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HUDSON — When Mike Hahn strolled through the doors of the Lakeland Center last season, he was a relative unknown.
The first Fivay state qualifier in program history placed fourth in his weight class. Now a senior, Hahn has his sights on a state title, and the support of his teammates and coaches is stronger than ever. Seven other Falcons also qualified for the state championships.
“We’re like a family,” Hahn said. “Having us all there together will make a big difference.”
Hahn is aware of the pressure involved with wrestling at this level, and it seemed to catch up with him last weekend at the Class A, Region 2 tournament at Tenoroc in Lakeland. Undefeated heading into the region finals, the team leader hiccupped in the 220-pound bout against Lake Highland Prep’s Carter Shipley.
“I learned a lot from that loss,” he said. “Anything can happen in these matches. You have to be ready every time you go out there.”
According the Scout.com individual poll, Hahn remains the favorite. However, Shipley (40-4) is one of the main grapplers vying to end his dream of a gold medal. Raines senior Ken Bynum (33-2) should also provide a solid challenge after finishing third at state last season.
In the end, Hahn knows what it would mean to be the first school grappler to win a state title.
“I can’t even put into words what that would mean to me,” he said. “It’s what I’ve been working for all along.”
Where: The Lakeland Center
Friday: Weigh-ins, 8 a.m.; first round, 10 a.m.
Saturday: Weigh-ins, 8 a.m.; restart, 9:30 a.m.; championship finals, 5:30 p.m.
Sunday: Single-elimination, head-to-head competition among the top three place finishers from each weight class (A/2A/3A). First round, 10 a.m.; finals, 3 p.m.
Admission: $9 per session; parking is $7 per day
On the Web: Find first-round matchups at fhsaa.org/sports/wrestling.
Class 2A: Springstead, Nature Coast, Sunlake, Hernando, River Ridge, Central
Class A: Fivay, Wesley Chapel, Gulf, Pasco, Ridgewood
North Suncoast’s five best shots at an individual state title.
1. Cody Ross, Springstead (152): Despite an uncharacteristic loss at the Class 2A, Region 2 tournament last weekend to Celebration’s J.J. Francis, Ross (40-3) is the favorite for his third consecutive state title. He handled Francis earlier in the season, and many consider the Celebration wrestler his top competition.
2. John Dreggors, Springstead (285): The memories Dreggors (25-0) has of Lakeland are filled with disappointment. While his teammates celebrated the program’s first state title last season, the heavyweight was still emotional over his upset loss in the final. The senior has an opportunity to make amends.
3. Mike Hahn, Fivay (220): Hahn (40-1) seemingly came out of nowhere to place at state, the first Falcon to qualify for the tournament in program history. This year he has backup, with seven teammates joining the fray. An upset loss in the region final shouldn’t derail his sights on state gold.
4. J.P. Gamez, Pasco (120): After four straight years of qualifying for this tournament, the Lakeland Center is so familiar to Gamez (46-8) it’s like a second home. In his final trip, he hopes to finally come away with the state title that has eluded him.
5. Thomas Gupton, Springstead (195): Because of his unparalleled work ethic, Gupton (37-2) has gone from a green middleweight to one of the most dominant 195-pound grapplers in the state. He’ll see some stout competition this weekend, but he has seen stronger opponents all season than most of the field.
Rest of the qualifiers
Springstead (12): Matt Landgraff, Fr. (106) 31-9; Mike McDonald, Fr. (113) 35-8; Steven Pavao, Jr. (120) 26-9; Jordan Rivera, So. (126) 32-5; Josh Herrera, Fr. (132) 27-2; Joe Russo, Jr. (138) 33-9; Sean Redman, Sr. (145) 39-4; Conor Ross, Fr. (170) 31-8; Ernesto Padilla, Sr. (182) 10-5
Fivay (8): Troy Reed, Jr. (113) 45-14; Sean Speer, Jr. (120) 35-5; Andrew Scherer, So. (138) 32-11; Colin Hahn, Jr. (160) 33-7; Dominick Grilli, Sr. (170) 33-6; Nicco Lightfoot, So. (182) 39-2; Kelly Meus, Jr. (285) 34-8
Nature Coast (6): Sean Nguyen, Jr. (106) 49-6, Cameron Tull, Sr. (126) 38-11; Carter Bolesta, Sr. (145) 48-9; Mitch Lambert, Sr. (160) 42-8; Carlos Carasquillo, Sr. (170) 31-8; Peter Holloman, Sr. (195) 37-17
Wesley Chapel (5): Tony Ruggiero, Jr. (120) 39-11; Jeremy Qualls, Sr. (145) 39-12; Nick Popolillo, Sr. (152) 45-3; Thomas Fee, Sr. (195) 28-8; Diego Farchakh, Sr. (220) 17-7
Gulf (4): Anthony Agazarm, So. (106) 44-5; Forrest Swartsel, Jr. (120) 45-7; Spencer Baxter, Jr. (160) 46-3; Kenneth Hayes, So. (285) 25-12
Pasco (4): Skyler White, Fr. (126) 37-13; Niko DeAugustino, Jr. (138) 45-10; Zack Jordan, Jr. (220) 44-12
Sunlake (3): Wesley Wood, Sr. (113) 32-5; John Ortiz, Jr. (120) 32-8; Austin Lopez, Sr. (182) 27-12
Hernando: Jared Young, Sr. (152) 36-10
River Ridge: Dakota Arends, Jr. (106) 34-3
Ridgewood: Thomas Pearman, Jr. (195) 9-15
Central: Puerto Rico Nieves, Sr. (182) 20-6