Broward County has never won two state wrestling titles in one year — but it could happen this season.
According to Scout.com, Cardinal Gibbons is ranked No. 1 in the state in Class 1A and St. Thomas Aquinas is fourth in 3A.
Aquinas — along with favored Homestead South Dade and the rest of the 3A powers — received a huge break when the FHSAA moved Brandon down to 2A because of a slight decrease in student enrollment.
Brandon is by far the most dominant wrestling program in Florida history, having won 24 state titles, including 13 in a row.
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But at least until the FHSAA reviews enrollment figures again in two years, Brandon is no longer Aquinas’ concern.
“It’s now a wide-open race,” Aquinas coach Robert Wimberley said. “[Brandon’s departure] opens things up for four or five teams.”
Those teams include Osceola, which finished second to Brandon last season. Osceola won state in 2009, which was the last time Brandon was not in 3A.
In addition to those teams, Palm Harbor and North Miami are also considered legitimate 3A threats this season.
Aquinas will be led by three seniors: Sal Guerriero, a 138-pounder who finished fifth at state last season and is a two-time BCAA champ; Colton Lynn, a 285-pounder who was also fifth at state; and John Weiss, a 170-pounder who also won a BCAA title last season.
Wimberley said Aquinas will get a boost in mid-December when he expects 10 to 14 football players to join his team, including Lynn, a nose guard who transferred from Boca Raton after last season, and 218-pound linebacker Vel Faulkner.
The Raiders have a tough schedule, which includes matches against South Dade and other state powers.
“The more time we wrestle those schools it’s to our advantage, because they lose their mystique,” Wimberley said. “We have a really good coaching staff, and we can make the adjustments.
“We never dodged Brandon, so I won’t say it’s a relief they’re in 2A. But I will say it’s an opportunity. In the past [four years], if you were being honest with yourself, everyone competing against Brandon was just looking for second place.”
Second place is not at all Gibbons’ goal in 1A. Gibbons is looking for its fifth state title, which would be a Broward wrestling record.
Gibbons coach Frank Pettineo, who is entering his 26th season and has been at the school for all four of its title runs, most recently in 2011, has five wrestlers he figures have a strong chance to win individual state championships.
The five are senior twins Jamal and Jamel Morris; senior 126-pounder Anthony Vazquez, who has finished in the top three for three years in a row; sophomore 106-pounder Kennedy Monday, who transferred from Oklahoma; and junior 152-pounder Alex Lopouchanski, who transferred from South Broward.
Gibbons has great depth. Pettineo started with 100 wrestlers and is currently four deep at every position.
The coach also expects big things from sophomore 120-pounder Dominick Gibson, who was sixth at state last season, and two regional champs: junior Diego Bell (220) and sophomore Ryan Thomas (195).
Jamal Morris has the most bragging rights on the team, having won three consecutive state titles. Jamel Morris has finished third three times. Both are ranked No. 1 in the state entering this season — Jamal at 132 pounds and Jamel at 138.
Monday is also ranked No. 1 at his weight class. His father, Kenny Monday, won an Olympic gold medal in wrestling (1988) and recently got a job as an MMA instructor in Boca Raton.