Kowboy wrestlers excel at knockout Christmas classic


Osceola freshman Anderson Heap won his weight class and defending state champions Cooper Haase and Jaekus Hines registered runner-up finishes as the Kowboys recorded an 11th place finish at the prestigious Knockout Christmas Classic held at Silver Spurs Arena, Dec. 28-29.

The event featured 51 schools, including some of the top teams from Florida, Georgia, Tennessee and Oklahoma. The team championship was won by Tuttle High School (Oklahoma), with 215.5 team points. Baylor (Tennessee) was second with 197.5, with Woodland (Georgia) placing third 153.5.

Tampa Jesuit (152.5) was the highest finishing team from Florida taking fourth; while perennial state powers South Dade (126.5) and Southwest Miami (122.5) – which finished first and second in the Florida Class 3A Tournament last year – placed seventh and eighth respectively.

Tuttle’s depth was a key to the win. The school scored points in all 14 weight classes, including one champion, three third place finishers, one fourth place and a fifth place wrestler.

“The Knockout continues to develop into one of the best in-season tournaments in the country. We had outstanding teams and many state champions from multiple states competing,” Osceola Head Coach Jim Bird said. “It just keeps getting bigger and more competitive each year and we’re honored to host such a prestigious event.”

For the Kowboys, Heap took the 108-pound weight class with an 8-2 decision over Tyler Washburn (Palmetto Ridge ) in the finals. After receiving a first round bye, Heap reached the championship match by recording four straight wins – including a hard-fought 4-2 win over Georgia state champion Colby Mcbride (Woodward Academy) in the semifinals. Win the five victories, Heap improved his season record to 18-1.

“Anderson has been in our club program for four or five years and has an incredible motor on him.” Bird said. “His work ethic is tremendous and he simply wants to be the best, whether it’s on the mat or in the classroom.”

Haase cruised to the finals in the 122-pound weight class with a bye and three dominating wins before meeting Elijah Lusk, of Merritt Island, in the semifinals. It was a close match with Haase prevailing in an 8-6 decision, over Lusk – who went 51-3 last season. Haase (17-1) would then lose for the first time this season, dropping a 7-1 decision to Cole Hunt (5-0) out of Cass, Ga.

“Cooper had to beat a state champion in the quarterfinals but then lost to another state champion in the finals,” Bird said. “He had a rough first period in the championship but then settled down to wrestle a pretty good match.”

Hines (17-1) won his first five matches to reach the finals at 140, before falling to Jesuit’s Tom Crook in the finals by a 7-0 decision. Hines, who won a state title at 138 last year, reached the finals with an impressive 9-7 decision over previously unbeaten and two-time 4A Georgia State Champion Craden McCrary of Woodville High in the semifinals. McCrary was also the fifth ranked high school wrestler in the nation.

“Tremendous win for Jaekus,” Bird added. “This was a super tough weight class and just getting on the medal stand was impressive.”

Crook, who won the 2A State Championship last year at 126, went to 15-0 on the season.

Osceola also received team points from Davrell Cohn (138),Gunner Holland (147), Mohammed Bakkali (154), Antonio Romero (184) and Kamond Manning (287).

“Gunner Holland is another young kid who is going to become a good wrestler for us,” Bird added. “As a ninth grader this type of tournament was a tough test, but he competed well all the way through.”

The Kowboys returned to action this past Wednesday in a district dual meet qualifier. Osceola would need to finish either first or second in the event to advance to regionals. Bird expects several wrestlers to join the team from the football squad that just finished as state runnerups in the Class 8A Championship, including linebacker Nolan Eaddy, who finished second in 180-pound weight class in last year’s tournament.