Springstead’s Morales inks with NAIA‘s Campbellsville University Tigers in Kentucky

NEXT TIGER – Springstead graduate Chris Morales recently signed a letter of intent to wrestle next season with NAIA’s Campbellsville University Tigers in Campbellsville, Kentucky. Chris Morales (center) is flanked by his father Chris and his sister Tyenna and his mother Lumary. Standing behind him is his brother Jacob.

WRESTLING

Eagle captain competed for

3 varsity seasons reaching

states thrice, placing twice

By TONY CASTRO

HernandoSport.com

 

 

Hernando County’s top prep grappler over the past three winters – Springstead’s Christopher Ian Morales – has selected a new home.

Chris Morales

After whittling his choice of college to four schools, Morales, 18, selected NAIA’s Campbellsville, Kentucky.

Morales mulled over offers from Lakeland’s Southeastern University and Keiser University in West Palm Beach and turned down D-I Gardner-Webb University in Boiling Springs, North Carolina.

Why the Tigers?

The 5-foot-8 Morales, a three-time All-Hernando County wrestling selection and 2018 County Wrestler of the Year, was swayed after visiting the Tigers’ campus.

“It’s a small town campus,” explained Morales. “The campus is practically brand new. I fell in in love the moment I saw it.”

On his two-day visit, he practiced with the team in their “warehouse wrestling room.”

He shared that the facilities included a film room, a weight room and gymnasium – all in one.

Morales, who aspires to become a chiropractor, says everything is close by.

He said the program regularly sends kids home to stay mentally ready.

In prepping for the academic side, “I’ve gotta take 72 hours worth of science courses; so I’m gonna stay busy academically.”

The coaches explained to Morales that they weren’t here to “waste his time”. I remember meeting them during Super 32 a couple years ago. They were one of the few schools that stayed in contact or emailed me over the next two years.”

Without any family or family friends nearby, Morales is making the transition to the Blue Grass State traveling over 11 hours and covering 753 miles from Spring Hill to Campbellsville.

Springstead High’s Chris Morales vs Brandon Dessoye from Deltona. Photo by JOE DiCRISTOFALO

“I know I’ll be okay,” shared Morales. “I just have to deal with the college stress. My biggest hurdle is dealing with procrastination. The school has people on campus to help us manage our time. It’s a great resource.”

On Morales’ plan walking in, “I’m going there to wrestle and improve my academics,” he said. “I can’t predict the future.

“… I believe I have the skill set to belong. I have to improve on my mental game.”

Springstead Chris Morales verssu Flagler. Photo by JOE DiCRISTOFALO

Rewinding his SHS days

From 2016-19, Morales fashioned the county’s finest record over the past three combined winters at 126-22 overall (86 percent), highlighted by 88 pin falls.

Over the Eagles’ arduous scheduling, Morales competed in 22 IBT (individually bracketed events), and demonstrated consistency placing in 19.

In all, he chalked up a 79-19 slate (81 percent) behind 53 pins.

He returned home with nine gold medals.

Across his three-year mat career, he finished as a two-time district and regional champion.

Springstead High’s Chris Morales . Photo by JOE DiCRISTOFALO

He reached the FHSAA State Finals in Osceola County three times in three attempts and placed fourth as a junior and a senior.

During the 55th FHSAA Class 2A State Tourney at the Silver Spurs Arena this year, Morales opened with impressive pins at 152 pounds over Doral Academy’s Daniel Garlin in 1:11 and Fort Myers‘ Riley Hackworth in 5:24.

That placed the Eagle captain in the same exact spot as he was in the year before – one precious victory shy of reaching the State Finals.

But South Broward’s Austin Maynard had other plans. He bested Morales, 8=1.

“I definitely let the stress of that match get to me,” recalled Morales. “I just didn’t wrestle my match, Normally, I’m on the attack. In that match I was hesitant.”

With the loss, Morales’ dream of a state title went out the window.

From the consolation bracket, he had to reinvent himself quickly.

He faced Lake Gibson senior Elijah “Punchy” Gray next.

Morales needed 85 seconds to dispose of the defensive-minded Gray for his 88th career pin.

