District wrestling: Northeast ends title drought
DUNEDIN — The Northeast Vikings have been having a tremendous season. They won their first St. Pete City title in a decade in January. They were runners-up to Palm Harbor University at PCAC.
On Satruday, they broke through for their first district title in a decade and first under coach Robert Wilson. It was a four-horse race all the way. Dixie Hollins led through the opening rounds. Through the championship semifinals, host Dunedin moved in front. The Falcons put six wrestlers into the finals to Northeast’s four but the Vikings came back strong in the consolation semifinals. East Lake was third, just three points separating the top spots. Another big round in the third-place finals, where the Vikings scored five wins, set them up 168.5 to Dunedin’s 151.5 heading into the championship finals.
When sophomore Isiah Wilson pinned Dunedin’s Dominic Molinari in the 106 final, it gave the Vikings the margin they needed to hold off Dunedin, who went on to win four individual titles. Final tally was Northeast 180.5, Dunedin 172, East Lake 160 and Dixie 147.5.
“I was telling the kids all week that nothing will go according to plan, that we were going to have hiccups and that they were going to have to react and fight,” Wilson said.
Events were bucking the plan even as the week began. City champ Marcel Scott (220) failed to make the district lineup, losing wrestle-offs with both Takhari Bowens at 220, then to Damian Doesburg at 285. Then at the district meet, PCAC champ Shaq Johnson got pinned by Largo’s Anthony Grammatas in the championship semifinals. The Vikings reacted … and fought.
Johnson (170) came back and won the third-place match by pin fall. Bowens rallied from an overtime loss to Osceola’s Spencer Jacoby in the semis to take third. Doesburg came back from a semifinal loss to take third. Finally, Rafael Perez won the 145 title and it pushed the Vikings over the top.
“When Shaq got upset in the semis, it didn’t look good; it was a bad sign,” Wilson said. “In the third-place finals, some of our guys won with pins, then when we got a couple wins in the finals, it put it away. These guys have achieved above and beyond expectations.”
The Perez match with River Ridge’s Norge Pena was one of the more thrilling. Pena scored the first take down but Perez hit a cradle and looked to have the pin but time expired in the period. Up 9-4 in the second period, Perez caught Pena in a headlock and put him on his back for points. Then with 20 seconds left in the match, Perez finally put both Pena’s shoulders down for the win.
Perhaps even more exciting was the 220 final where Osceola’s Jacoby faced off with Dunedin’s Anthony Siergrist. Siergrist beat Jacoby 2-1 in double overtime in the semis at PCAC. Tied 1-1 through the first three periods and through the first overtime period, Jacoby scored an escape in the top half of double overtime and Siergrist got hit with a stalling point as both wrestlers reach their points of exhaustion. Jacoby had to endure a 3-1 overtime win over Bowens in the semifinals to boot. Up 3-1 into the bottom half of double overtime, Siergrist escaped from the down position to make it 3-2 but Jacoby held on for the win and his first district title.
“I knew what I was in for with this match,” Jacaoby said. “That was by far the most difficult match of the year. (Siergrist) is an amazing wrestler and I’ll likely see him at regionals, too.”
Jacoby improved to 23-3 on the season. Osceola teammate Alex Saltzman won the 182 title 5-1 over East Lake’s Rami Goris.
Not to be outdone, East Lake’s Isaiha Torres got into a barn burner with Northeast’s Cameron Bradley in the 195 final. Bradley led 2-1 after one period and the pair tied 3-3 heading into the third. Torres burst up from the down position to take the lead. Torres hit a shot to go up 6-3 with 35 seconds left but was not satisfied with a victory on points and ground out a pin as time expired in the third.
“I feel better with the pin,” Torres said. “I’m the captain of this team and I wanted to set the example.”
Teammate Lucas Cortes showed some mettle in the 170 final, taking on a tough Grammatas in the final. Grammatas came out guns blazing, scored the first take down and slammed Cortes. Cortes scored a reversal, then caught a head lock with a funk roll and pinned Grammatas with 20 seconds left in the period.
Cortes improved to 30-6 on the season after claiming his first district title.
An unfamiliar face made an appearance on Saturday as Dixie’s Liam Ward slotted into the 113 bracket. Ward tore ligaments in his knee at the first meet of the season at East Lake and has been out all season. He wasted no time pinning his way into the finals and scoring a first period pin of East Lake’s Jason Leggett to claim his third district title.
“I couldn’t even walk for the first two-and-a-half months. I finally got my legs back and just hoped the doctor would clear me. He did and here I am,” Ward said. “It feels so good to go in ready to win; it’s all I had in my mind. I didn’t want all my hard work and effort to go to waste.”
The Dixie trio behind Ward delivered on district titles, as well. First, it was Drew Harrington (126), scoring a 17-2 tech pin over Northeast’s Connor McNally, making it Harrington’s third straight district title and a 34-1 record. Next, it was sophomore Coleman Bryant winning 5-1 over East Lake’s Anthony Eguiluz at 152, making Coleman’s second title in as many years. Finally, heavyweight Jesse Smith scored a pin of Clearwater’s Jamari Channell in the first 20 seconds of the match to improve to 47-0.
Dunedin saw four win titles. First up was Hunter Gast holding on for a 3-0 win over Dixie’s Hugh Herring. Next up was the Falcons’ 1-2 combination of Thomas Bujalski (132) and Grant Cardwell (138). Bujalksi used a butcher to pin Osceola’s Taveon Strowbridge as time ran out in the first period. It marked Bujalski’s second straight title. Teammate Josh Felix(160) took a 3-1 win over Largo’s Winchester Dermody to win his first district title.
The Vikings advanced 11 of their 13 wrestlers to regionals. Dunedin advanced nine of their 11, East Lake advanced nine of their 12, Dixie advanced seven, River Ridge five, Mitchell four, Osceola, Clearwater and Boca Ciega all advanced three.