Just call it lucky 13.
South Dade won its 13th wrestling state championship on Saturday when it captured the Class 3A title at the first Florida High School Dual Wrestling State Championships at Kissimmee Osceola High School.
South Dade held off pesky Orange Park Fleming Island 39-25 in the final. The program had already won 12 individually bracketed tournaments (IBT), all under Victor Balmeceda, now in his 24th season with the program.
“I’m ecstatic. It’s exciting. Every year it is a different group of kids. This group made (3A) state history winning the first Dual tournament and it is exciting,” Balmeceda said.
The pivotal swing matches came early in the final when Luis Peraza won a 5-1decision over Louis Gagliardo at 106 pounds and Tyler Orta held off Jacob Sandoval, 3-1, in a 126-pound thriller.
“Last year he beat me and this year I took him down twice,” Peraza said.
Balmeceda said pin bonus points would be crucial in the final and South Dade picked up two from Bretli Reyna (120), Brevin Balmeceda (152).
South Dade drubbed Wellington in the semifinal 59-15, winning 11 of 14 weight classes which included its first-five matches.
Eight South Dade wrestlers delivered pins, including Peraza (106), Reyna (120), Balmeceda (152), Todd Perry (160), Mikaell Fundora (170), Corey Harvey (195), Kenneth Crouse (220) and Trayvonne Jackson (285).
“It came through pretty much the way we expected it. Our 220, Crouse, came through with a big pin. I know it was towards the end, and it didn’t matter that much to the score, but it mattered morally to him,” Balmeceda said. “We brought a lot of energy to the match against Wellington.”
Orlando Lake Highland Prep won the 1A state championship, blanking Cardinal Gibbons 72-0 in the final.
Cardinal Gibbons reached the final after handling Englewood Lemon Bay 45-27 in the semi and delivered four-pin victories in the process, including Jed Huerkamp (120), Gabrial Gibson (126), Amadeus Concepcion (152), Osani Ley (160) and Nicolas Nelson (195).
“Lemon Bay is a tough school with a tough coach and tough kids,” Pettineo said. “We just knew that going into the middle of the dual, we were solid and we had to be up by a certain amount, and we were.”
Adonis Concepcion kicked the finals door open for Cardinal Gibbons when he picked up five team points winning his 145-pound match over Derick Dagg by tech fall 21-5.
“The 145-pound match, as soon as he started winning, we knew our 152, 160 and 170-pounders were pretty tough, so we didn’t worry,” Pettineo said.
Lakeland Lake Gibson won its first wrestling state championship when it edged Fort Myers Riverdale 33-32 in 2A.
All three team champions will have a chance to become the first school to win two wrestling state championships in the same season when the IBT tournament heads to Kissimmee Silver Spurs Arena March 2-3.
The Duals tournament was added to the FHSAA calendar this year on a trial basis. But FHSAA executive director George Tomyn said the reviews have been outstanding.
“We are going to continue to have Duals wrestling. We will find the right place for it and it will stay here in the state of Florida. This was absolutely not a one-hit wonder, we are definitely coming back,” Tomyn said.