Move over Clint Eastwood’s dramatic Malpaso Productions. The same goes for vivid imagery from any Dream Works film. And who needs Bruce Willis in yet another action film?
Point being no Hollywood effort could dare do justice recreating the intense drama, including the multiple developments involved with the ups and downs of the two-day, 21-hour, 87-team Class 2A FHSAA Finals in the Jenkins Arena at The Lakeland Center.
Springstead arrived in Polk County attempting to defend its claim to history. No previous Hernando County team – in any sport – had ever walked in as two-time defending mat champion.
Late Saturday night following a Six Flags-like rollercoaster of a tournament, the Spring Hill-based Eagles staved off 11th-hour punches thrown by Lakeland-Lake Gibson and Boca Raton-Olympic Heights to walk away with the county’s first-ever three-peat.
To anyone who was glued to happenings along the four 2A mats, they couldn’t walk away.
The Eagles, who arrived with a state-best nine grapplers, squeezed out individual victories from all nine to capture 24-of-39 bouts (62 percent) highlighted by eight pins.
After eight rounds (with only the finals remaining), Springstead and Olympic Heights were tied at 93.0 points. Want more? The two-time defending state runner-up Lake Gibson Braves lurked just behind with 88.5.
It was a rare meet where parity was the norm and not the exception – there were 14 individual state champions as not one 2A school returned home with two gold medals.
Even for the most optimistic Eagle fans, the situation appeared bleak.
Basically, the Eagles’ terrific season rested on the shoulders of one its ‘Big Dogs’ (aka six returning state qualifiers from 2012), plus they needed some breaks.
Springstead had one more bullet in the chamber as only junior Jordan Rivera etched a finals berth at 138 pounds.
Problem was Olympic Heights had two finalists (Laurence Kosoy at 132 and Ronaldo Abreu at 195) and so did Lake Gibson (Chase Krutsky at 145 and Dorian Spradlin at 170).
The pressure-packed scenario began to play out when Ridgeview senior Jamarius Jackson added his second straight gold medal at 132 pounds by destroying Kosoy via a technical fall-filled takedown clinic, 27-12.
Next, the flu-ridden Rivera, who was throwing up after both of his Friday matches, stepped up with the performance of his prep career.
Rivera completely smothered previously unbeaten Melbourne senior Joey Miuccio (42-1), 12-3.
The three-time state placer Rivera (45-4) not only earned Springstead’s Hernando County-record 26th state title – more importantly, he carved out five critical team points.
But as per this tourney, Rivera’s momentum didn’t last long.
With a huge home base of Braves fans at his back, Krutzky’s dramatic pin in 3:01 over Palm Bay’s Steven Vonniederhauser might have tipped the Richter scale with the quake he produced.
With the Polk County fans on their feet, Krutsky’s pin gave the hometown Braves six huge points lifting Lake Gibson to 94.5.
For the long-suffering Braves fans – Lake Gibson was seeking its first-ever state title – it all boiled to the fan favorite and Pennsylvania native Spradlin solving Jensen Beach’s Chris Favoroso.
With one more decision, Lake Gibson would collect four precious team points and leapfrog past Springstead and into history.
Three matches later, however, the fickle pendulum of fate swung and this time the Polk County fans were as quiet as a mouse in the First Baptist Church when Favoroso solved Spradlin, 5-2.
Though Springstead fans were spared the axe against Lake Gibson, now the attention turned to the Olympic Heights Lions.
In a meet where anything seemed possible, with an Abreu pinfall over the heavily-favored Shane Carpenter of Creekside, the Lions could leap past both Lake Gibson and Springstead and finish – notching not only the school’s first-ever state gold medal, but also the school’s first-ever state championship.
Carpenter (41-0), however, completed a rare undefeated season edging Abreu (48-7), 4-3.
The moment 0:00 struck on the mat clock, the Springstead faithful could celebrate.
By solving 86 teams this weekend, Springstead completed its magical 2012-13 season 193-1 versus 2A competition.
Saturday night’s win marked the Eagles’ ninth tournament victory of the season – their fourth via a second-day comeback – setting a new Hernando County record.
