Every year, the state of Florida gets better and better on the wrestling mat – and with nationally-rated athletes and teams starting to lead the way, the rest of the country is now taking the Sunshine State very serious when it comes to competing with the best in the country.
While Florida will never be confused with wrestling hotbeds that churn out NCAA national champions and All-Americans at a record pace, the coaching and exposure that the competitors receive year round have become vital to the growth.
Nowhere does that competitive edge on the mat stand strong like it does in South Florida. With an elite nationally-rated program such as South Dade leading the way, programs such as Cardinal Gibbons, St. Thomas Aquinas. Somerset Academy, Cypress Bay, Southwest Miami, Southridge and others have made everyone take notice of what they’re building.
Class 1A – Cardinal Gibbons and Somerset Will Battle
As usual, Class 1A will be very competitive in South Florida – with Somerset Academy and perennial power Cardinal Gibbons among the teams to keep an eye on.
In the 106-pound class, Keys Gate sophomore Jacob Delgado, Cardinal Gibbons freshman John Yancy and Somerset eighth grader Chase Gillis will be among the better competitors to keep an eye on.
At 113 pounds, Somerset eighth grader Darian Estevez and Cardinal Gibbons sophomore Jed Huerkamp start the year as two that you will want to watch.
Eighth-grade standout Lucas Willis (Somerset), Keys Gate eighth grader Josh Swan, Chaminade-Madonna junior Joseph Scirghio and Miami Jackson junior Devon Smith have the opportunity to make some noise this season.
Monsignor Pace senior Jerrod Walker, Cardinal Gibbons junior Gabe Gibson and Mater Lakes sophomore Omar Armengol will be wrestlers to keep an eye on at 126 pounds.
In the 132-pound division, Somerset junior Anthony Temes and Cardinal Gibbons sophomore Allen Bryant will battle against some very impressive wrestlers statewide.
With the 138-pound division stacked statewide, locals such as Somerset junior Daniel Valledor and Cardinal Gibbons senior Joey Lopez will battle to get to the state tournament in March.
Cardinal Gibbons got a huge boost at 145 pounds with the transfer of Cypress Bay junior standout Amadeus Concepcion, Hallandale senior Kameron Maynard, Somerset freshman Eric Temes and Coral Springs Charter junior Jordan Taylor.
Three local athletes will impact the 152-pound class with senior Vinnie Blasucci (Somerset), junior Adonis Concepcion (Cardinal Gibbons) and Mater Lakes sophomore Hanil Suris pushing hard.
At 160 pounds, competitors such as Cardinal Gibbons junior Osani Ley, Somerset freshman Nicholas Benton and Mater Lakes sophomore Nestor Nunez will be right in the mix.
In the 170-pound group, wrestlers such as seniors Sam Canova (Somerset Canyons), Anthony Machado (Westminster Christian), Raul Gierbolini (Somerset), and juniors John Campos (Cardinal Gibbons) and Plantation American Heritage standout Jordan Johnson are solid.
Cardinal Gibbons senior Michael Lopuchanski is among the best in the state at 182 pounds. Somerset senior Juan Vernaza and Pinecrest Prep senior Wanderly Mesa are solid as well.
The 195-pound weight class also features one of the best in Florida in Cardinal Gibbons senior Christopher Williams. He is joined by Somerset freshman Daniel Miranda and Booker T. Washington senior Wilson Remy.
The 220-pound division will also be loaded with local talent – such as Coral Springs harter senior Jon Moltimor, Mater Lakes junior Cole Schwartzberg and Cardinal Gibbons senior Adam Fox.
There are four solid 285-pound athletes from South Florida this year. Leading the way is American Heritage standout George Ellis, who will be joined by Miami Jackson senior Brandon Bodden, Miami Edison senior Sumandre Vailor and Westminster Christian senior Dylan Sanchez.
Class 2A – Locals Still Face Uphill Battle
Last year, South Broward was the highest finisher among Class 2A teams in the state. Things do not appear to be getting better this year.
Lake Gibson, national powerhouse Brandon, Fort Myers Riverdale and Jensen Beach will be the programs everyone will be chasing.
Here’s a look at the South Florida athletes who have a chance to surprise this season and head to Kissimmee for the state championships:
In the 106-pound weight class, South Broward’s talented senior Anthony Valverde will be the only force from the region, but he is indeed one of the best in Florida.
His brother, Andrew, is equally as impressive at 113 pounds.
Norland junior Gabriel Duhart has a great chance to head back to state this year at 120 pounds. Doral Academy sophomore Edwin Adams and Mourning senior Adrian Gil figure to be ready at 126 pounds. Archbishop McCarthy senior Scott Thrasher is expected to head to state at 132 pounds.
