Simply amazing. Even though the names and faces continue to change year in and year out, the results do not.
Once again, there they were. Players and coaches of the South Dade wrestling team up on the podium Saturday night at Silver Spurs Arena posing for snapping cameras paparazzi-style. The 2020 state wrestling championships had just concluded. The Bucs, once again and for the seventh year in a row, were looking down at the rest of the state of Florida.
The Bucs ran away and hid with the 3A state title registering 199 points, easily outdistancing second-place Southwest and third-place Orange Park Fleming Island, two teams that were expected to challenge them this year, by 91 and 92 points, respectively.
So dominant was a performance that included six wrestlers making the finals and three winning titles that South Dade already had the title mathematically wrapped up before Saturday’s finals began.
“It was a little different this year because there wasn’t the feeling that we would necessarily run away with it this time,” said South Dade head coach Vic Balmeceda. “We had quite a few kids who had not been tested at this level and you never know, they could’ve wavered or folded. But I saw by the second round Friday and semis this morning that and they had that look that they truly believed what we were preaching and their confidence grew.”
The win marked South Dade’s seventh straight title, extending the second-longest consecutive streak in state history but nowhere close to Brandon’s 17 in a row (2001-17). It was also the program’s 15th championship overall second-best but again, nowhere close to Brandon’s total of 28.
“I’m not sure if there’s some secret formula other than the fact that there is a lot of hard work and dedication that goes into this program from my staff down to the kids,” said Balmeceda. “In a way, we just keep things the same in that we just hold all our new kids to a standard where from the beginning of the year the bar is set so high that the pressure is there for them to not want to be the ones that end the streak and to live up to the examples set by our experienced kids and the ones who have already come through the program.”
Alex Couto, Bretli Reyna and Joshua Swan all won individual titles for South Dade, but the headliner was clearly Reyna, who easily defeated Lukas Forehand from Wellington 21-6 in the 145-pounds final.
It marked the senior’s fourth consecutive state championship putting him in very rarefied air.
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Reyna became only the second wrestler in South Florida history (Dade and Broward) to win four consecutive state titles and the first to win all four at the same school. He joined Earl Hall who did it from 2008-2011, the first year at Homestead, the next three at South Dade.
“It’s really something to go into a category like that,” said Reyna who finished his career with a remarkable 224-8 record and will head to the University of Iowa (ranked No. 1 in the nation right now) to join former teammate and mentor Pat Lugo. “I owe so much to so many people including my mom and dad, coach Vic and most especially Pat who taught me so much and now I can’t wait to go be his teammate again.”
Somebody who had a great seat for all four of his titles other than Balmeceda was Bretli’s father, Humberto Reyna, Balmeceda’s long-time assistant coach for nearly two decades.
“He’s like a wrestling Jedi,” quipped Humberto Reyna who runs the highly successful Gladiator Wrestling School in Homestead. “He actually might know as much or more technique than any of us. More importantly Bretli is a student of the game, outworks everybody, gets good grades in the classroom and is going to be very special at the next level.. Now he put his name in the history books and deservedly so. I can’t be more proud of him.”
Two champions for runner-up Southwest
It had been nearly 50 years since Southwest had a wrestler win back-to-back state titles when Johnny Williams did it in 1970-71. The Eagles were hoping to get a second but defending champion Adrian Vidaud suffered a 4-2 upset at the hands of Tylynn Lukens from Bradenton Manatee in the 170 lbs weight class and had to settle for a runnerup medal.
It was still a great weekend for the Eagles as they got wins from both Danny Martinez in 113 and Sebastian Melguizo in 126 to finish second with 108 points, which marked the program’s second-ever runner-up finish and first since 1972. Just a freshman, Martinez defeated Noah Wadle of Bradenton Manatee 8-1 to finish a perfect 64-0 on the season.
“A great night not just for our program placing second for the first time in nearly 50 years but wrestling in Miami-Dade County period,” said Eagles coach Mick Arteaga. “Myself and Vic, we’re all like family and root for each other so for Miami-Dade to finish one-two in the state says it all.”
Two All-Dade finals
There were two guaranteed winners from Miami-Dade County before the finals even started. That’s because both finalists in the 126 and 152 lbs. weight class were from Miami-Dade. Melguizo’s win in 126 was the most compelling. That’s because he faced his long-time friend and former teammate Jose Gonzalez from South Dade, beating him 8-2. Gonzalez was at Southwest a year ago before transferring to South Dade. The two shared a long embrace when it was over.
