The expected two-horse race at Green Cove Springs between defending Class 1A champ Orlando-Lake Highland Prep and host Clay lived up to its advanced expectations in this past weekend's 1A-Region II Wrestling Tournament.
The visiting LHP Highlanders captured six of eight finals bouts to deny the three-time defending 1A state runner-up Clay Blue Devils their 15th straight regional crown, 207.0-187.0.
Clay, which won one of four finals bouts, advanced a meet-best nine grapplers to next weekend's 50th Finals in Lakeland. LHP will send eight.
Hernando County, which was represented by four mat programs, saw 15 of its 24 mat men that entered Clay eliminated in the two-day, 31-team, double-elimination IBT (individual bracketed tournament).
Of the Hernando County contingency, Nature Coast Technical placed seventh (69.0) followed by Weeki Wachee in eighth (60.5), Hernando tied for 10th (50.0) while Central finished 17th (34.5).
Of the 11 Sharks that entered Clay, three survived.
"It was a tough house," explained Nature Coast's 10th-year skipper Mike Lastra. "With two powerhouse teams duking it out for first that left pretty much everyone else scraping for two spots per weight class."
On the meet's difference, "I think we lost six kids in the consi (consolation) quarterfinals," lamented Lastra. "We knew coming in that we'd be in that spot."
On the Sharks' bright spots, "Anthony (Contegiacomo) wrestled tough. In that final, Jesse (Gaudin) wrestled a lot more aggressive than I've ever seen," detailed Lastra. "Pushing two more state qualifiers was huge. A state qualifier is still a state qualifier. Even placing fourth, there's merit coming from the toughest 1A regional to states."
NCT netted 23 individual victories in 44 bouts (52.2 percent) behind six pins.
The Brooksville mat men pushed a trio to states including the sophomore Contegiacomo at 220 pounds, and juniors Mark Espinosa at 126 and Le'Shaun Gray at 170.
Contegiacomo (51-12) was the lone Shark to reach the regional finals - the first-ever sophomore to achieve the feat in school history - but was pinned by Hernando High senior Jesse Gaudin in 5:21.
Gaudin has solved Contegiacomo in each of the four meetings this season.
Contegiacomo reached the finals by winning his first three matches.
On Friday, he decisioned Rockledge junior C.J. Williams (7-0), before folding Gainesville-Eastside sophomore Kenneth Vance Jr. (13-4).
In Saturday's semifinals, Contegiacomo solved Crystal River senior Carlos Sanabria for the fourth time in four meetings (7-1).
Espinosa (45-19) lost in the consolation finals to Titusville-Astronaut senior Travis Ahrens via a pin in 2:56.
Likewise, Gray (35-13) lost in the consolation finals and settled for fourth as Clay junior Trevor Larson applied a 2-1 victory.
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Weeki Wachee, which walked in with five grapplers, pushed a school-record three to Polk County featuring: seniors Dante Padilla at 120, Jesus Nieves at 132 and Anthony Vines at 285.
"I called that team score," explained WWHS mentor Joe Felice. "Lake Highland doesn't have great numbers, but those guys wrestle at a different level; they had to beat Clay.
"Coming in with only five guys, I'm happy where we ended up," he added. "Had we caught more breaks, I think we would've pulled ahead of Nature Coast. We'll give them another run next week."
All told, WWHS grapplers netted 12 wins in 21 bouts (57 percent).
Vines, who had never reached the regional level, pinned his first three opponents before losing in the finals via a pin for the second time in two weeks to Pasco junior Andrew Ivie (1:50).
On Friday, the unassuming Vines opened the meet by folding up Dunnellon senior Alan Perrotta (5:10) and Cocoa senior David Stanley (4:43).
In Saturday's semifinals, the third-year Hornet folded Interlachen junior Dallas Vaughn (3:43).
The victory over Vaughn set a Hernando County record for most wins in a season (53) - snapping the old mark of 52 set by NCT's Sean Nguyen in 2011-12.
Coincidentally, the pin over Vaughn allowed Vines to tie the county record for most pins in a single season (39), set by former Springstead state champion John Dreggors in 2010-11.
"Vines wrestled great," stressed Coach Felice, a former state qualifier at Springstead. "I don't think he knows about the county records. The difference was he just went with so much confidence. Everybody doubts the kid, but at the end of the match, the refs keep raising Anthony's arm."
Like Vines, Padilla (51-9) settled for silver. The third-year Hornet finished 3-1 in Clay County.
Padilla opened the meet by pinning Crystal River frosh Jesse Stills (1:14) and stuffing Rockledge senior Robert Robillard (10-3).
In Saturday's semifinals, Padilla solved Deltona junior Austin Rasmussen (5-2) before falling in the finals to LHP freshman Bryce Rogers (11-5).