Miami Central’s Kharis Blackman (138 pounds), Kahron Blackman (145 pounds); and 160-pounders Aslet Jean (Norland, senior), Alex Rodriguez (Miami Springs, senior) and Kyle Fuxa (Archbishop McCarthy, senior); and Alex Townsend (Norland, senior, 182 pounds) will be competitors to watch all season. So are 195-pounders Marcus Rice (Blanche Ely, senior) and Miami Springs sophomore Luis Amaya; and 220-pound juniors Esaias Greene (Stranahan) and Jordan Bostic (Blanche Ely). Stranahan senior 285-pounder Derek Lundy could be one of Broward’s best.
Class 3A – South Dade Is Still The Team To Beat
There is no getting around the fact that veteran head coach Vic Balmeceda and his South Dade Bucs will once again be the team to chase, but there are others – and even some that will make a major impact.
St. Thomas Aquinas has the talent to compete. So do Southwest Miami and Southridge.
The South Florida dominance begins at 106 pounds with South Dade freshman Brentli Reyna, Southridge junior Christopher Bustil, Coral Park junior Sebastian Calmet and Jonathan Ley (Mater Academy).
Defending state champion, senior Elijah Varona, gives South Dade a quality 1-2 punch right off the bat at 106 pounds and 113 pounds. Other 113-pounders include Killian senior Ryan Boncamper, Columbus sophomore Charlie Huffman, Southwest Miami sophomore Julian Hernandez, Coral Springs sophomore Raiden Johsnon, St. Thomas freshman, Donovan Ortiz and Cypress Bay sophomore Santiago Portilla.
St. Thomas senior Stephen Moreno leads an impressive group of 120 pounders that also include South Dade sophomore Tyler Orta, Braddock junior Luis Hernandez, Southwest Miami junior Zach Luis, Everglades senior Nadehlo Charles-Pierre and Coral Gables sophomore Nicholas Chitty.
Like every other weight-class statewide, South Florida’s talent stands out at 126 pounds as well. Starting with South Dade senior Arie Reyes and including St. Thomas sophomore Gianni Guerriero, Miami Palmetto senior James Findlay, North Miami senior David Mompoint and Coral Gables sophomore Fashawn Renjuste.
The power in Miami-Dade is once again reflected at 132 pounds, where Southwest Miami junior Alex Urquiza, South Dade senior Alyis Mursuli, St. Tomas senior Vinny Sessa, Coral Park senior Maris Abreu and Cypress Bay senior Ignacio Fuertes are all regarded as athletes who could all get to the state tournament.
With senior state champion Franco Valdes, senior Chris Bentley (Columbus), sophomore Jonny Lovett (Southridge), senior Zain Cruz (Monarch) and senior Carlos Arce from Cypress Bay, the 138-pound division will be interesting, but nowhere as impressive as 145 pounds – where defending champions Brevin Balmeceda (South Dade, sophomore) and Grant Aranoff (junior) from St. Thomas are easily among the best in the country and could be headed for a state final or semifinal.
Other South Floridians in the class include Southwest Miami senior Noel Fuentes, Palmetto junior Cardieonte Wilson, Cooper City senior Liam Jones and Coral Springs junior Jason Berry.
The 152-pound weight class is also loaded with Miami-Dade and Broward standouts – such as St. Thomas senior Bryce Marcus, South Dade sophomore standout Todd Perry, Cooper City senior Connor Jones, Southwest Miami freshman Adrian Vidaud, American senior Sean Sigh and Coconut Creek junior Reggie Smith.
The competition at 160 pounds begins with Southwest Miami senior Angel Del Cueto, and also features Southridge senior Antony Kinsey, St. Thomas senior Augustin Smith, Sunset senior Danny Perez and McArthur senior Dervens Marsielle.
With Southridge senior Luis Rios and South Dade junior Mikeal Fundura leading the way, the 170 pounders are talented. Miami Beach senior Adrian Perez, Southwest Miami senior Jorge Benitez, Plantation senior Dudley Bonhomme and Douglas junior Robert Rodriguez are quality performers as well.
The 182-pound weight class has a number of athletes who are all close together and could make a huge push by the time tournament time rolls around.
Ronald Reagan senior Adrian Nova, Miramar junior Chris Smith, Coral Park senior Nelson Hernandez, Southridge senior Leonard Wooten and Fort Lauderdale senior Reese Auclair will compete to get to Kissimmee this season.
Returning state champion Josiah Gittman of St. Thomas heads a very impressive group at 195. Killian senior Masrhall Sweet, Cypress Bay junior Matthew Toribio, Reagan senior Gabriel Barrocas, North Miami senior Jonathan Laurent and Coral Springs senior Dejuan Campbell are also in the hunt.
The 220-pound division should really be interesting if three-time defending state champion Dylan Meeks of Orlando Dr. Phillips comes back. If he does, you have defending state and national champion Chei Hill of South Dade, McArthur junior Hansky Paillant, Coral Gables senior Darien Martinez and Hollywood Hills senior Pedro Heleno.
If you look back over time, the 3A state champion in the 285-pound class usually comes from South Florida. Leading the way is defending state and national champion Kyron Taylor of South Dade. He has Southridge senior Melchisedek Jeudy, Columbus sophomore Dylan Perez and Coral Gables junior Jaafari Stephens.