Springstead’s Spencer settles on 2A silver medal at 285, as Eagles place seventh as a team

Springstead senior Christian Reynolds. Photo by JOE DCRISTOFALO
Weeki Wachee’s Deacon Straube. Photo by JOE DiCRISTOFALO
NCT sophomore Jonathan Dominguez. Photo by JOE DiCRISTOFALO
Hernando High senior Fernando Valdez. Photo by JOE DiCRISTOFALO

STATE WRESTLING

In 1A, Hernando High

finishes tenth overall

behind 4 state placers

By TONY CASTRO

HernandoSport.com

KISSIMMEE – Consistency at the state level has been a hallmark of the North Suncoast’s most dominant mat program: F.W. Springstead.

It was certainly noticeably during this weekend’s rugged two-day, 55th annual FHSAA State Finals at the Silver Spurs Arena.

For the 14th straight winter, the Springstead Eagles’ mat program walked away from the state’s largest stage with at least one state placer.

The Spring Hill crew arrived with five grapplers – seniors Chris Morales at 152 pounds, Christian Reynolds at 220 and James Spencer at 285, sophomore Dominic Nardini at 113 and freshman Joe Gallo at 120 – and departed with three state placers.

If you’re keeping score, that boosted SHS’ Hernando County record to 221 state qualifiers in 39 winters, punctuated by its 99th, 100th and 101st state placers – another county record.

In search of the county’s 47th state champion in Class 2A, SHS advanced Spencer to Saturday night’s heavyweight finals.

Springstead senior James Spencer.                                                                                       Photo by JOE DiCRISTOFALO

Though North Fort Myers senior Adolphus Taylor won via a 5-0 decision. it didn’t tarnish Spencer’s unbelievable state run.

Just four years ago, Spencer finished 4-9 with one pin as a freshman at the Mariner Boulevard campus, but elevated his game in his second straight state appearance.

The fourth-year Spencer was joined on the post-meet medal podium by Morales and Reynolds – who each settled on fourth-place bronze medals.

Nardini, in his second straight state finals, finished 2-2 – a win shy of placing.

Gallo didn’t fare as well in initial visit to states finishing 0-2.

As a whole, the Spring Hill mat men returned home to Hernando County after carving out 12 wins across 21 bouts (57 percent), highlighted by six pins for 60 points.

For at second straight winter, heavily-favored Lakeland-Lake Gibson took care of business with its fourth state crown – two in dual meet states and two in IBT states – since 2018.

The Braves, under Danny Walker, finished with 189.5 points, while Tampa-Jesuit – guided by former SHS skipper Sal Basile – took home the state runner-up trophy with 163.0 points.

After the Tigers, Punta Gorda-Charlotte was third (152.5), followed by Fort Myers-Riverdale (113.5), 28-time state champion Brandon was fifth (105.0) while Naples-Palmetto Ridge places sixth (64.5) a shade ahead of seventh-place Springstead (60.0).

As it seemingly appears, four members of the “Region of Doom” – aka 2A-II’s Lake Gibson, Jesuit, Brandon and Springstead dominated the top tier of 2A wrestling in Osceola County.

Spencer’s rule

Rewinding Spencer’s 3-1 efforts to finish 9-1 during the post season, most fans may not know the senior finished 0-2 at states last winter.

This time, the two-time district champion arrived with momentum following his initial regional title in Brandon.

Buoyed by the proceedings in Hillsborough County, Spencer opened the meet pinning Viera senior Jackson Hatfield in 1:20.

In the quarterfinals against St. Augustine senior Darius Stanley (51-6), Spencer folded Stanley in 2:27 for his 26th pin of the season.

In Saturday morning’s pressure-packed semifinals, Spencer’s solved Leto senior Edwin Ramirez for the second time in a week, 8-3.

That decision extended his post-season win skein to a perfect 9-0 before falling in Saturday night’s finals to Taylor (11-0), 5-0.

The loss closed the books on Spencer’s 38-4 campaign. He finished 104-38 overall (73 percent) with 68 lifetime pin falls.

James Spencer

In rewinding his state run, “I walked in pinning the first kid,” recalled Spencer, 18. “I had a good feeling right off the bat.

