When the pairings are announced at the beginning of each World Cup Soccer cycle, journalists spend a good bit of time identifying the “Pool of Death,” – a group that contains three or four really great teams where only two advance to the knockout round.
In Florida high school wrestling, the Class 2A, Region 2 tournament would be the equivalent of the “Pool of Death.”
Not only is the defending state champion Lake Gibson and state runner-up Tampa Jesuit in the region, but so is Brandon, the fifth place team from a year ago that had won 18 consecutive state titles prior to last year. For good measure, Winter Springs – who finished 5th in the Class 3A race last year – was dropped down to 2A this year and also placed in Region 2.
The end result was that Harmony, that has been enjoying arguably its best wrestling season ever, faced tall odds heading into last weekend’s tournament.
“No question in my mind, it’s the toughest regional in the state,” Harmony Head Coach Vic Lorenzano said. “Lake Gibson and Jesuit are just outstanding teams and Brandon’s pedigree is unquestionable. Add in Winter Springs and we knew it was going to be an extremely difficult meet.”
Although none of Harmony’s 14 wrestlers claimed a regional championship, the meet was a success for the Longhorns as Harmony captured a second, four third place finishes and a fourth and will send six wrestlers to the state championship this week.
The Longhorns finished third in the meet with 152.5 points, finishing ahead of both Winter Springs (136.5) and Brandon (134), but finishing well back of state powers Lake Gibson (268) and Jesuit (251.5). Lake Gibson had five regional champions and will advance 12 to the state meet; while Jesuit also had five champions and will advance 11 to the championships. “Really a mixed bag of emotions for us
“Really a mixed bag of emotions for us after the regionals,” Lorenzano said. “With so many good teams in the tournament, to finish third and to finish ahead of Brandon in a competition for the first time ever was certainly a great accomplishment for our team and to take six kids to states is also significant number. On the down side, I thought we had a chance to get nine in and unfortunately we are leaving three outstanding wrestlers at home that we know are good enough to be at states.”
Harmony’s top hopes for titles this weekend include Aiden Poe, a sophomore at 113-pounds Poe, ranked third in the state with a 40-3 record, lost a 7-1 decision to Lake Gibson’s Jesse Gehr in the finals.
Other top performers for Harmony include JC McNichols (40-10), who placed third for the Longhorns at 126. He was pinned by undefeated and top-ranked Tom Crook in the semifinals. Crook is 58-0 this season.
In one of the most exciting matches of tournament, Harmony senior Dylan Jones almost pulled off the upset of the tournament – taking the state’s top ranked wrestler at 132 Jack Crook – to overtime before losing a sudden victory decision in the quarterfinal round. Jones, ranked 12th in the state, came through the consolation round to place third by beating three other ranked wrestlers.
Those wins included a win over 10th ranked Travis Knowlton of Pasco with a 2-0 decision in the 3rd place match.
“Terrific effort and a real confidence booster for Dylan,” Lorenzano said. “That match could have gone either way and Dylan comes away knowing he can compete with the best in the state.”
Will Jacobson (170) also advances to the state tournament with a third place finish. He went 6-1 in the regionals to lift his record to 42-10. His wins included a 12-9 win over 10th ranked Joe Burgess (Winter Springs) in the third place match. Jacobson’s only loss in the match was to the state’s top ranked and undefeated Onid Olavarria (62-0) of Brandon.
Also advancing for the Longhorns were Jaun Gomez (4th at 195) and Nelson Toro (3rd at 220).
On the down side, Mike McEwen (138), Sean Seery (160), and Marshall Smith (182), were all eliminated one match short of making it to states – as all three lost in the consolation semifinals. The three finish their seasons with a combined record of 122-35.
“I really feel sick that all three of those guys are going to miss the state tournament,” Lorenzano said. “The brackets were really tough and all three of those guys lost to wrestlers they had beaten before. When you get into a tournament like this, the margin of error is so slim. Certainly you could make the argument that this was a case where if they would have avoided a mistake here or there or if they had been in a different regional they most likely would have advanced.” In addition to Harmony,
In addition to Harmony, county teams Gateway, Liberty, and Poinciana also sent wrestlers to the meet.
The Panthers (31) finished 11th in the team competition; the Chargers (30.5) were 12th and Poinciana (26) was tied for 17th in the event.
Based on their finishes, Gateway’s Kyjuan Allen (4th-Unlimited) and Poinciana’s Zayveon Mitchell (3rd-120) advance to the state championship.