Sports Editor

3A Kowboys win another OBC title, but pushed hard by Harmony, who should also be a force in 2A regionals and state meet

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OBC wrestling

Osceola’s Victor Vega (left) and Harmony’s Hunter Davis wrestle in the third-place bout at 132 pounds at the Orange Belt Conference championship wrestling meet at OHS Friday. Vega’s pin in the third period, along with seven Kowboy championships, helped Osceola claim its 12th conference title in 13 years.

Last year’s wrestling season broke new ground with the introduction of a duals format championship series that served to shake up the season quite a bit. This year, it’s time to refine it.

District duals tournaments will be held Jan. 12. Regionals will be held the following Thursday (Jan. 17), and Osceola will again host the Round-of-8 state tournament in the three classes Jan. 25-26.

To make room in the schedule, the Orange Belt Conference championship was held, like last year, in the second week of the regular season.

Osceola County also plays host to the traditional state bracket championship tournament March 2-3 at Heritage Park.

Like last year, expect our county to be represented — well — at both of those tournaments. Osceola will go for its 10th straight district title, and its 13th straight for both being in the top six in its class in the team standings and having an individual state champion. The Kowboys will measure themselves in the duals tournament, regional and state meets against South Dade, a favorite to win another Class 3A state crown when the state’s best converge on Kissimmee.

Harmony, which sent four wrestlers to state last year, is a factor again in Class 2A, where Brandon has set the bar for decades.

Osceola made it 12 OBC titles in 13 years on Friday, scoring 267.5 points, claiming seven of the 14 weight class titles and besting Harmony (220.5), Celebration (152), St. Cloud (146), Liberty (125.5), Gateway (104), Poinciana (71) and Tohopekaliga (64).

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OBC wrestling 2

Osceola’s Jed Glover and Gateway’s Justin Chamorro wrestle for fifth place at 160 pounds at the Orange Belt Conference championships Friday.

Osceola

The second part of last weekend’s wrestling action in the Kowboy gym was the annual Danny Byron Invite, which brought some of the state and Southeast’s best teams like Lownes County, West Forsyth and Camden County from Georgia, 3A duals runner-up Fleming Island.

Malyke Hines, the two-time 3A state champion at 126 pounds, stepped up to 138 and won the Danny Byron championship pool, along with Boris Espinosa at 220. Jaekus, who was the state runner-up at 106 as a freshman, took the OBC title and a Byron runner-up spot at 120.

Other OBC champs were Zayveon Mitchell (who defeated teammate George Duncan at 113), Adriel Martinez (145), a pair of state qualifiers last year in Chase Fuller (152) and Nolin Eaddy (160) and defending district champ Boris Espinosa (220, where teammate Dylan Ruiz also reached the finals).

Oscar Maldonado (106) was an OBC runner-up, as was Josue Calderon at 126. Victor Vega went third at 132. Jed Glover (160) and Alvin Lee (182) took second in the White pool of the Danny Byron.

Jake McKinney and Cody Carter wrestled the weekend at 285.

Harmony

The Longhorns will look “vastly different than last year,” Coach Vic Lorenzano said, as five senior district champions including 2A state runner-up Carter Harris have moved on.

Harmony will have to rebuild – Or reload? – with a new young squad.

“We’ll build with some upcoming freshmen, add in more experienced sophomores, gritty juniors, and a small group of seniors learning how to be leaders like their predecessors, Owen Wetzel and Carter Harris, who were not normal guys.

Alvaro Morzan, a returning District 2A-6 champ who recorded pins in an early-season dual meet against Bishop Moore, is a leader now, Lorenzano said, “but  he needs some help and we are looking for others to step up, regardless of age.”

Freshman Aiden Poe and sophomore Lane Sandlin will hold down 106 and 113 until junior Dean Miller fully recovers from a pre-season shoulder surgery. Freshman Melvin Ewen is off and running at 132 pounds with an OBC title in his pocket.

“He and Poe at 106 are two of the most talented freshman I have ever coached, and both will make big impacts this year,” Lorenzano said.

Returning senior Josh Hall is back at 138 and was the OBC runner-up, and is pushed by sophomore Fletcher Small.

