HomeTeam 25: Wrestling power rankings
Heading into the postseason, here’s a look at some of the top wrestling teams in Tampa Bay. The evaluation is based on how tteams will potentially perform at states in an individually-bracketed tournament, not a dual.
1. Brandon: The Eagles are still the class of Tampa Bay area wrestling, even if they've lost a little luster recently. Brandon has won 16 straight state team titles and 27 overall. Defending state champ Joe Marcano (220 pounds) leads the Eagles with an undefeated 17-0 record and is likely to defend his title at state. Andreus Bond (126) took third at state last year and has a 56-5 record after winning the Hillsborough County title. Noah Ridley is another state contender (third a year ago) with a 59-5 mark this season.
2. Palm Harbor University: The Hurricanes look back in form after dominating the Pinellas County Athletic Conference meet last weekend. The ’Canes field a full lineup, led by defending state finalist Chris Fragale (113). Fragale (45-3) won the Logan Kushner Duals, was second at LiveGreco and won the Fit2Win Invite as well as his second straight county title. Gavin Mitchiner (145 pounds, 49-3) was the PCAC, Fit2Win and Logan Kushner champ and should medal at state. The ’Canes also have several others who could qualify for state. Upstart Jacob Mason (195) is 44-6 after topping East Lake's Isaiha Torres 11-6 in the PCAC final.
3. Jesuit: The Tigers are led by Matt Daner (126) and freshman Ethan Basile (132). Both won titles at LiveGreco, improving their records to 35-8 and 40-1, respectively. Jesuit just outpaced Palm Harbor U. at LiveGreco, but the ’Canes were without Mitchiner and Dylan Whitman in the lineup.
4. Strawberry Crest: The Chargers, perpetually in Brandon's shadow, are the best team no one knows about. They were runners-up behind Brandon at the county meet, comfortably behind the Eagles but also comfortably ahead of third-place Riverview. The Chargers are led by defending state champion Cullen Telfer, who won the county title last weekend by tech pinning every opponent, including Brandon's Broc Spurling in the final. Telfer is 20-0 on the season. Manny Ramirez (40-3) also won a county title last week. Joe Hatfield and Trenton Davidson should be state qualifiers, too.
5. Dixie Hollins: The Rebels don't have the depth of a year ago when they snatched the PCAC title away from PHU but they have three wrestlers who should make the podium at states. Drew Harrington (126) improved to 30-1, winning his second straight PCAC title. Harrington was fourth at state last season. Heavyweight Jesse Smith won his first PCAC title, extending his unbeaten streak to 45-0. Sophomore Coleman Bryant has as many PCAC titles as he does years on the varsity team (two). Bryant is a wild card that could surprise a lot of people at state.
6. Pasco: The Pirates are led by defending state finalist John DeAugustino (126). Anyone at state last year remembers DeAugustino's epic match with five-time state champ Kyle Norstrem of Brandon. Now a junior, DeAugustino is easily one of the favorites to win a 2A title. There’s a chance that DeAugustino and Dixie’s Harrington will clash at state. Others who should join DeAugustino in Kissimmee are Chase Ayers (106) and Miguel Angel Hernandez (160). Ayers is 46-7 after winning the Sunshine Athletic Conference title, while Hernandez (45-8) was a match away from placing at state a year ago and also took first at the SAC tournament.
7. Land O'Lakes: The Gators have a couple of elite wrestlers in Troy Nation (132) and Jacob Conrad (138). Nation just won the SAC title to improve to 38-3. Nation lost a 10-9, double-overtime thriller to Jesuit's Basile at LiveGreco. Nation and Basile are among the best in 2A in that weight class. Conrad (33-3) won gold at the SAC tournament. Jarrett Kinney (120) could also find his way to Kissimmee if he continues his current run. An SAC victory pushed him to 35-5 this year.
8. Riverview: Lightweight Tyler Forrest has been having a tremendous season. Forrest improved to 47-0, downing a 57-13 Alejandro Davis of Brandon in the Hillsborough County finals.