That left one last match – for third place – same as it was from 2018 – against a familiar foe: South Lake senior Travis Pawlowski.

But Pawlowski upset Morales, 5-1, to deny him third place.

Chris Morales                                                                                     Photo by JOE DiCRISTOFALO

“After losing in the semis. I was mentally broken,” shared Morales. “Nothing really mattered after that.”

Asked what his greatest lessons learned, “That I’ve got to believe in myself,” explained Morales. “I never gave myself enough credit for what I’ve done and all the work I’ve put in.”

On walking on to Campbellsville, “It’s a new start,“ declared Morales. “My goal is to become a freshman All-American.“

“The coaches at Campbellsville have seen me wrestle. They believe I could win a national title. That’s the way I have to approach it.”

Morales isn’t expected to cut much weight. He’s currently weighing 153 pounds and is planning on competing at 147 pounds.

Prior to reporting to campus by Aug. 16, Morales works out in his home gym.

He’s shown his brother, SHS-freshman-to-be Jacob Morales, moves on the mats.

On whether Morales will miss spending time with his younger sibling, “Absolutely,” he responded. “I’ve taught Jacob everything I know, but he’s got to find out things on his own speed.”

Prior to heading to Campbellsville, Morales addressed his legacy.

“I’d like to be remembered as a good leader,” stressed Morales. “I remember when I moved back to Spring Hill. All the guys looked up at me. To me this program is more like family than teammates.”

By the Numbers:

Springstead’s Chris Morales (2016-19)

– Compiled by TONY CASTRO

Springstead High’s Chris Morales took on Lake Gibson High’s Elijah Gray for the FHSAA 2A region II title at 152 pounds. Photo by JOE DiCRISTOFALO
 

YEAR

 

W

 

L

 

.PCT

 

PINS

2016-17*^

35

9

.795

24

2017-18*#^$

50

9

.847

33

2018-19*^$

41

4

.911

31

 

126

 

22

 

.851

 

88

* Denotes All-Hernando County selection.

# Denotes Hernando County Wrestler of the Year.

^ Denotes state qualifier.

$ Denotes state placer (4th).

By the Numbers:

Springstead’s Chris Morales’ IBT Results

(2016-19)

– Compiled by TONY CASTRO

Chris Morales versus David Ortiz of Golden Gate.                                                                                         Photo by JOE DiCRISTOFALO
 

EVENT

 

W

 

L

 

.PCT

 

PINS

 

PL

2016 Brooksville-Kiwanis

3

2

.600

3

2016 Knockout Classic

2

2

.500

2

2016-17 Springstead Invitational

4

1

.800

2

2nd

2017 Tony Ippolito Invitational

5

1

.833

3

3rd

2017 Class 2A, District 5 Tourney

1

0

1.000

1

1st

2017 Class 2A, Region II Tourney

5

1

.833

3

3rd

2017 Class 2A, State Finals Tourney

2

2

.500

1

2017 Brooksville-Kiwanis

5

0

1.000

4

1st

2017 Knockout Classic

6

2

.750

3

5th

2017 Chase Life

3

1

.750

2

2nd

2018 Flagler Rotary Invitational

5

0

1.000

2

1st

2018 Clay Rotary Invitational

4

1

.800

3

3rd

2018 Class 2A, District 5 Tourney

2

0

1.000

2

1st

2018 Class 2A, Region II Tourney

4

0

1.000

2

1st

2018 Class 2A, State Finals Tourney

4

2

.667

3

4th

2018 Brooksville-Kiwanis

5

0

1.000

3

1st

2019 Springstead Invitational

3

0

1.000

3

1st

Milton-Winter Invite at St. Cloud

5

0

1.000

3

1st

Lakeland-Lake Gibson Invitational

3

1

.750

1

2nd

2019 Class 2A, District 5 Tourney

1

1

.500

1

2nd

2019 Class 2A, Region II Tourney

4

0

1.000

3

1st

2019 Class 2A, State Finals Tourney

3

2

.600

3

4th

 

IBT TOTALS (22)

 

79

 

19

 

.806

 

53

 

19/22

 

 

 

 

 

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