KISSIMMEE - Last winter, the Cleveland (Tenn.) Raiders spoiled the party.
The Raiders captured the inaugural star-studded, two-day, 26-team Knockout Christmas Classic at Kissimmee-Osceola High following the final heavyweight match, edging host Osceola, 239.0-237.0.
A year later, the tourney's drama lingered until Saturday's 195-pound final when third-seeded Orlando-Dr. Phillips frosh Dylan Meeks edged top-seeded Osceola senior Ben Cruz, 3-2.
Had the Cruz decisioned Meeks, the Class 3A, District 5 Kowboys would have secured four critical team points to finish with 184.0.
Instead, behind Meeks' upset, the Pinellas County-based 3A-7 Palm Harbor University Hurricanes lifted the championship trophy following this weekend's two-day, 29-team event, 182.5-180.0.
Rounding out a tightly-bunched final five, Camden County (Ga.) finished third (178.5) followed by 3A-16 Homestead-South Dade (177.0) and 3A-12 Fort Lauderdale-St. Thomas Aquinas (168.5)
For the second straight winter in the palatial Kowboy gymnasium, 2A-5 Springstead placed sixth (137.0 points).
The Eagles entered the meet with a season-low 10 grapplers - not filling 113, 182 and 195 - and not having anyone to replace 160-pound senior Vincent Buonanno. Buonanno was ill and did not make the trip.
The Mariner Boulevard mat men, who had two finalists, returned home with six placers: junior Michael McDonald at 120 (first), senior Corey Humphrey at 220 (second), juniors Matt Landgraff at 106 and Billy Swift at 170 (third), senior Travis O'Neil at 285 (fourth) and senior Jordan Rivera at 145 (sixth).
Second-year Springstead skipper Sal Basile thought the Osceola County event featured "a mixed bag of results."
The Spring Hill grapplers posted 29 wins in 45 bouts (64 percent), featuring 13 pins. All 10 Eagles notched at least one win in the stout field.
SHS walked in with three unbeaten wrestlers and walked out with one - McDonald.
"There's no doubt who our best performer was," indicated Basile following McDonald's brilliant 5-0 weekend featuring two wins over two defending FHSAA state champions. "How could you not pick Mikey as our tourney MVP? He handled everybody and beat two state champions - that doesn't happen every day or every weekend."
On the Eagles' highlight, "Mikey's got some instincts that are special," noted Basile of his team captain. "When the pressure is at its highest, Mikey responds. He had some scrambles that were amazing to watch. What sets him apart from a lot of the others is he has the desire and hunger to go further."
"We saw some of our kids wrestle the best they've shown this year and we had some sub-par performances from some others," noted Basile, 2A's defending Florida Dairy Farmer's Coach of the Year. "I thought we had a respectable showing. Our goal was to finish again among the top 10 and we did that. We beat out some outstanding teams like Fleming Island, Winter Springs and Lake Highland Prep.
"Individually, we saw a great weekend from Corey. I honestly thought he was going to win the championship, but he made one mistake," detailed Basile. "And Billy was ahead in his match (3-1) Friday against a Camden kid and got caught."
After placing third in the inaugural Knockout event, the third-year McDonald was the lone Spring Hill grappler to leave unscathed.
The third-seeded McDonald opened the meet Friday by pinning his two foes, East Paulding's (Ga.) Adam Coviello (0:54) and Miami-Columbus' Anthony Codinach (1:03), before twisting Englewood-Lemon Bay's Dominic Schofield into a major decision (11-0).
In Saturday's semifinal against second-seeded and 2013 state champion Radley Gillis of Southwest Ranches-Archbishop McCarthy, McDonald notched his 72nd career pin in 3:48. The loss was Gillis' first of the season.
In the final, McDonald trimmed top-seeded Southwest Miami frosh Franco Valdes, 5-2.
Valdes won one of his team's two state titles last winter as a member of Pembroke Pines' Somerset Academy before transferring.
The tourney sweep improved McDonald to 21-0 and extended his win skein dating back to last winter to 22 in a row.
Displaying a shy grin, "I had a pretty good weekend," said the 17-year-old. "I beat two state champs. But to be completely honest I didn't feel I wrestled my best."
