LAKELAND - Several noteworthy mat achievements took place during the grueling Class 1A FHSAA Finals at the Jenkins Arena in Polk County.
Winless Central High (0-11) turned heads.
Singer and guitarist Trini Lopez would have been proud of the Brooksville squad. The Bears brought a hammer to the state meet.
Behind senior Brandon Brown's 4-1 run at 182 pounds, CHS placed 33rd overall out of the 82 teams represented at The Lakeland Center.
CHS, which placed eighth in the 10-team team Class 1A, District 6 Tournament at Hernando High, finished the elite meet with 18 points, or better than county-rival Weeki Wachee's 11 or district runner-up Nature Coast Technical's two.
Brown, who captured his first two matches on Friday, was pinned in the second period of his tense semifinal by heavily favored Pembroke Pines-Somerset Academy junior Raekwon Reggler in 3:47.
Reggler was no slouch. He went on to win the state gold medal.
Though his title hopes were dashed, Brown captured his final two loser's bracket bouts to place third overall.
Brown (26-4) became the 12th Bear grappler to place in 50 attempts at states.
While attempting to become CHS' third state champion - and first since Mike Mallin in 1997 - the third-year letterman became the first Bear to place at states since 2003 when senior Sergio Matos placed third at 145 while senior Bucky Solomon placed sixth at 112.
Brown declined comment on his efforts.
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Weeki Wachee senior Anthony Vines' season at 285 concluded with a 0-2 finish in Lakeland.
Vines had set two county records the weekend before at Clay. Vines (53-7) won three times to surpass ex-NCT state runner-up Sean Nguyen for most wins in a season.
Vines had collected three pins to tie Springstead's John Dreggors 2010-11 mark of 39 pins.
Vines' win standard lasted less than a week.
Ironically, one of his Hornet teammates, senior Dante Padilla, won three times in six bouts to overtake Vines, 54-53.
From the treacherous loser's bracket on Saturday, Padilla clipped Marianna senior Anthony Ward, 10-4, to snap the tie for most wins.
Unfortunately for Padilla (54-12), he dropped his last two bouts losing to Orlando-Lake Highland Prep senior Bryce Rogers (12-6) and Cape Coral-Mariner junior Gianni Dattolico (16-8).
Despite his two setbacks, Padilla became the school's first-ever state placer (sixth).
With WWHS skipper Joe Felice at his brother's wedding, assistant coach Carey Gibson noted, "Dante worked his guts out to get this far. We're all very proud of him becoming the school's first-time state placer. Dante has been a huge piece of building this program from scratch."
On Vines, "When Anthony came to us, he had never wrestled and he couldn't run from one end of the gym to the other," pointed out Gibson. "Three years later, he's at states. What he accomplished this year will undoubtedly help him in life; I'm certain of it."
Second-year Hernando High skipper David Pritz is no stranger to the rigors of state meets.
The school's second-winningest grappler reached states three times and placed thrice - reaching as far as a state runner-up.
On a weekend when seniors Brennan Ertl at 160 and Jesse Gaudin at 220 both reached the state finals, winning 7-of-8 matches, Pritz couldn't be prouder.
After winning twice on Friday, the red-hot Ertl stuffed Green Cove Springs-Clay senior Caleb Loyd Saturday morning in the semis via pin in 3:27.
In the finals, however, Live Oak-Suwannee senior Shawn Brown denied Ertl the top of the podium thanks to 13-6 decision.
"I did the best I could," explained the 17-year-old Ertl after the match. "The guy was good with his tie-ups and set up a couple nice pass-byes."
Ertl (42-12 this winter, 117-56 lifetime) wasn't crushed after placing second.
"I'm like everybody else, I wanted win it," he said. "But nobody thought I'd get this far. Some people have asked 'Isn't better to win your last match and take third?' Well, I'm OK with second. I'm content with silver."
Like Ertl, Gaudin won twice on Friday before solving Cape Coral-Mariner's Alejandro Lopez in Saturday morning's semifinals, 5-3.
In the finals, Gaudin stalked Fort Myers-Southwest Florida Christian senior Noah Huxley from the opening whistle in posting an eventual 3-2 decision.
A year ago, Gaudin fell in last year's state semifinals to Tampa-Jesuit's Austin Underwood. That narrow loss denied the four-year Leopard starter a shot at his first gold medal.
That loss - more than anything else - served as motivation for this season.
Gaudin concluded his prep career sweeping the 2014 state series behind an impressive 11-0 run. With his efforts, he became the 12th Leopard to become a state champion.
Gaudin finished a personal-best 49-3.
Gaudin (146-19 lifetime) finished one win away from tying the HHS single-season record of most wins set by three-time state champion Addison Chipoletti (50 in 2004-05).
What's even more impressive? Gaudin lost to Sarasota senior Tobias Baker twice during the regular season. On Saturday night, Baker won the 2A state gold medal.
Gaudin's other loss was to Jack Bales of Orlando-Edgewater. Bales lost in overtime of the 3A state final at 220.
"I came in wanting to dominate," explained the 18-year-old Gaudin. "The key was me being offensive-minded and I had to stick to my game plan."
On the difference a year made, "I have a lot more experience, there's more wisdom and I came in a lot more confident," detailed Gaudin, a three-sport standout.
On his last two bouts, "Those two last guys were two of the best I've ever faced," said Gaudin.
The gold medal was savored by Gaudin.
"Now it seems like all the blood, sweat and practice all paid off," noted the 6-foot-2 Gaudin. "I didn't want to look back at this experience and have any regrets. I wanted to be a state champion ever since I started this sport.
"I have to dedicate this win to Coach (Mark) Beach for convincing me to come out and for the entire Pritz family for their support on and off the mats, and I thank God for showing me the light."
"Both of our guys, Ertl and Jesse, wrestled the tournament of their lives," said the second-year Pritz. "This is where you want to end up as a senior."
On the key to the Leopards' eighth-place state finish, "We peaked precisely at the right time of the year," noted Pritz. "We put all our eggs in one basket for this one.
"Overall, we had a young team, but I spent a lot of individual time making sure Ertl and Jesse were ready. Their hard work was rewarded."
Past Hernando High State Wrestling Champions (14):
- Compiled by TONY CASTRO
NAME SCH YEAR CLAS WGT
Gaudin, Jesse HER 2014 1A 220
Pritz, Daniel HER 2010 1A 145
Rotunda, Windham HER 2005 1A 275
Chipoletti, Addison HER 2005 1A 189
Chipoletti, Addison HER 2004 1A 171
Chipoletti, Addison HER 2003 1A 171
Pritz, Robert HER 2000 1A 140
Smith, John HER 1999 4A 152
Gant, Richard HER 1997 4A 125
Gordon, Reppard HER 1995 4A 152
Deason, Chuck HER 1993 3A 125
Kuhl, Brad HER 1992 3A 135
Hudson, Genard HER 1987 3A UNL
Hamilton, Michael HER 1982 3A 185