South Dade wrestling coach Vic Balmeceda just shook his head from side to side on Friday evening.
“It was a dogfight [Friday], and it’s going to be a dogfight [Saturday],” he said.
Welcome to day one of the state wrestling finals at Silver Spurs Arena in Kissimmee where the two-time defending state champion Bucs enjoyed a solid day, advancing five of their nine wrestlers into Saturday’s semifinals in Class 3A.
But South Dade (55.0) has plenty of company right on its tail, most notably county rival Southridge (52.5) along with Orange Park Fleming Island (50.0), hometown favorite Kissimmee Osceola (47.5) and another Dade County foe, Southwest (39.5).
“We managed to get five of our kids into the semis so things went pretty much the way I expected it to [Friday],” Balmeceda said. “We’ll get right back at it [Saturday].”
South Dadewill be looking for only the third state title three-peat by a Dade team, and the Bucs own the other two (1995-97, 1999-01). They were led by two-time defending state champion Ozzy Lugo, who mowed down both of his opponents in the 145-pound division and will take on Evyn Insalaco of Flager Palm Coast in a Saturday morning semifinal.
“I’ve got one arm right now, so I’m just grinding as hard as I can,” said Lugo who has been dealing with a separated right shoulder since last November knowing that surgery would end his season. “I’m looking forward to the opportunity [Saturday]. Not many people have won three state titles in a row, and it would be really special if I get it done. I’m not trying to brag, but most kids in this state might’ve been on the shelf right now. But my team needs me, we’re a family, and I don’t walk away from family like that.”
Elijah Varona (106 pounds), Brevin Balmeceda (132 and the coach’s son), defending state champ Chei Hill (195) and Kyron Taylor (285 and state runner-up last year) were the other four Bucs wrestlers to advance to the semis.
Southridge also enjoyed a great day, getting five of its seven entries into the semis, led by defending state champion Jordan Marshall. Marshall survived a tough second-round battle in the 126 division with Vinny Sessa of St. Thomas Aquinas before coming out on top 8-6. If Marshall wins his semifinal, it could set up a huge All-Dade final with two-time state champion Franco Valdes of Southwest, who is in the opposite semifinal.
Randy McCray (120), Anthony Kinsey (138) Luis Rios (160) and Darius Hamilton (220 were the other Southridge wrestlers to get through.
“We lost a couple of kids but still a pretty good day overall,” Southridge coach Ken Johnson said. “We’re looking forward to a big day [Saturday]. Jordan is a defending state champion, so he knows what it takes, and he’ll be ready.”
The tough beat of the day went to Southwest’s Jesse Acedo in first round of the 138 division. Acedo had a 10-point lead on Cody Henson of North Port late in the match when Henson turned him over and pinned him with two seconds left.
It was a tough day for Dade in the smaller classifications as no wrestlers advanced to the semifinals in 2A. Monsignor Pace’s Alex Perez was Dade’s only entry in 1A. Perez, who finished fourth last year at state, will take on Max Harris of Tallahassee Florida High in the 138 semifinal.
3A Team Standings — 1. South Dade 55.0, 2. Southridge 52.5, 3. Fleming Island 50.0, 4. Kissimmee Osceola 47.5, 5. Southwest 39.5. Other Dade Teams: 12. Columbus 24.0, 22. Braddock 12.0, 33. Coral Gables 7.0, 36. Killiam 6.0, 41. Miami Beach 4.0, Miami Palmetto 4.0, North Miami 4.0. 3A semifinals — 106: Elijah Varona (South Dade) vs. Malyke Hines (Osceola); Chris Fragale (Palm Harbor) vs. Dennis McNeal (Treasure Coast); 113: Alex Victor (Braddock) vs. Jeremiah Costen (Lake Mary), Angel Perez (Southwest) vs. Edward Craig (Manatee); 120: Randy McCray (Southridge) vs. Jake Semrad (Lyman), Lucas Rodriguez (Gateway) vs. Mike DeAugustino (Flagler Palm Coast); 126: Franco Valdes (Southwest) vs. Pablo Asenjo (Forest Hill), Jordan Marshall (Southridge) vs. Cullen Telfer (Strawberry Crest); 132: Brevin Balmeceda (South Dade) vs. John Locksmith (Osceola), Xavier Sampsell (Fleming Island) vs. Kizhan Clarke (Riverview); 138: Anthony Kinsey (Southridge) vs. Justin Camacho (Gateway), Grant Aranoff (Aquinas) vs. Christian Rivera (Freedom); 145: Ozzy Lugo (South Dade) vs. Evyn Insalaco (Flagler Palm Coast), Kurtis Aimable (Freedom) vs. Bryce Marcus (Aquinas); 160: Luis Rios (Southridge) vs. Max Wohlabaugh (Winter Springs), Giovanny Bonilla (Santaluces) vs. Jon Gomez (Boone); 195: Chei Hill (South Dade) vs. Jason Davis (Fleming Island), Adolfo Sotolongo (Southwest) vs. Isaiah Dawson (Lake Nona); 220: Darius Hamilton (Southridge) vs. Dylan Meeks (Dr. Phillips), Darius Mosely (George Jenkins) vs. Raimello Jackson (Wekiva); 285: Kyle Mann (Columbus) vs. Sam Harrison (George Jenkins), Kyron Taylor (South Dade) vs. Deangles Harris (Atlantic Coast).
1A Semifinals — 138: Alex Perez (Monsignor Pace ) vs. Max Harris (Florida High), Julian Summa (Clay) vs. Calab Ashe (Key West)