LAKELAND — The championship wasn’t as dramatic or intense this time around, but for the Springstead wrestlers and coaches on the medals stand at the Lakeland Center on Saturday evening, the feelings while holding the trophy were just as gratifying.
Springstead (172.5 points) won its second consecutive Class 2A state team title with a dominant performance over the field. The Eagles were 80 points better than distant runnerup Riverdale (92.5 points).
The Eagles crowned three individual champions after placing six in the finals. At the beginning of the season, many believed there was no way the Eagles could match the six they put in the finals last season, but Springstead coach Eric Swensen and his staff proved the doubters wrong.
Sean Redman (145 pounds), who had his ups and downs throughout his career, went out on top. The senior knocked off Jensen Beach’s Mike Hess in a 5-2 decision to win a state title.
Cody Ross (152) avenged a region loss and won his third state crown in his fourth consecutive state final by pinning Riverdale’s Miguel Rivera in the first period.
The happiest man in the building man might have been first-time state champion John Dreggors. The senior 285-pounder let one slip away in the finals last season. But he got his redemption Saturday with a 4-2 overtime victory over Olympic Heights’ Mike Kosoy. He was down 2-0 at one point, but rebounded to take the crown.
“I’m most proud of him because he usually doesn’t respond well to adversity,” Swensen said, “but he brought it. A weight has really been lifted off his shoulders.”
Among the other finalists for Springstead were freshmen Josh Herrera (132 pounds) and Conor Ross (170), who both came close to upset wins in their finals bouts. And at 195 pounds, Thomas Gupton was edged 2-1 by Davion Stuarts of Charlotte.
The Eagles also had two other state placers. Jordan Rivera (126) was third for the second straight season after gaining a 16-0 technical decision over Nature Coast’s Cameron Tull in the consolation finals. Freshman Matt Landgraff (106) placed sixth in his first state tournament.
One of the more impressive performances came from Nature Coast. The Sharks finished sixth in team points with 63 in Class 2A in their first year after moving up from Class A.
After never placing more than one wrestler in any single season, and with two state placers in school history (Scott Cronin, 2010, and Carter Bolesta, 2011), the Sharks put four on the medals stand by the end of this tournament.
Leading the charge was Carlos Carasquillo (170), who came in third place after defeating Crestview’s Tyler Goudy 7-0 in the consolation final. Sean Nguyen (106), Tull (126) and Mitch Lambert (160) all placed fourth.
Fivay qualified eight for the Class 1A tournament, but the Falcons were disappointed when all but three were eliminated by the second day. Troy Reed (113) and Sean Speer (120) both placed fourth after advancing to the consolation finals.
Falcons senior Mike Hahn (220), who placed fourth last season, ended up in a rematch in the state finals with his region finals rival, Lake Highland Prep’s Carter Shipley. Hahn finished second as Shipley won 5-2 and handed Hahn only his second loss of the season.
Pasco’s J.P. Gamez may have been the most inspiring story of the tournament. Qualifying for the event every year since he was a freshman, Gamez had never made the finals. Expectations have always weighed heavily on the Pirate.
This season, Gamez worked hard from the start, determined to fulfill those expectations as a senior. With an 8-7 decision over Lake Highland Prep’s Anthony Petrone, he did just that.
“It shows that no matter how you work, you get what you work for,” Gamez said. “It just feels so good to finally get here.”