LAKELAND — Northside Christian’s dreams of a team title were out of reach after a lackluster performance Friday at the state wrestling meet in Lakeland, so the Mustangs focused on nabbing individual gold Saturday.
Dalton Dennis repeated as the Class A 135-pound champion and teammate Anthony Melillo took gold at 140 pounds as Northside Christian finished fourth overall as a team with 81 points behind champion Fort Lauderdale Cardinal Gibbons (157.5). Brandon (3A) and Springstead (2A) also claimed team titles.
“I think I was more excited for Anthony’s match than I was for mine,” Dennis said. “I was a little disappointed that I could have done better in my match. But it’s great to repeat as champion. I’m going to miss wrestling in high school.”
Dennis cruised to a 9-2 victory in his match against Tampa Prep’s Eric Bach. But Melillo had a little tougher time defeating Clay’s Jason Wojcik. Melillo trailed 1-0 after one period, but he tied the match with an escape and after a couple overtime sessions outlasted Wojcik 2-1.
“I knew I had some better conditioning than him,” Melillo said. “That’s basically what the match came down to was endurance. It’s just so awesome to win. Dalton won it last year, and it just feels so good to win it now.”
Among the area wrestlers advancing to the finals were Northside Christian’s Brian Travis (125), Palm Harbor University’s Aaron Hartman (130) and Largo’s Chris Johnson (152).
Travis lost a 7-4 decision to Cardinal Gibbons’ Andrew Wisdom, and Hartman lost 5-1 to Brandon’s Rossi Bruno. Palm Harbor U. finished 10th in the Class 3A meet with 39 points.
Johnson was pinned in 2 minutes, 44 seconds by Shawn Landgraff of Springstead. The Packers finished sixth as a team in Class 2A with 60 points.
“I knew that Chris (Johnson) and Clarence (Longley) would be special,” Largo coach Jeremy Frioud said. “I’m so proud of every kid on this team. This was the best finish ever at state for Largo and it’s something special we all did as a family. I told Chris that he is going to be a very successful man one day and how proud I was to be his coach.”
The Packers’ Longley took third in the 135-pound class, narrowly defeating Olympic Heights’ Jid Gutty 7-6.
Countryside’s Ryan Hartman (third, 119) and Palm Harbor University’s Jared Stippert (third, 215) also placed in Class 3A.
Other county placers, included Dixie Hollins’ Dana Harrington (fourth, 125, 2A), Northside Christian’s Dryden Dennis (fifth, 130, A), Largo’s Cody McKinnon (fifth, 140, 2A) and Joshua Jeffries (sixth, 145, 2A).