By Ken Jackson
High school wrestling season won’t begin in earnest until mid-November, but the work to improve has no offseason and doesn’t take off for the summer.
Members of the Osceola High wrestling program who competed at the state level last season, including three state champions, competed at prestigious national events over the last two months and added a national champion to their ranks.
Abnelis Yambo, who won a girls state championship last spring and earned a place on the Puerto Rican women’s national squad, was the 132-pound champion at the U.S. Marines Junior Freestlye Nationals in Fargo, N.D. Yambo took an 8-1 lead in the title match and held on for a 10-8 win over Junior World Team member Alexandria Liles of Colorado, who beat Yambo in a May event in Texas when a Junior World Championship spot was on the line.
“I wrestled bad and got pinned by her,” Yambo said via translator in an interview after the meet. “I trained harder because I knew she’d been in my weight class (in Fargo). It’s awesome.”
By placing in the top eight in Fargo, Yambo, Ana Luciano (fifth place) at 144 pounds and rising OHS senior Malyke Hines (eighth at 132), a back-to-back 126-pound Class 3A state champ for Osceola, earned All-American honors.
“We’ve never had three All-Americans there,” said Kowboys Coach Jim Bird, who also traveled with the Attack Wrestling Club, which has members as young as 10 who competed this summer and brought home awards. “They had a great summer.”
It started Memorial Day weekend at the Southeast Regionals, where every Attack Club wrestler placed in the medals: Hines and his younger brother Jaekus, Luciano, Nathan Barrett, Anderson Heap, Adaias Ortiz, Gunner Holland, Cooper Davidson-Haase, Max Barrett, George Duncan and Madison Duncan.
Duncan then went on to become an All-American at the Disney Duals in June, where Jaekus (9-1) and Malyke (8-1) were runners-ups.
Davidson-Haase, 13, who also competed at Disney, placed fifth and earned junior freestyle All-American status at the USA Nationals in the schoolboy 97-pound weight class.
In addition to Yambo’s third place finish, Luciano placed fifth in the Women’s U.S. Open in Texas. Prior to the summer season, Luciano signed a scholarship to wrestle at King (Tenn.) College, and Bird said Yambo has a small handful of schools after her, from which she will chose when she returns from competing for Puerto Rico later this summer.
“She’s an unsigned national champ, so she’s at the top of a lot of people’s lists,” Bird said. “Ana did a great job this summer. It’s nice to see her have success for the work she’s put in and have college paid for this fall.”
Hines, a rising senior, is also already sifting through college offers among the NCAA wrestling elite, including North Carolina State, Oklahoma State and Nebraska.
“He’s another guy who’s paid his dues, so it’s exciting to see,” Bird said.