“… In the second match, I just wanted to get it done and get ready for Saturday.

“… In the semis (against Ramirez) I wasn’t really nervous, because I had wrestled him before and beaten him.”

Things were different, however, against Taylor.

“Things kinda fell apart,” recalled Spencer. “I remember being down 3-0 with 30 seconds left and I had to go for a homerun, but I slipped on a throw and he got behind me (for a takedown). I felt like I couldn’t get the job done. He did a nice job of controlling my wrists.

“… He (Taylor) was definitely the best wrestler I faced this year.”

After receiving his silver medal, “I’m happy with second,” beamed Spencer. “Some people didn’t even expect me to make the finals. It’s pretty amazing coming back here after going 0-2 last year.”

After the curtains came down on his final prep match, “I kinda wish I would’ve wrestled more this year; I had such a great senior year,” noted Spencer. “This was my most enjoyable season. I was fortunate not to be hurt or sick walking into states.”

Christian Reynolds.                                                                                                               Photo by JOE DiCRISTOFALO

Reynolds plaees fourth

In one of the toughest weight classifications, the third-year Reynolds felt vindicated after finishing 1-2 last winter at states.

He opened the tourney by blanking Bartram Trail’s Clarke Hamilton, 6-0.

In the quarterfinal finals, Reynolds was stuck by eventual state champion Jose Valdez of Charlotte in 4:41.

Facing a win or go home scenario, Reynolds pinned Matanzas senior Cecil Bermudez in 4:31 to close out Day 1.

In the consolation semifinals – or Blood Round – Reynolds was confronted by old foe: Robinson senior Devin Jandura.

Reynolds, who bested Jandura in the Brooksville-Kiwanis finals, 3-2, followed with a carbon copy 5-3 decision.

In the consolation finals for third, Mariner senior Justyn Cordones edged Reynolds, 4-2.

The loss closed the books on Reynolds’ fine 34-6 campaign.

Reynolds, who finished 88-39 lifetime (69 percent) with 47 pins, remained in good spirits.

Christian Reynolds

On whether he was okay with fourth place, “Actually, yeah,” responded the 18-year-old Reynolds. “Looking back, I feel like I did my best.“

Rewinding his key quarterfinal loss to Valdez (54-1), “He punished me with that low single,” recalled Reynolds.

Two matches later, he knocked out an old nemesis in Jandura.

“I felt like I dominated the match against Jandura,” described Reynolds. “Then in the third/fourth place match, I didn’t get two points when I thought I should’ve from the ref and I let that get to my head. That kinda broke me mentally.”

After wrapping up his best-ever season, “I absolutely feel like I wrestled the best I could, so I’m not upset. I’d love to wrestle in college. I think it would be good for me.

“… Though the season is over, I have no regrets,” shared Reynolds. “That’s because I felt like I gave everything I had for the last three years.”

Springstead senior Chris Morales.                                                                                                   Photo by JOE DiCRISTOFALO

Morales takes home fourth

Entering his third straight state tournament, Morales became the 20th Eagle grappler to reach states three times.

After going 2-2 in 2017, he finished 3-2 last winter to place fourth at 138.

This time, Morales roared out of the gates on Friday pinning Doral Academy’s Daniel Garlin in 71 seconds and Fort Myers junior Riley Hackworth in 5:24.

The pins served as Morales’ county-leading 29th and 30th of the season.

In Saturday’s semifinals, South Broward senior Justin Maynard – and his long arms and reach – seemed too much to solve, falling, 8-1.

From the consolation bracket, Morales faced another tough customer: aka Lake Gibson senior Elijah “Punchy” Gray.

But for the second time in a week, Morales came out on top – this time behind an impressive pin in 1:25.

Morales’ 88th career pin – advancing him to ninth place all-time at SHS – pushed him into the consolation finals against another familiar face: South Lake senior Travis Pawlowski.

Though the pair split its first two meetings this winter, Pawlowski pulled off a 5-1 decision to deny Morales third place.

The loss closed the books on Morales at 126-22 lifetime (85 percent).

Chris Morales

Asked to rewind his critical semifinal match, Morales stared blankly explaining, “I chocked. He was very tough. I felt like I couldn’t take him down.

