Osceola seeks 3A crown
Baldwin eyes 4th state title
By Rick Pedone
There are new districts in place for the 2013-14 wrestling season, but one thing that won’t change is that Osceola’s recent domination of the Orange Belt Conference should continue.
The Kowboys, with several returning state placers, are among the favorites to win the Class 3A state championship.
Several other Osceola County teams boast strong rosters with wrestlers capable of reaching, and placing, at the state meets in February.
Osceola joins Celebration, Gateway and St. Cloud in 3A District 5, which also includes Haines City and Ridge Community.
Harmony and Liberty are in district 2A-6 with Orange and Volusia County competition, while Poinciana is in A-9 with several Polk County schools.
Coach Jim Bird has guided the Kowboys to one state championship (2009) and should have this year’s team in the thick of things at the Class 3A state meet.
Runners-up to Brandon last year, the Kowboys benefit by Brandon’s move to Class 2A for the next two seasons.
“We hear the talk, but there are some pretty talented programs in Class 3A,” Bird said. “We’ll be in the mix, but right now we’ve got some holes we’ve got to fill in our lineup.”
OHS is strong even after the loss of state champions Ariel Dominguez (106) and Chris Pagan (195) to graduation, along with state qualifiers Hakeem Butler, Jhlan Flanders and Paul Zupofska.
The 152-pound weight class seems pretty secure for OHS. Junior Fox Baldwin is a three-time state champion who may break the national record for career high school wins (324) and pins (242) now held by his brother, Pete, a 2011 OHS graduate. Fox has 288 wins and 211 pins entering the season.
He sat out several months this summer because of a shoulder injury, but over the past two months Baldwin has taken on several of the nation’s elite wrestlers at a series of preseason tournaments at events like the Who’s No. 1 tournament in Pennsylvania, where he beat two-time Texas state champion Nicky Reenan, 7-1.
“Fox is Fox. There’s nobody like him. He never stops working, he never stops trying to improve himself,” Bird said.
Three more state qualifiers are back: sophomore John Locksmith (120), senior Spencer Lacey (fourth at state the past two years) and state runner-up Ben Cruz (220).
Devin Acevedo (106/113) and Jose Cueves (106) will own the first two spots in the lineup, Bird said, and Tyler Schutz and Cody Newsom will hold down the 126-pound weight class.
Cody Dana (132) won 28 matches last season, while Richard Bermudez and Alex Gillford are at 138. Gio Bonilla could have a breakout season at 145, Bird said.
Nazayah Brown and Joseph Pereira are among the candidates at 160, while Lacey (170), Franklyn Lantigua (182), Rashad Marshall (195), Ben Cruz (220) and Daltyn Horak and Derek Rivers hold down the upper weight classes.
As usual, Bird will take his team through a series of demanding regular season tournaments that includes a trip to Los Angeles for the Megatron invitational, the South Dade District 16 Duals and Osceola’s Knockout Christmas Classic, all in December. All of those tournaments are loaded with elite competition.
“I’ve been telling everyone that if we can survive December, we’ll have a chance,” Bird said.
Former Gateway High standout and St. Cloud assistant Jose Vazquez joins the OHS coaching staff which also includes Rick Tribit, Matt Jones, Javier Maldonado and Jennifer Glover-Harmon.
The Kowboys host their eight-team Marvin Haven Turkey Duals today at 9:30 a.m. at the OHS gym in the regular season opener.
Coach Eric Scrivens, a former Liberty head coach and Celebration assistant, takes over the Bulldogs program and said the team is training to again become a key player in Central Florida competition.
“We have a long way to go before we will be where we need to be, but I am cautiously optimistic about this season,” Scrivens said.
Among the key returners this season, Scrivens said, are junior Kyle Mullens, who competed at 132 pounds last season.
“He’s coming off of an injury to his shoulder. Kyle has had a great off-season, and is pound for pound one of the strongest kids on the team. He finished fourth in the district last year behind three really tough seniors,” Scrivens said.
Junior Tristan Cuatchon has state tournament talent, Scrivens said, and senior Devin Winter is one of the team’s best all-around performers, the coach said.
“Devin finished second in the district behind the champion from Edgewater. He is the most mature wrestler in the room, and from a technique standpoint only challenged by Tristan Cuatchon. He has worked extremely hard this off-season,” Scrivens said.
Michael Kilcoyne is a junior who should have an excellent varsity season, Scrivens said.
“Devin, Kyle, Michael and Tristan all went out to the University of Iowa’s intensive training camp and did some very serious work,” Scrivens said.
A pair of freshmen, John Paul “JP” Andiarena and Demetrius Anderson are potential varsity starters, Scrivens said.
