Miami-Dade High Schools

As South Dade aims for another state title, a final father-son moment on the horizon

South Dade HS wrestling head coach Vic Balmeceda hugs his son Brevin after his victory in 160-pound class Region 4-3A wrestling finals on Saturday at Ronald Reagan High.
South Dade HS wrestling head coach Vic Balmeceda hugs his son Brevin after his victory in 160-pound class Region 4-3A wrestling finals on Saturday at Ronald Reagan High. FOR THE MIAMI HERALD

Brevin Balmeceda’s regional final bout last week went about as planned.

He stepped on the mat at Ronald Reagan High and locked eyes with North Miami’s Rivaldo Valmy.

The match ended 36 seconds later.

South Dade’s Brevin Balmeceda wins by fall. An easy win. Again.

Replace the venue, the event and the opponent, and the story remains the same.

One look at Brevin’s resume to this point in his wrestling career paints a clear picture of the 18-year-old’s domination heading into the two-day state championships that begin on Friday at Kissimmee’s Silver Spurs Arena, where South Dade looks to win its sixth consecutive Class 3A title.

Five national individual national titles, including the only South Florida wrestler to win the Super 32 National Challenge.

Three individual state championships — including one as an eighth-grader — with a third- and fourth-place finish sprinkled in through five trips.

A 339-18 career record, including a 57-1 mark this year in the 160-pound class.

All while facing the pressure of being the coach’s son. And not just any coach’s son. The son of Vic Balmeceda, who quickly turned South Dade wrestling into a dynasty, with 15 state titles and eight runner-up finishes during his 24 years with the Bucs.

“He’s always had a bull’s-eye on his back,” Vic said.

That bull’s-eye will be in play one more time as Brevin finishes up his stellar prep career before heading off to perennial wrestling powerhouse Oklahoma State.

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South Dade High School wrestling coach Victor Balmeceda (front) is photographed with his son Brevin, a senior at South Dade and a three-time individual state wrestling champion, on the schools agricultural grounds on Monday, February 4, 2019. PATRICK FARRELL pfarrell@miamiherald.com

The future can wait, though.

First, there’s one more run to finish at the high school level. One more state title. One more crack at another national title.

One more postseason with his dad doubling as his coach.

“We have our differences, but it’s fun,” Brevin said. “He knows me, so he knows what I need and how to help me the way other coaches might not.”

By the time Brevin got his first taste of wrestling, his dad was already in the midst of creating a dynasty. Brevin was 5, maybe 6, when he stepped on the mat with initial interest in the sport.

“He’s been around the gym since he was in a stroller,” Vic said.

Vic — a former high school and college wrestler who has been part of the South Dade coaching staff since 1994 — had already been part of seven state title teams, two as an assistant and five as a head coach at that point.

He saw how the high schoolers reacted to Vic’s coaching. He remembers the camaraderie, the family-like atmosphere, the sense of support.

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It took 36 sec for Brevin Balmeceda of South Dade to win a match against North Miami’s Rivaldo Valmy during Region 4-3A 160 lbs class HS wrestling finals on March 2, 2019 at Ronald W. Reagan Doral Senior HS in Doral ANDREW ULOZA FOR THE MIAMI HERALD

“I want to wrestle for my dad,” Brevin remembers thinking back then.

That would come in due time. Growing pains came first.

Vic eased Brevin into the sport. He didn’t want Brevin burning out or feeling too much pressure too early. Learn the techniques and master the fundamentals. Competition will come later.

“It didn’t come easy,” Vic, 48, said. “He’d go to tournaments and he wouldn’t do great. He’d want to fight the kids more than wrestle them.”

That changed once he reached middle school.

As a sixth-grader at Jorge Mas Canosa middle, Brevin steamrolled through any competition he had. Something clicked.

“Wrestling became important to him,” Vic said.

Brevin enrolled at Keys Gate the next year and competed his first varsity season at the 106-pound weight class.

From there, it wasn’t a matter of measuring Brevin’s talent. The challenge became how 13-year-old Brevin would handle facing older kids, the high school juniors and seniors who were “extra mature-looking and had hairy legs or a tattoo,” as Vic put it.

“You could see the fear in his eyes,” Vic said.

That fear didn’t last long.

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Brevin Balmeceda of South Dade, 160 lbs class, wins a match against North Miami’s Rivaldo Valmy during the Region 4-3A HS wrestling finals on March 2, 2019 at Ronald W. Reagan Doral Senior HS in Doral ANDREW ULOZA FOR THE MIAMI HERALD

Brevin went 54-4 as a seventh-grader, winning the district and regional titles before finishing fourth at state.

One year later, Brevin won his first state title as an eighth-grader, winning the Class 1A 120-pound division with a 4-3 decision over Fort Lauderdale Cardinal Gibbons’ Dominick Gibson in the finals.

Brevin’s recollection from that day? Looking over to the side and seeing his dad cry tears of joy.

“It made me cry,” Brevin said.

Vic added: “It was just a moment of relief, a monkey off of our back. ... But we didn’t realize that after the monkey was off his back, a big, giant gorilla would jump on him to try to repeat and outperform what you previously did and to start winning national titles.”

But if Brevin had any pressure, it rarely showed

After a third-place finish in the 132-pound weight class as a South Dade freshman, Brevin won back-to-back state titles as a sophomore (145) and a junior (152). South Dade won team titles all three years.

“I never thought that I would be the wrestler that I am,” Brevin said.

He’s the favorite to win the 160-pound class this year, a win that would simply add to his mark on the South Dade dynasty, one that began in earnest when his Vic joined the coaching staff.

Vic became the South Dade assistant coach in 1994 shortly after he graduated from Appalachian State on a wrestling scholarship. South Dade won its first state title a year later, the beginning of a run of seven titles and a runner-up finish in nine years. Vic took over as head coach in 1997 after Mike McCoy died following a battle with stomach cancer. From that point, the Bucs won or finished runner-up at state 19 times in 21 years — not including the two dual-meet state titles since the Florida High School Athletic Association added the format in 2018.

“Did I ever think we would do as well as we are? Sort of,” Vic said with a laugh. ““When I first got here, there was this pure arrogance of how hard it was to win a state championship, but I just really, really believed that we could do it.”

South Dade has a chance to do it again this weekend, with the Bucs bringing wrestlers in 11 of 14 weight classes to the title meet.

And for Brevin and Vic, there’s one more memory to make.

“He’s lived up to the pressure,” Vic said. “He’s dealt with the pressure. He’s doing a great job.”

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Jordan McPherson covers the Miami Marlins and high school sports for the Miami Herald. He attended the University of Florida and covered the Gators athletic program for five years before joining the Herald staff in December 2017.
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