NAPLES — Indian Rocks Christian 113-pounder Kamen Wilmington began wrestling almost before he could talk.
His dad, Christopher, who coached at Northside Christian for the past 10 years, put Kamen on the mat when his son was just 3.
So though Wilmington is just a seventh-grader, he used those 10 years of experience to grapple his way to a Class A, Region 3 individual title on Saturday at Golden Gate High School.
Wilmington scored a 22-15 decision over Robinson’s Jeremy Andujar and will join IRC teammates Mike Gingras (fourth, 106), Tyler Mayer (third, 138) and Taylor Andres (third, 220) at next week’s state tournament in Lakeland.
Despite Andujar’s loss, it was a grand day for Robinson, which easily captured the team title with 168.5 points. The Knights also gained a measure of revenge against runnerup Wesley Chapel, which defeated Robinson in last week’s district tournament.
Nine of Knights coach Tom Montero’s wrestlers advanced to state.
“We took the loss at districts personal,” Montero said. “It’s awesome to win. This was a great way to rebound. The win came at a perfect time — right before states.”
Among the Knights advancing are heavyweight champ Javon Woods and 126-pounder David Nguyen, who pinned Spoto’s Norman Gallon in 1:36. At last week’s district tournament, Gallon defeated Nguyen.
“It feels unbelievable,” said Nguyen, a senior. “I’ve never went to states before. This is big. At states, I’m heading to the top. It’s go hard or go home.”
As for going home, it was a joyful — and tearful — trip up I-75 for the Wilmingtons and IRC coach Jay Dugmore.
“I knew (Kamen) was a tough kid,” said his father, “but I had no idea he could do this. Excuse me please, I’ve got to go outside and cry.”
Dugmore finished Wilmington’s thoughts.
“It’s pretty rare for a kid Kamen’s age to win regionals,” he said. “Kamen was outstanding. And this sets up his seeding at states. He won’t see another region champ until the semifinals.”
Gulf High, the Class A state champion two years ago, will send four wrestlers to states, including Forrest Swartsel (120).