“It was 2-1 in the second period and then he hit me with that money tilt and that made it 6-1. That was big for him.”

After losing to Pawlowski to close his career, Morales was asked what the difference was, “I think he wanted it more.”

Morales, 18, was not okay with placing fourth, “I felt like I should’ve been in the finals,” he stressed. “I regret not pushing harder in that semifinal. I should’ve been in that final.”

Coaches’ corner

Fourth-year mentor Mike LaRocca wasn’t displeased with the final results.

Mike LaRocca

“I’m happy with took seventh,” he said. “Especially after it was kind of a rebuilding year. We were basically, a win away from finishing sixth. We were eighth last year after taking nine guys.”

The weekend highlight reel, according to LaRocca, the 1998 SHS state qualifier, was watching Spencer’s title.

“What’s weird was Spencer’s first youth tournament was at the Silver Spurs Arena and he finished second,” recalled LaRocca. “Then at the end of his high school career, he ends up getting second again at the Silver Spurs. It’s a little ironic.”

On what kind of message is the team is sending after Spencer went from 4-9 as a freshman to the state finals as a senior, “Egos aside, this tells me my coaching is working,” LaRocca said. “Look, nobody wants to lose in the state finals, but how many guys get to walk out in this big a stage? Not many.

“Spencer’s run basically says that if you buy in to what we’re selling, you too can reach the state finals,” added LaRocca.

“I’m happy for Spencer, I just wish our other two seniors would’ve finished the same way. There’s no way Reynolds could’ve wrestled any better than he did against Jandura.”

On what LaRocca will miss most about his three seniors, “Morales is a great kid. He knew how to motivate the others. I’ll miss that.

“I’m gonna miss that stubborn kid in Spencer,” shared LaRocca. “I just wish I would’ve had Reynolds one more year. He was putting it all together.”

Leopards finish 10th in 1A

Hernando High purposely beefed up its 2018-19 schedule in an attempt to avoid the power failures of the past two state tournaments that produced zero state placers.

Qwenton Coney

The Leopards achieved its primary goal by returning home with four state placers featuring sophomore Josh Pritz at 138 (fourth), junior Qwenton Coney at 220 (fifth), and seniors Bronson Tafelski at 152 and Fernando Valdez at 170 (both finishing sixth).

It served as the Leopards’ most amount of state placers in 14 years – or since current Head Coach David Pritz was a junior in 2005 – under mentors Matt Smith and Bill Combs Sr.

It’s understated second goal was to finish among the state’s Top 10.

The Purple and Gold arrived in Brooksville after placing 10th overall – in the 74-team field – with 54.0 points.

It marked the first time since 2014’s eighth-place finish that HHS has placed among the Top 10 at states.

To no one’s surprise, Orlando-Lake Highland Prep finished with 269.0 points for its sixth state crown across the last seven winters.

Hernando’s Josh Pritz.                                                                           Photo by JOE DiCRISTOFALO

Pritz places fourth

In his third state meet – first was with Citrus Park Christian as an eighth-grader in 2017, last two at HHS – Pritz achieved the post-meet podium for the first time.

In a bracket loaded with dangerous grapplers, Pritz navigated a team-best 4-2 run.

Pritz opened with a 10-0 first period cushion against Lemon Bay junior Derick Dagg.

But as the period wound down, Dagg reversed Pritz on to his back for a five-point move, 10-5.

Fortunately, Pritz ended any suspense with a pinfall in 3:44.

In the quarterfinals, Pritz was tilted toward his back in falling to South Walton senior Ethan Pickren, 6-1.

From the consolation bracket, Pritz began his comeback with a hard earned 7-0 decision over Arnold’s Griffin Hebert.

On Saturday, he pinned Cocoa Beach’s James Clark in 1:52 before spanking Ramiro Mosquera of Somerset Academy,

Josh Pritz

10-0.

In the consolation finals, Pritz was confronted again by Pickren.

Pickren walked away with his third win in as many meetings, 4-2, denying Pritz third place.

On what Pritz took away after losing to the savvy Pickren for the third time, “If I stand up, I win,” explained Pritz, 16. “I was in both matches.”

