Pinning and winning: wrestling concludes historic season at states

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photo by Bailey C. Fisher

Senior Matt Munroe wrestles an opponent. The team defeated Lake Howell 66-18.

Michael Gibson, Staff Reporter

To win a state championship, sophomore Ryan Rowland had a tough task. He had to face Bretli Ryena from South Dade. The match lasted an exhausting 4:59 and even though Rowland came in second, he was the highest place finisher for the team and one of several highlights for the boys wrestling program this season.

The team has produced wins all season long, earning second place in the SAC, fifth place in Class 3A Region 1 and ninth at states on Thursday, March 3 and Friday, March 4. The team sent a school record five wrestlers to the state championship.

The team finished 19-3 in duels and many of the wrestlers had winning individual records as well. The five wrestlers who competed at states did well, and for many, this was their first time going to states. When their teammate went into the championship match, they were all there to support him.

“I was hoping [he] could come out with the win,” sophomore Ethan Woods said. “It would [have been] great to get the first state championship title in school history.”

At the championships, sophomore Emauni Smithson (43-8) was not able to place, but senior Christian Gomez (46-10) earned eighth place in the 285-pound weight class. Junior Oliver Hart (39-10) finished sixth in the 152-pound weight class, and sophomore Ethan Woods (42-7) finished fourth in the 138-pound weight class.

“They are buying in to what we are trying to do,” head coach Scotty Diaz said. “They are starting to set higher goals and they are starting to believe in themselves.”

The team’s success late in the season is due to the tough practices and constant training. Preseason conditioning started weeks before the regular season and the wrestlers sometimes had two practices a day.

“We push them very hard in practice to see how much they can take before they’ll quit, because we don’t want quitting to be easy for them,” Diaz said. “When they get on the mat and they are tired, they will understand how to fight through fatigue and to not give up in matches.”

One of the biggest accomplishments of the season was the team finishing one point behind Winter Springs at the SAC championships on Saturday, Feb.4. Winter Springs has been at the top of the conference for the past decade, and how the team was able to narrow the gap showed progress.

The team also had success against individual teams. On Wednesday, Dec. 14, the team defeated cross-town rival Oviedo, 54-15, and Lake Howell, 66-18, on Wednesday, Feb. 4. They placed in the top five in all tournaments except the Bill Scott Tournament, where they finished sixth.

“The guys have [now] been in my system longer, they started doing some of the things that I coached them on,” Diaz said. “We have made a lot of improvements since last year.”

The young core of this team will hope to build on this season. A JV team who finished eighth at JV states will be taking the place of the wrestlers who are graduating and they want nothing less than to earn a state title.

“We had [a great season] as a team,” Woods said. “We are getting better and we are going to fix some problems to get the first state championship.”

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