9. Tampa Prep: The Terrapins are always a bit under the radar. Even with the departure of Ashton Habiel, the Terps still have Anthony Artalona. Artalona fell 4-3 in the Class A state finals a year ago. He is 30-3 and scored 33.5 team points on his own at the Clay Rotary Invite earlier this month. Teammate Ben Buhler will pad the team score, even if he's the only other Terp at state. Sophomore Zack White could join the pair at states.
10. East Bay: The Indians will bring Kevin Clayton (195) back to state. Clayton was a match from the medal round last year and he's 58-0 this season after winning a Hillsborough County title. Sebastian Johnson (48-4) and Gamaniel Calderon will likely join Clayton at state.
11. Citrus Park Christian: Nic Bouzakis (106) is the best wrestler no one's seen as he frequently wrestles in out-of-state tournaments. He's 13-0 locally but should shred the 106 bracket at state, piling up a lot of points by pin fall. Josh Pritz is new to the sport but could make noise in the postseason.
12. Northside Christian: Senior 145-pounder Kamen Wilmington hasn't lost locally this season and clear of Artalona up at 152, Wilmington has a great shot at his first state title after taking fourth last year.
13. Newsome: The Wolves will be led by Joe LeBarre, who downed defending state finalist Noah Ridley of Brandon to win a Hillsborough County title. Teammate Kohl Drake could join him at state.
14. Wesley Chapel: The Wildcats have Emmanuel Torres, who placed fifth at last year's state meet. The senior won his second straight SAC title, improving to 42-4 on the season. The Wildcats won the conference team title, and Marcus Gillott (22-6) and Jack Faysash (30-3) are among those who could advance in the postseason. Both were first-time SAC champions.
15. Dunedin: The Falcons are likely to advance several wrestlers to state but Grant Cardwell (138) and Thomas Bujalksi (132) are the best chances to win matches and possibly place. Both won their first PCAC titles last weekend.
16. Northeast: The Vikings may not have that elite wrestler who is going to rack up points but they have a trio that is likely qualify at state. Tops among them is Shaq Johnson (170), who won his first PCAC title. Connor McNally (126) and Marcel Scott (220) are likely state qualifiers.
17. Gaither: Brad Bolesta (182) is a beast. He tore through the LiveGreco bracket, scoring all pins and was sixth at state last year.
18. Freedom: The Patriots were fourth as a team at the Hillsborough County meet. Blake Schroyer, Tommy Barker, Alex Kiester and Avery Royster could turn into state qualifiers.
19. Sickles: Jacob Darr has state experience and won a Hillsborough County title at 132. Also keep an eye on Nicholas Lalumia and Alex Fellove.
20. Jefferson: The Dragons will have county champ Jesus Gonzalez in the vanguard, with Brian Mas and Damiani Castro as possible state qualifiers.
21. Plant: Johnathan Brabazon leads the Panthers, who have a deep lineup, after a win at the Hillsborough County meet.
22. Leto: The Falcons are all about 59-4 Dudane Anderson, who topped Brandon's Brett Estep for the 160-pound title at the county meet. Jonathan Lugo (61-4) could join him at state.
23. Countryside: Andrew Brown (220) has come on late, recovering from a broken arm, but is 15-0 after winning his first PCAC title. Teammates Mike Smith and Anthony Burburija are also ones to watch.
24. Hernando: The Leopards will be powered by Codey Maniates (145 pounds, 40-6). The senior has already registered his second straight 40-win season and is looking to improve on his state performance from last year (0-2). Another to watch is senior Harry Williams (182, 37-8), who took first at the Citrus Ed Kilpatrick Classic last month.
25. Springstead: Richie Rivera (113) is finally reaching his full potential as a senior, going 36-4 and ranked among the state's best in 2A. Teammate Travis Williams (170) is 36-5 and has also won multiple individual tournament titles this season. Coach Bob Levija, back on the mat for the first time in more than a decade, seems to have changed Springstead's fortunes.