LAKELAND — For all of the talk of it having a down season, Springstead put up quite a showing at the state wrestling tournament this weekend.
Even with the addition of perennial champion Brandon to the Class 2A field, the Eagles finished third with 89.5 points Saturday. Brandon won its 25th title and 14th in a row with 270.5 points, 151 more than Jesuit.
Springstead, which edged fourth-place Jensen Beach by 2.5 points, put three into finals.
Mike McDonald (120 pounds) capped a 44-0 season with an 8-6 overtime win over Brandon’s Ty Lucas. The junior, who finished fifth at state last season, beat Lucas in the final of the region tournament. Saturday, he won despite trailing 5-2 with 28 seconds left.
“I told (Springstead coach Sal Basile) at the beginning of the year that my goal was to be an undefeated state champion,” McDonald said. “Nothing was going to stop me from that.”
Senior Jordan Rivera (145) won his second straight title, 5-4 over Brandon’s Troy Joyce to finish 38-4. Only Billy Swift (170) lost in a final, 8-7 to Brandon’s Dontae McGee. In addition, Andrew Smith (132) finished third.
The results were particularly gratifying for Swift and Smith, who struggled with consistency throughout the season. Smith (44-8) earned his first state medal while Swift (37-9) improved on his fourth-place showing from one year ago.
One of the major surprises of the Class A tournament was Hernando. The Leopards brought only two wrestlers to Lakeland. But both, Brennan Ertl (160) and Jesse Gaudin (220), reached finals.
Ertl (42-12) had his ups and downs this season. But after hearing about best friend Justin Zimmerman’s battle with leukemia a couple of weeks before state, his focus and motivation sharpened. It culminated with a trip to the final, where he lost 13-6 to Live Oak Suwannee’s Shawn Brown.
“My coaches have given me a lot of support,” Ertl said. “I am really trying to do it for Justin.”
Gaudin (49-3) came into state as the favorite after reaching the final in 2013. The senior did not disappoint, handling Fort Myers Southwest Florida Christian’s Noah Huxley 3-2. The 14th state champion in Hernando history leaves with 146 wins over four seasons.
Hernando finished eighth with 47 points. Fort Lauderdale Cardinal Gibbons took first with 165.5 points, 16.5 more than Orlando Lake Highland Prep. Tampa Prep was third with 80.5.
Homestead South Dade won the Class 3A title with 174.5 points, 47 more than Kissimmee Osceola. Palm Harbor University finished fifth with 88.
Two programs earned their first medals. Anclote’s Jonte Scott (152) placed third in Class A, and Weeki Wachee’s Dante Padilla (120) took sixth in Class A.
“I knew (Scott) was something special when he first started practicing,” Anclote coach Nick Radner said. “He naturally knew all the moves on the mat. He may not have known the names of them, but he just knew what to do out there.”
Jarred Lanier (113) became only the second Wiregrass Ranch wrestler to place when he took fifth in Class 2A. Dylan Koesling took sixth in 2011.
Central’s Brandon Brown (182) took third in Class A. The Bears hadn’t had a wrestler on the podium since 2003 (Alan Solomon and Sergio Matos).
Other from the North Suncoast who placed include:
• Pasco’s Lukas Twardosky (sixth at 106), Skyler White (fourth at 138) and Andrew Ivie (fourth at 285)
• Fivay’s Cole Manion (fifth at 120), Andrew Scherer (fourth at 160) and Nicco Lightfoot (third at 182)
• River Ridge’s Max Reynolds (sixth at 182)
• Wesley Chapel’s Jon Galvan (third at 126)
• Gulf’s Jarred Kruse (sixth at 182).