"Dante wrestled a totally different style than what got him to the finals," described a disappointed Felice. "We can take that kid down, but he (Padilla) deviated from what he does best."
For his part, Nieves (49-8) finished 2-2 losing to Clay's talented senior Dylan Martin (5-3) before dropping the consolation finals bout for third place to Astronaut sophomore Ethan Ahrens (2-1).
"Martin got up early 4-1 before Jesus turned it on," noted Felice. "He's a guy Jesus can beat. He's got to stop playing out the matches in his head - and just wrestle."
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Of Hernando High's five members who went to Clay, two survived.
HHS collected eight wins in 15 bouts, pushing two seniors to the 1A-II finals: Brennan Ertl at 160 and Jesse Gaudin at 220.
"As far as the team scores, Lake Highland Prep and Clay dominated the tournament as expected," remarked the second-year HHS mentor David Pritz. "Realistically, we pushed our two best guys to states. Hopefully, this experience will be good for the young guys - to keep them hungry."
Gaudin (45-3) became the fifth Leopard - joining Chuck Deason (1992-93),
Addison Chipoletti (2004-05), David Pritz (2005-06) and Jesse Graham (2007-08) - as two-time regional champions.
Gaudin opened with a rare forfeit nod over Mason Li of Titusville before notching a 10-2 major decision over Clay junior Jonathan Whiting.
In Saturday's semifinals, the Leopard four-year starter pinned Pasco sophomore Nick Burt (1:23) before stuffing NCT's Contegiacomo in the finals.
Pritz thought one of the biggest keys of success was Gaudin becoming more offensive than he's seen all year.
While Gaudin earned his second state berth, Ertl (39-11) advanced to states for the first time.
On Friday, the four-year letterman folded Astronaut sophomore LeRon Berry (5:35) before topping LHP sophomore Kevin Ford (10-6).
In Saturday's semis, Ertl crushed The Villages junior Zachary Logan via a major decision (19-9).
In the finals, Rockledge senior Trace Woxberg (40-2) handed Ertl a decisive 11-3 loss.
"Ertl wrestled better than he did when he won at Durant," described Pritz. "He was on. We've known what kind of ability he's had. He can relax; the pressure's off on going to states. Hopefully, he'll just go out there and wrestle."
Of Central's three entries, senior Brandon Brown advanced to states behind a perfect 3-0 run at 182.
Brown, who opened with a bye, pinned Astronaut sophomore Harry Hampton (1:55).
In Saturday's semis, Brown nipped Clay junior Tristan Sichmeller (6-3) before mangling Gulf senior Jarred Kruse in the finals via a major decision (13-5).
Brown (22-3 overall, nine pins) becomes the first Bear grappler to win a regional title in 13 winters - or since CHS sophomore Bucky Solomon turned the trick at 103 pounds on Feb. 17, 2001 in the 1A-II Meet at Central.
Final 1A-II Wrestling Tournament Results:
PL SCHOOL PTS.
1. Orlando-Lake Highland Prep (LHP) 207.0
2. Green Cove Springs-Clay (CLAY) 187.0
3. Pasco (PAS) 107.5
4. Crystal River (CR) 102.0
5. Titusville-Astronaut (AST) 85.0
6. Rockledge (ROCK) 73.0
7. Nature Coast Technical (NCT) 69.0
8. Weeki Wachee (WW) 60.5
9. Wesley Chapel (WC) 56.0
10. Holiday-Anclote (ANC) 50.0
10. Hernando (HER) 50.0
12. The Villages (TV) 49.0
13. New Port Richey-Gulf (GF) 45.0
14. Dunnellon (DUNN) 43.0
15. Titusville (TIT) 36.5
16. Satellite Beach-Satellite (SAT) 35.0
17. Central (CEN) 34.5
18. Orlando-Bishop Moore (OBM) 28.5
19. Deltona (DELT) 27.0
20. Hudson (HUD) 20.0
21. Interlachen (INT) 16.0
22. Port Orange-Atlantic (ATL) 15.0
22. Cocoa Beach-Space Coast (SC) 15.0
24. Cocoa (COC) 12.0
24. Cocoa Beach (COCB) 12.0
24. Citra-North Marion (NM) 12.0
27. Palatka (PAL) 11.0
28. Ocala-Trinity Catholic (OTC) 9.0
29. New Port Richey-Ridgewood (RW) 8.0
30. Gainesville-Eastside (EAST) 7.0
31. Orlando-Central Florida Christian (CFC) 4.0
1A-II State Qualifiers (56)
RK NAME NO.