Pritz didn’t blink saying who his toughest opponent was, “Oh, yeah it was Pickren. He’s the best guy I faced. He’s a great opponent. He always stays in perfect position.“

On whether Pritz was okay with fourth place, “I don’t think so. As a wrestler I don’t come into any tournament wanting to leave in fourth. That same mindset has to apply here, too.

If next year starts Monday, “I’m gonna be working on my bottom position,” emphasized Pritz. “No one is gonna hold me down.”

For the weekend, Pritz gave himself a C.

“I won the matches I was supposed to win,” replied Pritz.

The consolation loss dropped Pritz to 42-8 overall, highlighted by 28 pins.

Only Valdez at 46-9, won more matches this season for the Leopards.

Coaches’ analysis

Despite a 17-20 (47 percent) effort against the state’s finest, seventh-year HHS mentor David Pritz seemed pleased.

David Pritz

“I think we had a great weekend,” noted the former three-time state placer from HHS. “I’m super proud of this team. After we lost Boston (Tafelski) to injury in regionals, I told the guys, somebody has to step up at states. We had guys step up.

“We reached goals that we had set up all year,” noted Pritz. “I think it’s harder to win state titles in 1A because of Lake Highland Prep.”

Pritz didn’t flinch when he was asked who stood out.

“All four of our placers stood out. Anytime you get a guy to the podium here, you’ve done your job. It’s a huge accomplishment,” added Pritz. “I was excited to see our seniors make it the podium. Those guys have put in a lot time and effort.”

Looking ahead, despite the graduation losses of veterans like the Tafelski’s, J Lisk, Valdez and Alex Espinal, “We don‘t believe we‘re gonna fall off,” candidly stated Pritz. “We‘ve got six returning state qualifiers including two state placers back next season.

“We‘re gonna stay with the super tough scheduling; that’s the reason we did so well this year,” added Pritz.

Springstead Individual Results

WGT

NAME

YR

W

L

PINS

PL.

113

Nardini, Dominic

10

2

1

0

120

Gallo, Joe

9

0

2

0

152

Morales, Chris

12

3

2

3

4th

220

Reynolds, Christian

12

4

2

1

4th

285

Spencer, James

12

3

1

2

2nd

TOTALS (5)

12

9

6

-3-

Hernando Individual Results

WGT.

NAME

YR

W

L

PINS

PL.

113

Britton, Jonathon

11

1

2

0

120

Gould, Billy

10

0

2

0

132

Brown, Michael

11

0

2

0

138

Pritz, Josh

10

4

2

2

4th

152

Tafelski, Bronson

11

3

3

0

6th

170

Valdez, Fernando

12

2

3

0

6th

182

Espinal, Alex

12

2

2

0

220

Coney, Qwenton

11

3

2

1

5th

285

Fleming, Sam

10

2

2

2

TOTALS (9)

17

20

5

Nature Coast Technical Individual Results

WGT

NAME

YR

W

L

PINS

PL

113

Dominguez, Jonathan

10

2

2

1

132

Morris, Jaxson

11

1

2

1

138

Fetzner, Billy

10

0

2

0

TOTALS (3)

 

3

6

2

Central Individual Results

WGT

NAME

YR

W

L

PINS

PL

285

Sorensen, Jesse

11

1

2

1

TOTALS (1)

1

2

1

Weeki Wachee Individual Results

WGT

NAME

YR

W

L

PINS

PL

220

Straube, Deacon

11

1

2

0

TOTALS (1)

1

2

0

2019 Final Class 2A State Top 10 Wrestling Tournament Team Standings/70 Teams:

Lakeland-Lake Gibson Braves

RK.

TEAM

PTS.

1.

Lakeland-Lake Gibson (LKG)

189.5

5.

Tampa-Jesuit (TJ)

163.0

3.

Punta Gorda-Charlotte (CHAR)

152.5

4.

Fort Myers-Riverdale (RIVD)

113.5

5.

Brandon (BRA)

105.0

6.

Naples-Palmetto Ridge (PR)

64.5

7.

Spring Hill-Springstead (SPG)

60.0

8.

Naples-Golden Gate (GG)

51.5

9.

Cape Coral-Mariner

51.0

10.

