LAND O’LAKES — The Class 2A, District 8 meet is typically close, with Dunedin pulling away to win. That did not hold true Thursday night.
Sunlake led going into the finals and third-place matches. River Ridge jumped in front after the third-place matches. Then Dunedin came storming back, winning four of the first six final bouts.
But after the Falcons’ Anthony Dampier (23-10) took a 6-3 decision from the Royal Knights’ Max Reynolds (29-6) in the only head-to-head matchup in the finals, River Ridge (168) secured the team title over the defending champion Falcons (146). Sunlake placed third (135).
Two fantastic matches highlighted a brutal tournament. The first was a clash at 126 pounds between Sunlake’s John Ortiz (26-1) and Dunedin’s Clarence Arrington (30-0). Arrington was the top-ranked wrestler in Class 2A; Ortiz third. Ortiz’s only blemish was a 3-2 loss to Arrington this season. The first round was a scoreless draw.
“The way his (Ortiz’s) body is lengthwise, it’s tough to get a takedown on him,” Arrington said.
That elusive takedown finally came in the third round after Ortiz shot in for a leg but missed it. Arrington gained the advantage, executed the takedown and won 3-1.
“This was one of my tougher matches of the year,” Arrington said. “Whenever I would try a takedown it was like he was anticipating it.”
The second match pitted River Ridge’s Thomas Burke (30-11) against Connor Menendez (25-8) of Tarpon Springs. After a 3-2 first round, Menendez started to pull away in the second. Burke faced a 9-4 deficit but scored two takedowns as time expired in the third to tie it up for an overtime round. Burke scored the first takedown in overtime and won 14-12.
“I thought I was going to lose,” Burke said. “I looked in my corner and they said to keep cutting him. Before I knew I had two takedowns and an overtime round. It was crazy, I couldn’t believe it.”
In the nightcap match, River Ridge senior Hayden Krautner secured the heavyweight title and the Royal Knights’ team title with a second-round pin on Zephyrhills’ Drew Allen.
Team totals: River Ridge 168, Dunedin 146, Sunlake 135.5, Zephyrhills 125, Mitchell 90, Tarpon Springs 87
106: Pastore (Dun), Watt (Mit), Decanio (RR), Ellis (Sun); 113: D. Arends (RR), Cruz (Sun), Lebaron (Mit) Martinez (Zep); 120: Fowler (TS), Monti (RR), Hayes (Dun), Wafford (Sun); 126: Arrington (Dun), Ortiz (Sun), Damato (RR), Lewis (TS); 132: Allison (Dun), Portorreal (Sun), K. Arends (RR), Manning (TS); 138: Lebhar (Dun), Gebler (Mit), Lopez (Sun), Masters (Zep); 145: Burke (RR), Menendez (TS), Youpa (Mit), Hall (Dun); 152: Bennett (TS), Schenk (Mit), Gyngard (Zep), Kozma (Dun); 160: Dampier (Dun), Reynolds (RR), Smith (Zep), Rivera (Sun); 170: Carlson (Zep), Dixon (Sun), Harris (RR), Myers (Dun); 182: Morrison (Zep) Speicjer (Sun), Dunlap (Dun), Everhart (Mit); 195: Shaffer (Zep), Kweller (Sun), Smith (Mit), Poland (Dun); 220: Simms (RR) Ortiz (Zep), Murchie (Mit), Johnson (Sun); 285: Krautner (RR), Allen (Zep), Mucaj (TS), Waddell (Sun)