LAKELAND Cardinal Gibbons’ dominance the past few decades solidified its spot as one of the top wrestling programs in Broward County.
Saturday, the Chiefs only made it official as the most decorated team in the Broward history.
Led by three state individual state champions, Cardinal Gibbons won the Class 1A team title — the fifth in school history since winning its first in 2002.
The Chiefs came into the finals with five wrestlers going for gold and held what turned out to be an insurmountable 17.5-point lead on Orlando’s Lake Highland Prep.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Miami Herald
Coach Frank Pettineo’s program eclipsed the four state titles won by legendary McArthur coach John Lyzott (1979, ’86, ’88, ’89), which carried the banner as Broward’s best for so many years.
Gibbons tied Oviedo for fourth in state history in overall team titles.
“We finally broke the record,’’ said Pettineo, whose team had not won since 2011.
A total of six wrestlers from Broward won individual titles although the one really expected to do so didn’t.
One of the biggest upsets of the night came when Gibbons’ Jamal Morris — who had been toying and bloodying his opponent at 138 pounds — got stuck in the final minute of the third.
Morris, trying to become just the second Broward wrestler to ever win four state titles in a career, led 12-6 when Max Wohlabaugh of Orlando Bishop Moore put Morris on his back with 45 seconds remaining. Wohlabaugh, with his face wrapped in gauze because of the blood, got the pin with 17 seconds left.
Morris, 40-1, was trying to match Jonathan Taylor — who led Gibbons to the first two of the school’s team championships — as Broward’s second four-time champ.
“Jamal may have lost his match, but without him, I don’t have a team,’’ Pettineo said. “He volunteered to wrestle up at 138 ... That took a lot of character. He made a mistake, didn’t focus the way he should have during the blood [timeouts]. That doesn’t take away from what he’s done.’’
Jamel Morris, Jamal’s twin brother, finally got his first state title as he took a big lead on Lake Highland’s Elijah Cleary early and held on for a 10-4 win at 132 pounds.
“I played it smart and let him do all the work,” Jamel Morris said as his brother took the mat to warm up. “I knew if I stayed up I would win the match. I was nervous at first, but now I’m excited.’’
As the Chiefs became the 14th state champion from Broward, Stranahan — which won the first three in 1971, ’72 and ’75 — dipped into its history with senior Kenny Boyd wrestling in the Class 2A finals for the second consecutive year.
On Saturday, Boyd became Stranahan’s first state champion since 1982.
“This is amazing,’’ Stranahan coach Thomas Harrison said. “We wanted to restore the glory, and I’ve talked to the kids about what Stranahan wrestling was. This is a big step.’’
Boyd finishes 38-0 by avenging last year’s loss in the finals by beating Tristan Sommer of Tallahassee Lincoln 12-8 after getting two points with eight seconds remaining.
“I was tired in the third, but I ended up pulling through,’’ Boyd said. “I think I deserved it. I’d been thinking about [last year] every day. This is what I worked for.’’
Broward started out 0-1 in the finals as Lake Highland’s hopes got an early boost when Jake Brindley dropped Gibbons’ Kennedy Monday 4-0.
Monday, a sophomore, was 37-0 going into the 1A title match at 113 pounds but fell behind 2-0 late in the second before being dropped with 52 seconds remaining.
The Chiefs were able to clinch their title, however, a few minutes later when Anthony Vazquez ended his year 38-0 with a late escape to earn a 4-3 win at 126 pounds.
Jamel Morris’ win — during which he took an early lead and let his opponent just try and catch up — avenged Kennedy’s loss.
Ryan Thomas ended Broward’s night with a 2-1 victory at 195 pounds to become Gibbons’ third individual champ.
“I found it in my heart to keep pushing, keep pushing because I knew the clock was running down,’’ said Vazquez, who slipped free of Donovan Hough of Tampa Prep with five seconds left to win.
“This is very fulfilling. I know how hard we work as a team. Hard work really does pay off.’’
St. Thomas Aquinas put two in the finals with senior John Weiss winning at 170 and Sal Guerriero losing at 138 pounds.
Weiss took a 6-3 lead on Spencer Lacey early in the third and ended up with an 8-3 win.
“It’s an amazing feeling to know everything I worked for paid off,’’ said Weiss, now 51-4. “I’m pretty happy to end the season for St. Thomas with a win. It’s awesome. I’ve been aiming for this for five years.’’
Somerset continued its strong showing in Lakeland as the small school in Pembroke Pines crowned its fourth state champion in the program’s three-year history when junior Raekwon Reggler dominated Brandon Marshall for a 5-2 win.
“I tried really hard, but [Marshall] was really strong,’’ Reggler, 58-1, said. “This just feels amazing. I couldn’t believe I won a state championship. It just feels awesome.’’