Boca Raton-Olympic Heights (OH)

47,5

26

Ocala-Lake Weir (LWR)

16.0

Springstead Results:

113 – Shaun Culbreth (Matanzas) dec.Dominic Nardini (SPG), 6-2.

113– Dominic Nardini (SPG) dec. Nick Davenport (Jensen Beach), 2-1.

113 – Dominic Nardini (SPG) won via injury default over Anthony Montanez (Seabreeze).

113 – Jose Berdecia (Brandon) over Dominic Nardini (SPG), 7-3.

120 – Fabian Jaramillo (Olympic Heights) pin Joe Gallo (SPG), 3:10.

120 – Derrick Iacerno (Pace) dec. Joe Gallo (SPG), 5-1.

150 – Chris Morales (SPG) pin Daniel Garlin (Doral Academy), 1:11.

138 – Chris Morales (SPG) pin Riley Hackworth (Fort Myers), 5:24.

138 – Austin Maynard (South Broward).def. Chris Morales (SPG), 8-1.

138 – Chris Morales (SPG) pin Elijah Gray (Lake Gibson), 1:25.

138 – Travis Pawlowski (South Lake) vs. Chris Morales (SPG), 5-1 .

220 – Christian Reynolds (SPG) dec. Clarke Hamilton (Bartram Trail), 6-0.

220 – Jose Valdez (Charlotte) pin Christian Reynolds (SPG), 4:41.

220 – Christian Reynolds (SPG) pin Cecil Bermudez (Matanzas), 2:59.

220 – Christian Reynolds (SPG) dec. Devin Jandura (Robinson), 5-2.

220 – Christian Reynolds (SPG) won vi a injury default over Cayman Wiseman (Sunlake).

220 – Justyn Cordones (Mariner) vs. Christian Reynolds (SPG), 4-2

285 – James Spencer (SPG) oin Jackson Hatfield (Viera), 1:24.

285 – James Spencer (SPG) pin Darius Stanley (St. Augustine), 2:27.

285 – James Spencer (SPG) dec. Edwin Ramirez (Leto), 8-3.

285 – Adolphus Taylor (North Fort Myers) vs. James Spencer (SPG)., 5-0.

2019 Final Class 1A State Wrestling

Tournament Team Standings/74 Teams

Orlando-Lake Highland Prep Highlanders

RK.

TEAM

PTS.

1.

Orlando-Lake Highland Prep

269.0

2.

Del Ray Beach-American Heritage

116.5

3.

Fort Lauderdale-Cardinal Gibbons

96.0

4.

Mater Lakes

95.0

5.

Pembroke Pines-Somerset Academy Academy

93.5

6.

Crawfordville-Wakulla

85.5

7.

Tampa Prep

62.5

8.

Tallahassee-Florida

62.0

8.

Rockledge

61.5

10.

Brooksville-Hernando

54.0

37.

Brooksville-Nature Coast Technical

8.0

45 (T).

Brooksville-Central

3.0

59 (T).

Weeki Wachee

1.0

Hernando Results:

113 – Jonathan Britton (HER) dec. Jeremy Mahoney (Fernandina Beach), 11-5.

113 – Bryce Taranto (Lemon Bay) major dec. Jonathan Britton (HER), 10-0.

113 – Jackson Merrick (Wakulla) dec. Jonathan Britton (HER), 7-4.

120 – Vincenzo Napolitano (Del Rey Beach-American Heritage) pin Billy Gould (HER), 4:00.

120 – Timothy Jolicour (Suwannee) dec. Billy Gould (HER) 5-0.

132 – Eric Barnes (Jupiter Christian) pin Michael Brown (HER), 1:04.