1. Green Cove Springs-Clay 9
2. Orlando-Lake Highland Prep 8
3. Crystal River 4
3. Titusville-Astronaut 4
5. Nature Coast Technical 3
5. Pasco 3
5. Rockledge 3
5. Weeki Wachee 3
9. Dunnellon 2
9. Holiday-Anclote 2
9. Hernando 2
9. New Port Richey-Gulf 2
9. The Villages 2
9. Wesley Chapel 2
15. Central 1
15. Cocoa Beach-Space Coast 1
15. Deltona 1
15. Hudson 1
15. Orlando-Bishop Moore 1
15. Satellite Beach-Satellite 1
15. Titusville 1
106 - Joey Silva (LHP) dec. Andrew Klopman (CLAY), 6-3.
113 - Jake Brindley (LHP) dec. Brandon McQuinn (ANC), 8-2.
120 - Bryce Rogers (LHP) dec. Dante Padilla (WW), 11-5.
126 - Michael Allan (CR) dec. Jon Galvan (WC), 8-7.
132 - Elijah Cleary (LHP) pin Dylan Martin (CLAY), 4:51.
138 - Anthony Petrone (LHP) dec. Skyler White (PAS), 4-2.
145 - Adam Breindel (CLAY) dec. Justin Martinez (LHP), 7-0.
152 - Jake Spengler (LHP) pin Imier Almanzar (CLAY), 3:46.
160 - Trace Woxberg (ROCK) major dec. Brennan Ertl (HER), 11-3.
170 - Colton Jackson (TV) won by injury default over Conner Andrew (LHP).
182 - Brandon Brown (CEN) major dec. Jarred Kruse (GF), 13-5.
195 - Cole Fagan (DUNN) dec. Chris Ralston (SAT), 5-0.
220 - Jesse Gaudin (HER) pin Anthony Contegiacomo (NCT), 5:21.
285 - Andrew Ivie (PAS) pin Anthony Vines (WW), 1:50.
106 - Lukas Twardowsky (PAS) dec. Conner Kirk (AST), 6-4.
113 - Dale Browning (CLAY) pin Jacob Demming (ROCK), 2:24.
120 - Austin Rasmussen (DEL) dec. Steven Arce (TIT), 3-1.
126 - Travis Ahrens (AST) pin Mark Espinosa (NCT), 2:56.
132 - Ethan Ahrens (AST) dec. Jesus Nieves (WW), 2-1.
138 - Max Wohlabaugh (OBM) dec. Austin Luke (CLAY), 6-3 (2 OT).
145 - Quentin Johnson (SC) major dec. Robert Napolitano (GF), 8-0.
152 - Jonte Scott (ANC) pin Kyle Barrington (ROCK), 1:35.
160 - Caleb Loyd (CLAY) dec. Zachary Logan (TV), 3-1.
170 - Trevor Larson (CLAY) dec. Le'Shaun Gray (NCT), 2-1.
182 - Nathan Love (WC) dec. Eddie Bennis (CR), 5-1.
195 - Andrew Bilby (CR) pin Drake Carson (HUD), 2:43.
220 - Travis Dunbar (AST) won by injury default over Carlos Sanabria (CR).
285 - Roland Samec (CLAY) dec. Alan Perrotta (DUNN), 3-0.
Nature Coast Technical Individual Results:
WGT NAME W L PINS PL
120 Gibson, Jordan 0 2 0 -
126 Espinosa, Mark 3 2 0 4th
132 DeFranco, Joey 2 2 0 -
138 Jazikoff, Jeramie 2 2 1 -
145 Alicea, Raivyn 2 2 1 -
152 Rivera, Adrian 1 2 0 -
160 Smith, DeShawn 2 2 1 -
170 Gray, Le'Shaun 4 2 2 4th
195 Ritchie, Frank 2 2 1 -
220 Contegiacomo, Anthony 3 1 0 2nd
285 Brooks, Dean 2 2 0 -
TOTALS (11) 23 21 6 -3-
Weeki Wachee Individual Results:
WGT NAME W L PINS PL
106 Smith, Brandon 2 2 2 -
120 Padilla, Dante 3 1 1 2nd
132 Nieves, Jesus 2 2 0 4th
138 Enoch, Brandon 1 2 0 -
285 Vines, Anthony 3 1 3 2nd
TOTALS (5) 12 9 7 -3-
Hernando Individual Results
WGT NAME W L PINS PL
120 Mosher, Bailey 1 2 1 -
138 Maniates, Codey 0 2 0 -
160 Ertl, Brennan 3 1 1 2nd
170 Webber, Austin 0 2 0 -
220 Gaudin, Jesse 4 0 2 1st
TOTALS (5) 8 7 4 -2-
Central Individual Results
WGT NAME W L PINS PL
113 Mestres, Austin 3 2 2 -
170 Templar, John 1 2 1 -
182 Brown, Brandon 3 0 1 1st
TOTALS (3) 7 4 4 -1-