Attempting to define his success, "Coach (Basile) says I'm the hardest worker in the room, which means a lot," he said. "I didn't just want to win this tournament; I want to be the best every weekend - no matter who's in the building."
McDonald, who climbed to 105-16 (87 percent) lifetime, said of the meet's significance, "None of this matters till I get a state title."
For his part, Landgraff finished 5-1 behind a meet-best four pins.
On Friday, the second seed and two-time state placer flattened his first three foes: Naples-Palmetto Ridge's Ryan Rosenbalm (0:31), Orlando-Bishop Moore's Nick Walker (0:46) and Winter Springs' Cody Backer (1:09).
The pin over Walker was a milestone as Landgraff became the 24th Eagle in 34 mat seasons to reach the coveted 100-win fraternity.
In Saturday's semifinal, Landgraff was upset by third-seeded Palm Harbor University senior and 2013 state qualifier Tim Sakow (5-0).
A year earlier, Landgraff had solved Sakow in his final consolation match to place third (3-2).
Despite Landgraff's career-best 20-match win streak being history, he did not lose focus after dropping into the loser's bracket.
Landgraff notched his tourney-high fourth pin - and his 58th of his career - against Osceola's Deven Acevedo (2:06) before securing third place by blanking Orlando-Lake Highland Prep's Joe Silva (3-0).
"I'm not OK with third," admitted the 16-year-old Landgraff, who departed the Kowboy gym at 21-1. "I came here to win. I definitely didn't want a repeat (third-place finish)."
On his semifinal loss, "It stinks. I didn't wrestle my match," he said. "It should have been a whole lot closer. He's never beaten me before. I've got a lot to work on before states. In my book, I should have won this. I didn't want to remember this tournament for getting my 100th win and not winning it all."
Swift, who was seeded eighth, left 5-1 clutching a bronze medallion.
The 2013 state placer opened the meet by edging Orange City-University senior and 2013 state qualifier Andrew Weaver via a narrow decision (4-3).
Ahead 3-1 against Camden County's Alex Diaz, Swift was pinned in 2:46.
From the loser's bracket, Swift closed out the rugged meet behind four straight wins.
Swift pinned Palm Harbor University senior Jake Timpanaro (2:07), folded Winter Springs senior Pierce Plusk into a major decision (9-1) and rallied from behind to overtake Osceola senior and 2013 state placer Spence Lacey (7-6).
Last winter, Lacey was a particular thorn edging Swift twice (7-3, 4-0).
In the consolation finals, Swift (19-3 overall) shut out Manatee senior and 2013 state qualifier Dakoda Dossey (6-0).
Despite placing in his fourth straight IBT (individually bracketed tournament), the previous week's last-second loss to Bunnell-Flagler Palm Coast's Justin Boyle haunted Swift with 'What ifs?'
"Coming in, that loss was in the back of my mind. I know now that I screwed up big time," declared the 17-year-old Swift. "But I was locked and loaded when I came here. Even though this tournament was pretty tough, I think I should have won it.
"The difference was I made a poor decision against Diaz," he recalled. "Because of it, I ended up on my back. I don't feel like I'm where I need to be. Everything needs to improve much faster."
2013 Final Knockout Christmas Classic II Team Standings
PL TEAM CLASS PTS.
