7-6. 170: Angel Madruga (SM) d. Jizreel Jeudy (PAL) 8-6. 182: Kevin Perez (SD) d. Josh Mizelle (PAL) 10-2. 195: Fritz Doublas (SD) d. Denzel Addison (NM) Fall. 220: Christopher Valdes (MHS) d. Taso Kourtakis (SR) 6-3. HWT: Dylan Perez (COL) d. Jonathan Esquivel (SUN) Fall.