Wrestler of the Year: Jordan Rivera, Jr., Springstead (45-4)
Why we picked him: If there has ever been a more pressure-packed individual match victory, we’ve never seen it. In Rivera’s 138-pound state final bout against Melbourne’s Joey Miuccio, the junior captain needed to not only win to keep Springstead in contention for a state team title, but a normal decision left the Eagles vulnerable for a tie. Rivera, who cruised through two 8-6 decisions and an 8-4 decision in earlier rounds, dominated his final on the way to a 10-2 major decision. In the end, he held two gold medals for his effort.
Most impressive accomplishments: Rivera had placed third in his freshman and sophomore seasons before breaking through for the state tournament this year in Lakeland. He made the Times’ all-North Suncoast first team both seasons. His 125 total wins are among the best in program history, 61 off the record set by 2012 graduate Cody Ross (186). Rivera’s cousin, Matt Booker, a 2001 grad, is second all-time with 162 wins.
Did you know? Wrestling with the Spring Hill Wrestling Club since he was 4, Rivera has been focused on his mat career most of his life. He competes year-round, a dedication that has earned trips to some of the country’s most prestigious tournaments in Fargo, N.D., Virginia Beach, Va., and Cedar Rapids, Iowa. His performance at the Lakeland Center resulted in the 26th individual state title dating to 1991.
106: Sean Nguyen, Sr., Nature Coast, 44-3. With his sights set on becoming the first state champion in Shark history, Nguyen fell just short in the Class 2A final. He became the program’s first two-time state placer, making the all-North Suncoast first team two times in a row as well.
113: Mike McDonald, So., Springstead, 48-5. McDonald followed up his 36-11 record and all-North Suncoast second-team honor as a freshman with a fifth-place finish at state in Class 2A.
120: Tony Ruggiero, Sr., Wesley Chapel, 42-5. The first Wildcat to capture an individual state title has steadily been progressing on the mat. He followed his surprising state placement last year by emerging from one of the toughest brackets in Class A.
126: Jon Galvin, Jr., Wesley Chapel, 39-7. Galvin came out of nowhere to not only qualify for state, but come within one match of a state title. The Wildcat finished fourth at the Springstead Invitational in January before turning things around to become a district and region champion, and finish third in Class A.
132: Niko DeAugustino, Sr., Pasco, 48-7. The son of Pirates coach Mark DeAugustino, Niko worked hard all year to make his senior campaign the best of his prep career. That dedication resulted in two victories at state, one short of the medal stand, and improved upon his all-North Suncoast honorable mention as a junior.
138: Skyler White, Sr., Pasco, 43-6. White became the second Pirate to reach the Class A state final in as many years, following J.P. Gamez’s state title. White, who had been one of Pasco’s leaders since his freshman season, fulfilled his potential with a silver medal.
145: Andrew Scherer, Jr., Fivay, 48-4. In his second trip to state, Scherer looked far more comfortable competing in front of the large crowd at the Lakeland Center. He proved one of the elite wrestlers in his class in Class A, finishing fourth overall.
152: Joe Russo, Sr., Springstead, 42-10. Finished 1-2 at state, but won a title at the Springstead Invitational and placed second to Lake Gibson’s Chase Krutzky at the Hernando Kiwanis Invitational.
160: Brandon Vovan, Sr., Nature Coast, 45-6. Sharks coach Mike Lastra didn’t have to wait long for the first school title. Vovan joined Nguyen as the first two Nature Coast state finalists, then became the first champion with his 6-2 decision over Lehigh’s Jabari Irons. Not bad for someone who’d never qualified for state before.
170: Conor Ross, So., Springstead, 49-5. His only loss at the state tournament was in the quarterfinals to St. Augustine’s David Martinez. The loss was significant because he easily defeated Martinez in the consolation final 6-1 to take third overall in Class 2A. This is Ross’ second all-North Suncoast first-team berth.
182: Collin Hahn, Sr., Fivay, 46-4. In 2012, the Falcons were represented in the Class A final by Mike Hahn (220). Now his younger went from being an inconsistent state qualifier to one of the best at the tournament with his lone defeat coming to the Villages’ Taylor Jackson, a three-time state champion, in the final.
195: Gary Garcia, Sr., Land O’Lakes, 37-13. Went 1-2 at state in Class 2A, but won his first district title. He was also runnerup in the Sunshine Athletic Conference and Springstead Invitational.
220: Jesse Gaudin, Jr., Hernando, 43-2. Gaudin, who had never reached state before this year, was a wrecking ball through the regular season, then captured district and region championships. He received only his second loss in Lakeland vs. Jesuit’s Austin Underwood, who finished second overall.
285: Kelly Meus, Sr., Fivay, 35-8. A standout offensive lineman for the football team, Meus qualified for state last season and came back to Lakeland this year to take sixth in Class A. He ran into North Marion’s Aaron Pringle, the eventual state champion, at districts, regions and state.
106: Matt Landgraff, So., Springstead, 49-9
113: Dakota Arends, Sr., River Ridge, 38-6
120: Stephen Pavao, Sr., Springstead, 37-8
126: Andrew Smith, So., Springstead, 37-19
132: Kendrich Portorreal, Sr., Sunlake, 33-11
138: Robert Napolitano, Jr., Gulf, 36-12
145: Jesus Nieves, Jr., Central, 35-13
152: Jacob Newman, Sr., Gulf, 39-12
160: Spencer Baxter, Sr., Gulf, 46-4
170: Nicco Lightfoot, Sr., Fivay, 50-6
182: Dylan Savoury, Sr., Nature Coast, 39-11
195: Zach Kweller, Sr., Sunlake, 34-13
220: Zack Jordan, Sr., Pasco, 37-5
285: Ted Johnson, Sr., Wesley Chapel, 23-16
Anclote: Colton Nichols (138), Dimitri Grivas (152); Central: Josh Marquez (120); Fivay: Troy Reed (120); Gulf: Anthony Agazarm (120), Jarred Kruse (182); Land O’Lakes: Dominick Telesco (106), Bobby Austin (170); Pasco: Kevin Tipton (106), Josh Burt (285); River Ridge: Max Reynolds (160), Hayden Krautner (285); Springstead: Billy Swift (160), Corey Humphrey (220); Sunlake: John Ortiz (126); Wesley Chapel: Devin Whitacre (113); Weeki Wachee: Dante Padilla (120); Zephyrhills: Joel Morrison (182), Josh Shaffer (195)
Coach of the Year
Sal Basile, Springstead. Eric Swensen, the head man during Springstead’s past two state title runs, resigned his position during the offseason. When the administration promoted longtime assistant Basile, there wasn’t much question as to whether the Eagles alum would be able to maintain the winning culture. Basile orchestrated program’s the third consecutive state championship and only the fourth in North Suncoast history.