Wrestling program shutdown due to COVID-19

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photo by Karson Cuozzo

Sophomore Skyy Gangale hand fights her opponent, looking for a shot.

On Dec. 4, the girls’ varsity and boys JV wrestling teams started off their seasons at the Clash of Titans tournament hosted by University High School. Boys JV placed second in the tournament out of 13 teams, just 10.5 points shy from taking first place for the third year in a row, and the girls took sixth place of 13 teams and scored a total of 92 points. On Dec. 5 boy’s varsity started their season, they tallied a total of 166 points, which gave them fourth place in the tournament.

All the teams came out with a strong start to the season, but the teams’ momentum came to a halt very quickly after they were put in a mandatory two week quarantine because multiple wrestlers tested for COVID-19 after this tournament.

Lake Mary, Lake Brantley and Hagerty shut down their wrestling programs until Dec. 22 due to wrestlers testing positive for COVID-19 from the tournament. After the quarantine, the team will participate in the Knockout Christmas Classic on Dec. 28-29 at Silver Spurs Arena.

Hosted every year by Hagerty, the Johnny Rouse Invitational is one of the most competitive wrestling events of the year, along with states. The tournament was supposed to take place on Dec.18-19 but was cancelled due to COVID-19.

“I was looking forward to the Johnny Rouse Invitational this year, it has always been one of my favorite tournaments to wrestle in since I was a freshman,” senior Ethan Lopez said. “I just hope that we can reschedule it later.”

As of now, the wrestling program only has three positive cases on the team. All coaches have been tested, and one out of four tested positive.

“It is frustrating to have to shut down for a couple weeks, but I understand why, and I want to make sure all of our athletes are safe,” head coach Scotty Diaz said.

Diaz is having the whole team quarantine separately so that it doesn’t spread throughout the whole team and delay the season any longer.

“Being quarantined sucks because we cannot have wrestling practices, which makes it hard to get in a good workout and to keep improving,” junior Jada Llamido said.

At the Clash of Titans, team members were proud of how they placed, especially with a majority being first-year wrestlers.

Top wrestlers from boys varsity were Lopez, who placed first in the 182 weight class. A handful of varsity wrestlers placed second, including sophomore Kamden Harrison at 138, junior Blake Watts at 152, junior Ethan Gomez at 160, and senior Sam Bornelus at 220.

“Varsity’s first tournament of the season could have been better,” Diaz said. “We need to focus and prepare for the hard season we have ahead of us,” Diaz said.

Top wrestlers from the girls’ team included senior Käthe Wilken-Yoder, winning in the 140-weight class. Wilken-Yoder beat the second highest ranked 140-pound wrestler in the state and took first place in the tournament after a sixth place finish last season.

“It felt awesome to come out and win the whole thing my senior year,” Wilken-Yoder said. “I had a much better outcome than last year in this tournament.”

Senior Brooke White placed second in the 154-weight class and junior Lauren      McLeod placed fourth in the 122 weight class.

“All girls wrestled very well. They have been working hard during practices and I am proud of them,” girls varsity head coach Paul Cuozzo said.

Top performers for the boys JV team were freshman Greenier (106) who came in first, freshman Jacob Donovan (106) took second and sophomore Austin Desoto (145) took third. Greenier and Donovan both worked their ways through the opposite sides of the bracket to face each other in the championship match for the 106-weight class.

Freshman Carson Greenier was feeling confident at the event, winning his first-ever tournament.

“I was super happy that I won, it felt amazing,” Greenier said.  “Jacob [Donovan] and I always wrestle each other in the room together, so I knew it was going to be a really good match.”

Greenier came out on top and scored 23 points for the team. Donovan tailed behind him in second with 22 points for the team. Not only did Donovan fight his way to the championship match on Friday with JV, but he also came in sixth place on Saturday wrestling with the varsity team in the 113-weight class.

“He is a little scrapper. He fought hard in every match, and I am very impressed with him,” Diaz said.

Both teams feel energized after their success at University and look forward to coming back strong after being quarantined. The coaches have high hopes for the season and expect great things from this young, “scrappy” group of wrestlers.

photo by Karson
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