For a program which four winters ago produced five gold medalists and finished runner-up at states (to Oviedo), Springstead won oddly enough this weekend with one champion, five placers and less than 100 points.
With the three-peat, Springstead becomes just the fifth Sunshine State mat program in almost a half century of competition with three consecutive state titles joining 13-time defending champion Brandon (2001-13), Oviedo (2004-07), South Dade (1995-97 and 1999-01) and Flagler Palm Coast (1993-95).
Evaluating the finish
Springstead’s improbable win in Polk County’s "House of Pain" reduced Lake Gibson’s veteran skipper Danny Walker to his knees.
Despite one of his toughest professional setbacks, Walker took the high road with his post-meet comments.
"I told some assistant principals who I saw I have never had a state tournament with so many ups and downs," lamented Coach Walker, upon his third straight second-place finish. "This one hurts. I really don’t know how I’m going to be able to function tomorrow or the next day.
"If we couldn’t win, we’d pull for Springstead," explained Walker. "In the offseason a lot of our kids train with their kids. Both teams go to all the big tournaments. I like (Springstead head coach) Sal (Basile) and they do things the right way.
"Trust me, I don’t like to lose to anybody, but Springstead’s a class act."
"After we lost (Stephen) Pavao early in the morning, we were down to five guys and it looked really bad," recalled Basile. "This was not one of our best tournaments – far from it. I didn’t see this coming. In our practices coming in, we looked fine, then when we got here maybe the pressure got to some guys – it always does."
On whether he had any doubts, "I had plenty," said Basile. "When Krutsky pinned his guy in the finals, I thought it was over. I figured Spradlin would win; he didn’t need to get a major or a pin.
"That’s when a couple things finally went our way. We shouldn’t have ever put ourselves in this kind of a position."
Springstead finished with five placers featuring: Rivera at 138 (first), sophomore Conor Ross at 170 (third), sophomore Billy Swift at 160 (fourth), and sophomores Matt Landgraff at 106 and Michael McDonald at 113 (both placing fifth).
Ross posted the most wins finishing 5-1 despite competing on an ailing left knee.
Ross, a 2012 state runner-up, felt his knee "pop" during his first match – an eventual pin over Dixie Hollins senior Luis Aldana.
His second-round bout was a state rematch from 2012. Last winter, Ross solved St. Augustine junior David Martinez, 6-4. This time, Martinez stunned Ross with a pinfall in 5:44.
Despite a heavily bandaged left knee, Ross roared through the loser’s bracket.
"I felt the knee go early in my first match," explained the 15-year-old Ross, who concluded his finest season at 49-5 – finishing one win shy of tying the school record held by Cody Ross and Nick Soto for most wins in a season. "It feels really bad right now. I have to get my knee scoped soon."
On finishing as a state placer for the second time, "Third place isn’t good enough," shrugged Ross.
The first-year Swift became an unlikely savior.
In the consolation finals for third, Swift couldn’t snap a 1-all tie with a one point escape in the fourth overtime, losing by criteria to Niceville senior Taylor Bartleson, 2-1.
Describing his initial trip to states, "After the first match, everything was a challenge," noted the 16-year-old Swift, who finished his initial varsity season at 42-17. "It looked pretty bad for us for a while, I know in my heart that nobody works harder than we do. No one deserves winning states more than we do."
NCT: Three placers
Behind its three seniors – Sean Nguyen at 106 (second), Brandon Vovan at 160 (first) and Dylan Savoury at 182 (sixth) – Nature Coast enjoyed a banner day.
Following up on last year’s best-ever sixth-place finish, the Sharks placed fifth with 54.0 points.
Nature Coast pushed both Nguyen and Vovan into the finals.
Nguyen (44-3) earned his way into the finals by undressing Hallandale senior Randy Garay via an 8-0 major decision. The win was Nguyen’s school record 148th of his four-year career, highlighted by a school-best 84 pins.
But Nguyen’s seven-match win skein was snapped in the final by Radley Gillis, 4-2.
On the finals loss, "I laid it all on the mat," explained the 17-year-old Nguyen. "I came in focused and ready. I thought I did my best, maybe that’s why I’m not real mad at myself.
"I have no regrets. He (Gillis) was a little better.
