The South Dade wrestling team has celebrated many times before. But that doesn’t mean it ever gets old.
That was the case Saturday night as the euphoric Bucs reeled in four individual state championships and thus notched their third consecutive 3A team championship at Silver Spurs Arena.
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South Dade, which now has a total of 11 state titles — second-most in the state — finished with 140 points, well ahead of its nearest challenger, Miami Southridge, which finished a distant second at 107.
It marked the third time a Dade County team “three-peated,” and it was South Dade that did it the other two times, 1995-97 and 1999-2001.
“I can’t be prouder of these kids,” South Dade coach Vic Balmeceda said. “This is one of the best state titles we’ve won because it was so hard fought. Everybody thought this would be a down year for us and we would be vulnerable, but what they didn’t measure was the heart of these kids. So when you’re supposed to be down, it feels that much better.”
Balmeceda watched as all four of his wrestlers, Elijah Varona (106 pounds), Ozzy Lugo (145), Chei Hill (195) and Kyron Taylor (285) complete a clean sweep by winning individual state titles.
Leading the way was Lugo, who won his third consecutive individual title and who has been a compelling story all season long, postponing surgery on his separated right shoulder.
He treated Orlando Freedom’s Kurtis Aimable like he had a bus to catch, as he pinned him in just 69 seconds to win the title at 145 pounds.
“My coach told me before the match that he thought I could get a quick pin because his aggressive style matched up perfectly for me,” said Lugo, who is headed for Edinborough University in Pennsylvania to join his older brother and past state champion Patrick. “What a year it’s been for me. Surgery was never an option. This was something that God put in front of me and I got through it because he knew I was strong enough. Three titles in a row — not a lot of guys have done that, so it’s a really special moment for me.”
Said Balmeceda: “Ozzy was an inspiration to all of the kids on this team. At this time of year everybody is all nicked up but I would turn to our kids and say ‘any of you have a separated shoulder?’ And that’s all they needed to hear.”
After Varona got things started for the Bucs by defeating Chris Fragale of Palm Harbor University 11-4 to win 106, it was time for Braddock and Southridge to shine.
Braddock’s Alex Victor closed out his career in style by defeating Southwest’s Angel Perez 7-1 to win an all-Dade final at 113 to make it back-to-back state titles.
“This is all about the hard work and dedication my coaches have put me through over the last two years,” Victor said. “It was just like waking up and going to practice [Saturday night]. It was a long climb and a big challenge to win two straight but I did it.”
Southridge then took over as Randy McCray captured the 120-pound division followed by Jordan Marshall who won his second consecutive title at 126 as he got a big lead early before eventually pinning rival Franco Valdes of Southwest at 5:30 in a much-anticipated rematch of the regional final that Valdes won in overtime.
“I got so tired of leaving him in the match that I just wanted to come out and try and make a few moves early and get out in front of him and make him chase me,” said Marshall, who defeated Valdes three times during the regular season before dropping the regional match. “Once I did that, forget it man, I knew I had it. I didn’t want it to be close and leave it in the refs hands.”
McCray’s match might have had the most drama of any Saturday night.
He trailed Mike DeAugustino of Flagler Palm Coast 3-2 with just 30 seconds left. But he tied it with a single point for an escape and then took DeAugustino to the mat with just five seconds left to win it 5-3.
“I just heard my coach yelling ‘you’ve got to take him down, you’ve got to take him down’ ” said McCray, who finished second to Victor in last year’s final. “Just then he [DeAugustino] tried to come in underneath me and I countered and got him flipped. Last year was tough, I made the final and lost to Victor so I had to get it right this time.”
In the third All-Dade meeting of the night, Hill topped Adolfo Sotolongo of Southwest 5-2 to win at 195. It also erased a painful memory for Hill, who dropped a 5-4 heart-breaker in last year’s finals to David Moodle of Winter Springs.
“That loss was a tough moment for me but I put it behind me and just dedicated myself to getting back here and finishing it off which I did [Saturday night],” said Hill, who finished 60-1.
In a battle of opposing offensive linemen for their football teams, Taylor finished off the perfect night for South Dade when he pinned Columbus’ Kyle Mann at 3:12 to win the 285-pound heavyweight division.
PACE’S PEREZ WINS
It was a lean two days for Dade wrestlers in the smaller 2A and 1A classifications as only one wrestler made it to the finals. But Monsignor Pace’s Alex Perez made it pay off as he shut out Caleb Ashe of Key West 7-0 to win the 1A state title in the 138 lbs. division.
Perez dominated the competition on his way to the final as he pinned all three of his opponents in a total of 76 seconds before squaring off against Ashe.
“I found out when I came up here and finished fourth last year how much harder I was going to have to work to be a state champion so I went to work, got up here again and finished it off,” said Perez who finished with four-year career record of 108-12. “When you get to the final, there’s a lot at stake so I really couldn’t go for the quick pin tonight. I had to work my opponent, get out in front on points and go from there.”
Championship results (Dade wrestlers)
3A — 106: Elijah Varona (South Dade) d. Chris Fragale (Palm Harbor) 11-4; 113: Alex Victor (Braddock) d. Angel Perez (Southwest) 7-1; 120: Randy McCray (Southridge) d. Mike DeAugustino (Flagler Palm Coast) 5-3; 126: Jordan Marshall (Southridge) d. Franco Valdes (Southwest) Fall: 5:30; 145: Ozzy Lugo (South Dade) d. Kurtis Aimable (Orlando Freedom) Fall: 1:09; 195: Chei Hill (South Dade) d. Adolfo Sotolongo (Southwest) 5-2; 285: Kyle Mann (Columbus) d. Kyron Taylor (South Dade) Fall: 3:12
1A — 138: Alex Perez (Monsignor Pace) d. Caleb Ashe (Key West) 7-0.
Consolation results (Dade)
3A — 106: Malyke Hines (Kiss. Osceola) d. Ryan Boncamper (Killian) T. Fall, 16-1; 132: Brevin Balmeceda (South Dade) d. Xavier Sampsell (Fleming Island) 2-0; 138: Anthony Kinsey (Southridge) d. Chris Bentley (Columbus) 11-5; 145: Angel Delcueto (Southwest) d. Bryce Marcus (Aquinas) 4-1; 160: Christian Bounce (George Jenkins) d. Aaron Flores (South Dade) 6-1; 170: Kahtrell Treadwell (Lyman) d. Deandre Chery (North Miami) 7-6. 220: Darrius Mosley (George Jenkins) d. Darius Hamilton (Southridge) 2-1.
2A — 138: Chance Sharbano (Braden River) d. David Sanchez (Miami Springs) Fall, 2:22.
3A team standings
1. South Dade 140.0; 2. Southridge 107.0; 3. St. Thomas Aquinas 94.5; 4. Miami Southwest 91.5; 5. Kissimmee Osceola 85.5.
Other dade teams
12. Columbus 44.0; 18. Braddock 28.0; 24. Killiam 21.0; 29. North Miami 16.0; 36. Coral Gables 11.0.