1. Palm Harbor University (UNI) 3A-7 182.5
2. Kissimmee-Osceola (KO) 3A-5 180.0
3. Camden County, Ga. (CAMC) - 178.5
4. Homestead-South Dade (SD) 3A-16 177.5
5. Fort Lauderdale-St. Thomas-Aquinas (STA) 3A-12 168.5
6. Springstead (SPG) 2A-5 137.0
7. Winter Springs (WS) 3A-3 126.0
8. Bradenton-Manatee (MAN) 3A-8 105.5
9. Orlando-Lake Highland Prep (LHP) 1A-7 101.5
10. Boca Raton-Olympic Heights (OLYH) 3A-11 95.5
11. Orlando-Dr. Phillips (DRP) 3A-2 91.0
12. Miami-Columbus (COL) 3A-15 85.0
13. Orange Park-Fleming Island (FI) 3A-1 81.5
14. Naples-Palmetto Ridge (PR) 2A-12 81.0
15. Walton, Ga. (WAL) - 60.5
16. Southwest Miami (SWM) 3A-15 64.0
17. Miami-Braddock (BRAD) 3A-15 50.0
17. Palm Bay-Heritage (HERT) 2A-13 50.0
19. Pembroke Pines-Somerset Academy (SOMS) 1A-15 49.0
20. Southwest Ranches-Archbishop McCarthy (ARCH) 2A-15 45.0
21. Orange City-University (OCU) 3A-3 41.0
22. Lee-Davis, Va. (DAV) - 39.5
23 Fort Myers-Riverdale (RIV) 2A-11 36.0
24. Orlando-Cypress Creek (CYPC) 3A-4 27.0
25. Orlando- Bishop Moore (OBM) 1A-7 26.0
26. Englewood-Lemon Bay (LEM) 1A-12 23.0
27. Fort Pierce-Central (FPC) 3A-9 20.5
28. East Paulding, Ga. (EPA) - 18.0
29. Forsyth Central, Ga. (FOR) - 17.0
2013 Knockout Christmas Classic Finals Results
106 - Ozzy Lugo (SD) dec. Tim Sakow (PHU), 4-3.
113 - Jake Brindley (LHP) dec. Caleb Rudisill (MAN), 11-5.
120 - Michael McDonald (SPG) dec. Franco Valdes (SWM), 5-2.
126 - Jared Prince (PHU) vs. Maleek Williams (SD), 9-3.
132 - Conner Prince (PHU) major dec. Justin Ramirez (SD), 11-0.
138 - Patricio Lugo (SD) dec. Sal Gereriero (STA), 3-1.
145 - Isaiah Crosby (SD) dec. Aaron Hartman (PHU), 7-5.
152 - Jake Spengler (LHP) dec. Nathan Pristavec (CAM), 3-1.
160 - Fox Baldwin (KO) pin Jesse Fulk (MAN), 3:46.
170 - Chase Singletary (PR) dec. John Weiss (STA), 5-0.
182 - Raekwon Reggler (SOMS) dec. Jean Philippe Rossy (STA), 3-2.
195 - Dylan Meeks (DRP) dec. Ben Cruz (KO), 3-2.
220 - Eric Smith (WAL) pin Corey Humphrey (SPG), 3:55.
285 - Colton Lynn (STA) pin George Humphreys (WAL), 1:14
2013 Knockout Christmas Classic Consolation Finals Results
106 - Matt Landgraff (SPG) dec. Joe Silva (LHP), 3-0.
113 - Chase Robison (FI) dec. Brandon Staley (WS), 10-3.
120 - John Locksmith (KO) pin Denton Spencer (CAM), 3:30.
126 - Andrew Holcomb (CAM) dec. Jake Gillis (ARCH), 7-2.
132 - Charles Cuthbert (FI) dec. Joel Alvarez (BRAD), 10-8 (OT).
138 - Elo Roberson (CAM) dec. Isaac Garcia (HERT), 7-4.
145 - Damian Penichet (COL) dec. Joey Nadotti (PR), 3-1.
152 - Kyle Vengel (OLY) dec. Brian Perez (STA), 5-2.
160 - Jeremy Scott (STA) dec. Travis Koenig (CAM), 2-1.
170 - Billy Swift (SPG) dec. Dakoda Dossey (MAN), 6-0.
182 - Franklin Lantigua (KO) pin David Moodie (WS), 1:28.
195 - Ronaldo Abreu (OLY) pin Aaron Galegor (CAM), 3:59.
220 - Darien Hall (HERT) dec. Edison Munnings (DRP), 5-3.
285 - Colby Meeks (DRP) pin Travis O'Neil (SPG), 4:13.
Springstead Individual Results
WGT NAME W L PINS PL
106 Landgraff, Matt 5 1 4 3rd
120 McDonald, Michael 5 0 3 1st
126 D'Alessandro, Quentin 0 2 0 -
132 Smith, Andrew 2 2 0 -
138 Voisinet, Jonathan 0 2 0 -
145 Rivera, Jordan 3 3 1 6th
152 Holdway, Robert 1 2 0 -
170 Swift, Billy 5 1 1 3rd
220 Humphrey, Corey 4 1 2 2nd
285 O'Neil, Travis 4 2 2 4th
TOTALS 29 16 13