Vovan became the school’s first-ever state champ going 4-0 with one pin.
On Saturday, Vovan sweated out an 11th-hour non-call by an official to edge Bartleson, 2-1. Had Bartleson been given a favorable call in the final four seconds, he would have edged Vovan, 3-2.
In the finals, Vovan (45-5) decisioned Lehigh Acres’ senior Jabari Irons (48-2), 6-2.
"Right now, it feels unreal. Pinch me, so I know this is real," said Vovan. "I can’t explain all my emotions; I have so many thoughts. Who would have thought I would have been Nature Coast’s first state champion? Everybody thought it would be Sean (Nguyen); so did I."
Hernando junior Jesse Gaudin. who gave up a two-point takedown in the final five seconds to lose to Jesuit junior Austin Underwood in Friday’s quarterfinals, 4-3, closed the meet with four straight wins.
Gaudin, who captured 31-of-33 matches to close the season, finished with a team-best and career-high mark of 43-2 with 26 pins.
"I’m OK with third, especially here," smiled the 17-year-old Gaudin. "That was best I could do after losing to the Jesuit kid. The first match today was my toughest. I kept pushing the pace; I couldn’t afford to give up."
On his future goals, "I want to get back here and get first," stressed Gaudin. "Placing here felt great, especially for this being my first time here. Everybody comes here for one reason and that’s what I want to do next year – is win it."
Final Class 2A Top 10 Team Points
PL. TEAM PTS.
1. Spring Hill-Springstead (SPG) 98.0
2. Lakeland-Lake Gibson (LKG) 94.5
3. Boca Raton-Olympic Heights (OLYH) 93.0
4. Fort Myers-Riverdale (RIVD) 67.0
5. Brooksville-Nature Coast Technical (NCT) 54.0
6. Tampa-Jesuit (TJ) 47.0
7. Tallahassee-Lincoln (LINC) 42.5
8. Jensen Beach (JENB) 42.0
9. Homestead (HOME) 41.5
10. Orange Park-Ridgeview (RDV) 40.0
37. (tie) Hernando (HER) 16.0
Central (CEN) NTS
Final Class 1A Top 10 Team Points
PL. TEAM PTS.
1. Orlando-Lake Highland Prep (LHP) 149.5
2. Green Cove Springs–Clay (CLY) 123.0
3. Fort Lauderdale-Cardinal Gibbons (CARG) 111.0
4. Jacksonville-University Christian (UNIC) 73.0
5. Pembroke Pines-Somerset Academy (SOM) 67.0
5. Crawfordville-Wakulla (WAK) 67.0
7. Hudson-Fivay (FIV) 61.0
8 Dade City-Pasco (PAS) 56.5
9. Miami-Doral Academy (DOR) 52.0
10. New Port Richey-Gulf (GF) 51.5
24. Crystal River (CR) 20.0
Weeki Wachee (WW) NTS
Round 1 Results:
106 – Matt Landgraff (SPG) pin Mike Messina (LELY), 3:21.
106 – Sean Nguyen (NCT) won by injury default Collen Thomas (CYLK).
113 – Michael McDonald (SPG) pin Jack Frey (NIC), 1:18.
120 – Stephen Pavao (SPG) major dec. Nick Valasquez (BAYS), 12-0.
120 – Josh Farley (PALMB) pin Josh Marquez (CEN), 2:28.
120 – Christopher Moreno (DORAL) major dec. Dante Padilla (WW), 14-3.
126 – Andrew Smith (SPG) major dec. Ryan Guthrie (WP), 13-5.
138 – Jordan Rivera (SPG) dec. Chris Trammel (VEN), 8-6.
145 – Tyler Sierra (LEN) dec. Jesus Nieves (CEN), 3-2.
152 – Kenny Boyd (STRAN) dec. Joe Russo (SPG), 4-2.
160 – Brandon Vovan (NCT) dec. Branden Wade (NEASE), 4-0.
160 – Daniel Devers (COL) pin Billy Swift (SPG), 4:33.
170 – Conor Ross (SPG) pin Luis Aldana (DH), 3:57.
182 – Dylan Savoury (NCT) dec. Hunter Schawalder (MAR), 9-7.