Junior Sean Seery and sophomore Marshall Smith hold down 152 and 160, and two-time district champion Avrey Hamm is at “the right weight” of 195, but is coming back from an August shoulder injury, so sophomore Juan Gomez wrestles there early in the year. Trey Hayes and Darren Davis opened the year with two pins in the early season duals at 220 and 285.

“This Longhorn team’s currently starting 2 freshmen, 6 sophomores, 2 juniors, and 4 seniors,” said Lorenzano, who deferred to a deep coaching staff for successes of the recent past, and the anticipated success of the future.

Celebration

The Storm, under new coach Tyler Smith, was an impressive third at the OBCs, paced by champs Keyshawn Peterson (126) and Alfonso Serrano (182). They got there with depth.

“One of my goals was upping the numbers, so I’m excited,” said Smith, who came over from Southeastern University in Lakeland. “We’ve got a lot of first-year kids who are aggressive, and they’re catching on.”

There’s plenty of veterans, too, including seniors Jacob DeMarino (132) and David Miville (138), junior Lucas DeMarino (145) and seniors Will Huyke and Dylan Dozier at 170 and junior Yuriel Carrero at 195. On the flip side, freshmen Kyler Peraza (113) and Joshua Riddle (220) contributed at the OBCs.

“I took this to make an impact on the kids, and watch them grow up every day, and so far it’s been a blast,” Smith said.

St. Cloud

Former Osceola and Bulldogs assistant Donald Cash takes over that program. Christian Rangel won an OBC title at 170 pounds on Friday.

Also competing at OBCs were freshmen Sophia Anderson (106) and Maverick Hauser (120), sophomores Cody Costello (126), Logan Holoubek (132), Spencer Oneill (152) and Wilfredo Martinez (160), junior OBC runner-up Valdemar Guerra (182) and sophomores Bryson Harrington (220) and Brandon Garcia (285), so it’s a young bunch.

Liberty

Sophomore Will Valach was an OBC champ for Coach Emil Wells’ Charger program Friday. The lineup also features Alejandro Cifuentes at 113, Amara Morales at 120, Manny Rentas at 126, Jonathan Garcia Torres, an OBC runner-up, at 132, Tatyiana Smith at 138, Scott Lake at 145, OBC runner-up Ty Moody at 160, Kevin Cavalcante at 170, Beji Auguste at 220 and Gean Toledo at 285.

Gateway

Jared Colon was the 195-pound champion for the Panthers, coached by Travis Hill. Also wrestling Friday were David Grau (126), Dena Luttig (132), Samuel Chonay (138), Angelique Torres (145), Phillip Bangura an Justin Chamorro (160), Michael Baez (170), Robert Martinez (182), Tim Usilton (220) and Kyjuan Allen (OBC runner-up at 285).

Poinciana

Eagles Coach Randy Beeken is just happy to fill a full lineup this year.

“We went from seven wrestlers last year to 30 with a girls program,” he said.

Junior Quaylen Hill was the highlight of the weekend for PHS, going perfect in the OBCs and the White bracket of the Danny Byron (5-0) at 285, but he should wrestle at 220 during the season.

Andrew Neville (145) was runner-up in OBCs and the Danny Byron Gold pool, but should go at 138 during the year. Levi Lewis was the White bracket winner at 120 and Ben Brown was second in the Blue pool at 285.

The rest of the lineup goes Kiara Gonzalez at 106, Melanie Diaz at 113, Marimar Vazquez at 126, Guy Bond at 132, Christian Overman and Jacoby Rice at 145 or 152, Quintavious Young at 160, Michael Alicea at 170, Daniel Zea at 182, Tarique Ryan at 195 an Browqn and Brendan Ortega at 285.

Tohopekaliga

Jon Smorin comes over from St. Cloud to start up the Tigers program, which will start out as a young team.

“It’s a good project, and we will grow during the season,” Smorin said. “The goal right now is to get everyone on board with what we’re doing, and not the wayu it was done from where they came from.”

Senior Mark Rodriguez (126) won two matches at OBCs, and Roland Hidalgo was third place at 138.

The rest of the program’s inaugural lineup features Giano Alicea (113), Youssef Amarir (132), Michael Hidalgo (145), Darius Palmer (160), Bryan Ruiz (170), Jonathan Meza (182), Fausto Guzman (195) and Richard Gernadino (220).