“It was very difficult for me and to be honest I was hoping I wouldn’t have to go up against him,” said Melguizo. “We were teammates last year and are very close and always will be. But I did what I had to do tonight and am proud to be a state champion.”
After turning in a triple overtime thriller in last week’s regional final, Doral Academy’s Sawyer Bartelt and South Dade’s Joshua Swan met again but with a lot more on the line in the 152s final.
After dropping a 2-1 heartbreaker to Bartelt, Swan won the one that counted the most defeating Bartelt 7-2 to win his first state title. Bartelt was looking to become only the third eighth grader in Miami-Dade history to win a state title.
“I played more of his style last week and not as much mine,” said Swan. “Tonight I made sure I was more aggressive and did the attacking and that was the difference.”
THIS AND THAT
▪ In its storied wrestling lineage, Columbus has only had three state champions. Christian Guzman was hoping to become the fourth and first since Nick Wethy in 2013 but dropped a 10-3 decision to Cooper Haase of Kissimmee Osceola in the 106 final.
▪ It was a quiet year for Miami-Dade teams in Classes 2A and 1A but each had one wrestler reach the state final although they had to settle for runnerup medals.
Connor Hueck from Southridge dropped the 2A 113 pounds title when he was defeated by Andrew Austin of Punta Gorda Charlotte getting pinned at 2:47. Eric Temes of Mater Lakes dropped a close 3-1 decision to Justin Rivera of Orlando Lake Highland Prep in the 1A 145 pounds final.
▪ Long-time Hialeah-Miami Lakes wrestling coach Mike Turner was the latest inductee to go into the Florida Chapter Wrestling Hall of Fame. Turner, who began his coaching career at HML in 1987 and has a career record of 321-75, was one of six new entries to be honored before the finals on Saturday night and will be formally inducted at a ceremony at Lake Buena Vista on Aug. 14.
106: Cooper Haase (Kissimmee Osceola) d. Christian Guzman (Columbus) 10-3; 113: Danny Martinez (Southwest) d. Noah Wadle (Bradenton Manatee) 8-1; 120: Alex Couto (South Dade) d. Dylan Sparkman (Palm Harbor University) 4-3; 126: Sebastian Melguizo (Southwest) d. Jose Gonzalez (South Dade) 8-2; 132: Jaekus Hines (Kissimmee Osceola) d. Adrian Neco (South Dade) Fall: 3:55; 145: Bretli Reyna (South Dade) d. Lukas Forehand (Wellington) 21-6 maj. dec.; 152: Joshua Swan (South Dade) d. Sawyer Bartelt (Doral) 7-2; 160: Kokl Drake (Lithi Newsome) d. Steven Villalobos (South Dade) 14-5; 170: Tylynn Lukens (Bradenton Manatee) d. Adrian Vidaud (Southwest) 4-2
113: Andrew Austin (Punta Gorda Charlotte) d. Connor Hueck (Southridge) Fall: 2:47
145: Justin Rivera (Orlando Lake Highland Prep.) d. Eric Temes (Mater Lakes) 3-1
106: Adrian Morales (South Dade) d. Angelo DeDona (Bradenton Manatee) 10-2; 120: Jason Shaw (Oviedo Hagerty) d. Robert Dusendang (Columbus) maj. dec. 15-0; 138: Cordell White (South Dade) d. Tyler Williams (Fleming Island) 10-1
145: Justin Ugarte (Naples Barron Collier) d. Cyrus Williams (Southridge) 4-3; 195: Ryan Voor (Brandon) d. Dedric Marshall (Southridge) 13-8
132: Collin Mojena (Tampa Prep.) d. Orestes Ferrer (Mater Lakes) 1-0
3A STANDINGS (Top 10)
1. South Dade 199.0, 2. Southwest 108.0, 3. Orange Park Fleming Island 107.0, 4. Kissimmee Osceola 97.0, 5. Fort Myers Riverdale 96.0, 6. Oviedo Hagerty 95.5, 7. Bradenton Manatee 90.0, 8. Palm Beach Gardens 66.0, 9. Orlando Freedom 58.5, 10. Palm Harbor University 57.5.