220 – Jesse Gaudin (HER) pin Jason Osagie (LINC), 1:39.
220 – Corey Humphrey (SPG) pin Frank Giordano (PTVD), 2:40.
120 – Dylan Martin (CLAY) sec. Dante Padilla (WW), 6-4..
120 – Rashaad Bennett (EAST) pin Josh Marquez (CEN), 0:34.
145 – Ryan Hagan (OKEE) major dec. Jesus Nieves (CEN), 15-7.
152 – Joe Russo (SPG) pin Tyler Williford (PMT), 0:53.
160 – Billy Swift (SPG) major dec. Colin Williams (JENB), 12-3.
106 – Sean Nguyen (NCT) pin John Cleristor (OLYH), 141.
106 – Matt Landgraff (SPG) pin Olyson Delisca (HOME), 1:18.
113 – Michael McDonald (SPG) won by injury default Jake Gillis (ARCHM).
120 – Joe Guelfi (NAP) dec. Stephen Pavao (SPG), 10-3.
126 – Yancarlos Guera (MATER) major dec. Andrew Smith (SPG), 14-2.
138 – Jordan Rivera (SPG) dec. Matt Sincoff (OLYH), 8-7.
160 – Brandon Vovan (NCT) dec. Ripoll O'Connor (HOME), 5-1.
170 – David Martinez (SAU) pin Conor Ross (SPG), 5:44.
182 – Terry Rosier (LINC) dec. Dylan Savoury (NCT), 13-8,
220 – Austin Underwood (TJ) dec. Jesse Gaudin (HER), 4-3.
220 – Demond Richardson (HOME) pin Corey Humphrey (SPG), 0:51.
120 – Stephen Pavao (SPG) dec. Sa'Derian Perry (LKG), 5-3,
126 – Kaleb Warner (COL) pin Andrew Smith (SPG), 3:26.
152 – Jordan Mainer (EDGE) dec. Joe Russo (SPG), 5-2.
160 – Billy Swift (SPG) dec. Ripoll O' Connor (HOME), 7-5.
170 – Conor Ross (SPG) pin Bobby Austin (LOL), 2:09.
182 – Dylan Savoury (NCT) dec, Joel Morrison (ZEP), 5-2.
220 – Jesse Gaudin (HER) dec. James Rumph (MAT), 7-3.
220 – Darien Hall (HERT) pin Corey Humphrey (SPG), 0:57.
120 – Josh Farley (PAB) dec. Stephen Pavao (SPG), 6-4.
160 – Billy Swift (SPG) dec. Joseph Marquez (CHR), 6-3.
170 – Conor Ross (SPG) major dec. Levi McQuinn (FMY), 10-1.
182 – Dylan Savoury (NCT) dec. Curtis Porter (PAB), 11-7.
220 – Jesse Gaudin (HER) dec. Frank Giodano (PVE), 2-1
106 – Sean Nguyen (NCT) dec. Randy Garay (HAL), 6-0.
106 – Radley Gillis (AMC) pin Matt Landgraff (SPG), 1:41.
113 – Cole Schreiber (COL) dec. Michael McDonald (SPG), 7-6.
138 – Jordan Rivera (SPG) dec. Joey Nadotti (PAR), 8-4.
160 – Brandon Vovan (NCT) dec. Taylor Bartleson (NIC), 2-1.
106 – John Cleristor (OLYH) pin Matt Landgraff (SPG), 3:52.
113 – Rich Reichelt (RVD) pin Michael McDonald (SPG), 1:14.
160 – Billy Swift (SPG) vs. Christopher DeJesus (SEB), 6-2.
170 – Conor Ross (SPG) pin Max Gallagly (TJ), 2:17.
182 – Ashani Brown-Knight (PAR) dec. Dylan Savoury (NCT), 6-2.
220 – Jesse Gaudin (HER) dec. Demond Richardson (HOME), 5-2.
Round 8 (Consolation):
106 – Matt Landgraff (SPG) dec. Randy Garay (HAL), 5-2.
113 – Michael McDonald (SPG) via injury default Aaron Galang (CRE).
160 – Taylor Bartleson (NIC) dec. Billy Swift (SPG), via criteria (4 OTs).