132 Javon Smith (Zephyrhills Christian Academy) dec, Micahe Brown (HER), 10-6.

138 Josh Pritz (HER) pin Derick Dagg (Lemon Bay), 3:44.

138 Ethan Pickren (South Walton) dec. Josh Pritz (HER), 5-1.

138 Josh Pritz (HER) dec. Griffin Hebert (Arnold), 7-0.

138 Josh Pritz (HER) oin James Clark (Cocoa Beach), 1:52.

138 Josh Pritz (HER) major dec. Ramiro Mosquero (Somerset Academy), 10-0.

138 Ethan Pickren (South Walton) dec. Josh Pritz (HER), 4-2.

152 Bronson Tafelski (HER) dec. Joseph Myers (Del Rey Beach-American Heritage), 6-0.

152 Jonathan Conrad (Carrollwood Day School) pin Bronson Tafelski (HER), 2:46.

152 Bronson Tafelski (HER) dec. Justin Gonzalez (Spoto), 6-5.

152 Bronson Tafelski (HER) dec. Gavin Wheeler (Bishop Moore), 11-7.

152 Lance Schyck (Lemon Bay) dec. Bronson Tafelski (HER), 3-1.

152 Joey Cusick (Bishop Kenny) dec. Bronsn Tafelski (HER), 7-1._

170 – Fernando Valdez (HER) dec. Joshua Campbell (Midddleburg), 5-3.

170 – Fernando Valdez (HER) dec. Garrison Kovacs (Mosley), 5-1.

170 – Tyson Davids (Lemon Bay) dec. Fernando Valdez (HER), 8-1.

170 – Alex Cruz (Del Rey Beach-American Heritage) pin Fernando Valdez (HER) pin 2:45.

170 – Hunter Brinkman (Lake Highland Prep) dec. Fernando Valdez (HER), 8-2

182 –Alex Espinal (HER) dec. Zach White (Tampa Prep), 7-3.

182 –Mikey Tal Shahar (Del Rey Beach-American Heritage) dec. Alex Espinal (HER), 8-1.

182 –Alex Espinal (HER) dec. Andrew Annand (Wakulla) dec. 6-4.

182 –Jesse Garcia (Key West) pin Alex Espinal (HER), 1:36.

220 – Qwenton Coney (HER) dec. Ja’Tyren Walker (Godby), 3-2 (4 OT).

220 – Qwenton Coney (HER) pin Cameron Rosario (Southeast), 1;16.

220 – Daniel Miranda (Somerset) pin Qwenton Coney (HER), 0:41.

220 – Ray Lugo (Miami-Monsignor Pace) dec. Qwenton Coney (HER), 8-3.

220 – Qwenton Coney (HER) won via injury default over Cameron Rosario (Southeast).

285 – Umari Dixon-Gordon (Miami-Edison) major dec. Sam Fleming (HER), 11-1.

285 – Sam Fleming (HER), pin Jonathan Heller (Bay), 2:42.

285 – Sam Fleming (HER), pin Kyle Dragon (Lemon Bay), 4:12.

285 – Jayden Arango (Avon Park) major dec. Sam Fleming (HER), 9-0.

Nature Coast Technical Results:

113 – Emil Gamin (Florida High) pin Jonathan Dominguez (NCT), 1:47.

113 – Jonathan Dominguez (NCT) pin Elvis Rodriguez (Avon Park), 1:42

113 – Jonathan Dominguez (NCT) major dec. Sazzad Mahud (Cardinal Gibbons), 11-2.

113 – Rafael Romero (Del Rey Beach-American Heritage) major dec. Jonathan Dominguez (NCT), 14-6.

132 – Omar Armengal (Mater Lakes) pin Jaxson Morris (NCT), 3:52.

132 – Jaxson Morris (NCT) pin Jaxson Sansoui (Suwannee), 2;57.

132 – Cale Hoskinson (Clay) major dec. Jaxson Morris (NCT), 10-2.

138 Sean Cervin ()Sarasota Military Academy) dec. Billy Fetzner (NCT), 6-1.

138 Griffin Hebert (Arnold) pin Billy Fetzner (NCT), 2:11.

Central Results:

285 – Stervens Dor (Key West) pin Jesse Sorensen (CEN), 0:26.

285 – Jesse Sorensen (CEN) pin Jacquez Shird (Dunbar), 2:22.

285 – DeAudre Thomas (Rockledge) dec. Jesse Sorensen (CEN), 6-1.

Weeki Wachee Results:

220 – Slade Watkins (Wakulla) dec. Deacon Straube (WW), 10-3.

220 – Deacon Straube (WW) dec. George Minervini (Oasis), 9-8.

220 – Jordon Love (Rockledge) pin Deacon Straube (WW), 2:16.

 

 

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