Coach Chris Todd leads the Longhorns into their 10th season after a 25-13 duals record last year.
Todd said it will be difficult to replace a solid group of graduated seniors that included state qualifier Dylan Gilhart, but there are several talented newcomers to keep the program on the rise.
Among those expected to lead the way are seniors Zac German and Jeremy Beesley, both state qualifiers. German was sixth at the Class 2A state meet last year,
“Sergio Morales, Richard Rodriguez, Evan Garcia and newcomer Kristopher Vargas all improved in the offseason, and I expect big things from them this season,” Todd said. “I’m excited for this group and I think they are ready to go to work.”
District champion Chase Lord returns. Sawyer Root and Alex Muralles have each impressed Todd with their talent and work ethic, and Ramon Brown and Jesus Reynoso were both newcomers last season who have improved, Todd said.
Juniors Riley Fahl and Griffen Kisamore also should be talented additions to the roster, said the coach.
“Our younger guys have been working hard in the off season with our USA club. Coach Eddie Specht has done a great job with our younger kids to get them prepared to wrestle high school matches,” Todd said. “The experience they gained is going to be what our team relies on this season. Most of the guys have been wrestling year round and really stepped up their wrestling over the past year.”
Harmony’s path to the state tournament will be difficult after powerhouse Brandon, winner of 13 straight state championships, dropped to Class 2A and is in the same region with Harmony and Liberty. State champion Springstead is in the same region.
“It’s a challenge to our kids, but I think they are ready to accept it,” Todd said. “We would like to get two or three of our wrestlers to the state tournament and place this year.”
The Horns compete at the district tournament at New Smyrna Beach Feb. 1.
Coach Jon Smorin lost two of the best wrestlers in the program’s history to graduation in Class 3A state champion Christian Vazquez and Alex Velez, third at state and the school’s all-time wins leader.
“We lost some great wrestlers last year and, quite frankly, they’re going to be very tough to replace. Losing a state champion and a three-time state place winner is not something easy to do,” Smorin said.
The good news is that state qualifier Austin Seward returns, along with regional qualifier Jaquan Loney.
“We have several other kids who we hope will get better as the season goes on,” Smorin said.
Smorin said all the county teams are loaded with talent, making the Orange Belt Conference championship a difficult goal.
“We hope to compete at OBC and just take things one day at a time. We have a lot of kids with potential who have worked very hard over the last few years, so hopefully we will see some benefit from their hard work,” Smorin said. “As a team, though, we have a lot of work to do.”
The Panthers will host the 20-team Troy Smith Duals Friday and Saturday that will feature most of the Osceola County teams plus Brandon. Action begins Friday at noon and continues Saturday at 9 a.m. Admission is $5 per day.
Coach Vic Lorenzano has increased expectations for his program as six veterans return.
The Storm won both of their matches against Ridge Community and Lake Howell last week at their Mat Classic.
Seniors Jeremy Arroyo (152) and Patrick Velez (182) will be team leaders this season, Lorenzano said.
“Both had great off seasons in the weight room, in USA tournaments, and at multiple camps,” he said.
Junior Islam Uktamov (145) also is back.
Lorenzano said sophomores Hank Woodward (113), Austin Bruner (126) and James Allen (160) will benefit from their experience as freshmen starters and from spring and summer training.
“These three look to have a strong impact,” he said.
Aisha Flores and Sa’an Alleyne will battle for the 106-pound spot, while Chris Rosa is challenged by Fred Wellington at 120.
Austin Bruner, Chris Flores, Elyja Thorpe and Stefano Saragusa seek spots at 126-132. Saragusa led the football team in rushing.
Uktamov will have competition from Tyler Caldwell, Felipe Ramirez and Jose Negron at 145.
Arroyo is backed up by Jiaya Peng and Joel Fletcha at 152.
James Allen (160) should have a great season, Lorenzano said, while Alejandro Gonzalez (170), Patrick Velez (182), Jose Flores and Shiou-Yu Sung (195-220) compete in the upper weight classes.
Allen won two matches at last week’s Mat Classic.
Freshman Antonio Anderson will be the heavyweight. He split two matches last week, beating Ridge Community by a pin.
“He is quite frankly the toughest ninth-grade heavyweight I have ever coached,” Lorenzano, who led St. Cloud to the 2002 state championship, said. “We will grow and get better as the season progresses.”
The team travels to the Lakeland McKeel Duals today.
Liberty Coach Chris Kelly said several veterans would lead the Chargers including Richard Rosado (160) and Irving Martinez (126).
Junior heavyweight in Fabian Jerez broke his wrist in preseason practice, but he should return by January, Kelly said.
Poinciana Coach Adam Hopman leads the Eagles into 2A District 9 competition.