170 – Conor Ross (SPG) dec. David Martinez (SAU), 6-1.
182 – Hunter Schawalder (MAR) dec. Dylan Savoury (NCT), 3-1.
220 – Jesse Gaudin (HER) dec. Nick Castoro (JENB), 5-2.
Round 9 (Championship):
106 – Radley Gillis (ARCHM) dec. Sean Nguyen (NCT), 4-2.
138 – Jordan Rivera (SPG) major dec. Joey Miuccio (MEL), 12-3.
160 – Brandon Vovan (NCT) dec. Jabari Irons (LEHA), 6-2.
Springstead Individual Results:
WGT NAME W L PINS PL
106 Landgraff, Matt 3 2 2 5th
113 McDonald, Michael 3 2 1 5th
120 Pavao, Stephen 2 2 0 -
126 Smith, Andrew 1 2 0 -
138 Rivera, Jordan 4 0 0 1st
152 Russo, Joe 1 2 1 -
160 Swift, Billy 4 2 0 6th
170 Ross, Conor 5 1 3 3rd
220 Humphrey, Corey 1 2 1 -
TOTALS 24 15 8 -
NCT Individual Results:
WGT W L PINS PL
106 Nguyen, Sean 3 1 1 2nd
160 Vovan, Brandon 4 0 0 1st
182 Savoury, Dylan 3 3 0 6th
TOTALS 10 4 0 -
Hernando Individual Results
WGT NAME W L PINS PL
220 Gaudin, Jesse 5 1 2 3rd
TOTALS 5 1 2 -
Central Individual Results:
WGT NAME W L PINS PL
120 Marquez, Josh 0 2 0 -
145 Nieves, Jesus 0 2 0 -
TOTALS 0 4 0 -
Weeki Wachee Individual Results:
WGT NAME W L PINS PL
120 Padilla, Dante 0 2 0 -
TOTALS 0 2 0 -
All-Time Hernando County State Wrestling Champions (42):
- Compiled by TONY CASTRO
NAME SCH YR CLASS WGT
Vovan, Brandon SPG 2013 2A 160
Rivera, Jordan SPG 2013 2A 138
Redman, Sean SPG 2012 2A 145
Ross, Cody SPG 2012 2A 152
Dreggors, John SPG 2012 2A 285
Bliss, Richie SPG 2011 2A 103
Toms, Virgil SPG 2011 2A 130
Soto, Nick SPG 2011 2A 135
Ross, Cody SPG 2011 2A 140
Landgraff, Shawn SPG 2011 2A 152
Bliss, Richie SPG 2010 2A 103
Toms, Virgil SPG 2010 2A 125
Soto, Nick SPG 2010 2A 130
Ross, Cody SPG 2010 2A 135
Cox, Kenny SPG 2010 2A 215
Pritz, Daniel HER 2010 1A 145
Bliss, Richie SPG 2009 2A 103
Swanton, Schuyler SPG 2008 2A 112
Swanton, Schuyler SPG 2007 2A 103
Rotunda, Windham HER 2005 1A 275
Chipoletti, Addison HER 2005 1A 189
Chipoletti, Addison HER 2004 1A 171
Chipoletti, Addison HER 2003 1A 171
Booker, Matt SPG 2001 1A 130
DeCristofaro, Gerard SPG 2001 1A 140
Pritz, Robert HER 2000 1A 140
Stevenson, Jim SPG 2000 2A 125
Smith, John HER 1999 4A 152
Swanton, Dustin SPG 1999 5A 125
Swanton, Dustin SPG 1998 5A 119
Stevenson, John SPG 1998 5A 112
Gant, Richard HER 1997 4A 125
Hill, Corey SPG 1997 5A 145
Mallin, Mike CEN 1997 4A 189
Hill, Corey SPG 1996 5A 145
Gordon, Reppard HER 1995 4A 152
Sang, Omah CEN 1994 3A 171
Deason, Chuck HER 1993 3A 125
Kuhl, Brad HER 1992 3A 135
Lane, John SPG 1991 3A 145
Hudson, Genard HER 1987 3A UNL
Hamilton, Michael HER 1982 3A 185