By: J. Daniel Pearson
For Positively Osceola
Although he is still in high school, senior Cooper Haase has a unique understanding of the history of Osceola High School wrestling.
He knows Osceola has had at least one state champion for 16 consecutive years. He knows that 17 different wrestlers have won a total of 32 state championship titles during that time and he knows that Fox Baldwin is the only Osceola wrestler to win four individual state championships.
So it’s no surprise that Haase – who has committed to wrestle at West Point – wants to become just the second wrestler in Osceola High history to win four consecutive titles. “We have had some incredibly talented wrestlers here,” Haase said. “Fox Baldwin was an absolute legend here, so to match him as the only guy to win four state championships would be both a goal and an honor for me.”
Still, Haase is the type of guy who sets his goals extremely high and he has added a huge caveat to that goal. He said he wants to join Baldwin by going undefeated his senior year. Last season, he swept through districts, regionals and states but because Osceola wrestles one of the toughest schedules in the country, he “only” went 50-3 last season. To go undefeated would mean that Haase would have to not only be the best in the state of Florida but would also have to run the table in both Osceola’s Knockout Christmas Classic on Dec. 21-22; as well as Powerade Christmas Classic, Dec. 28-29 in Cannonsburg, Pa. Both tournaments are considered among the premiere wrestling tournaments in the nation, featuring multiple state champions and All-Americans.
Whether Haase can pull off the undefeated remains to be seen; it’s a good bet he and Osceola will keep its streak of state champions alive this season. In addition to Haase being favored in his weight class, Osceola has two other individual state champions returning for the 2022-23 season in juniors Anderson Heap and Gunner Holland.
Heap, went 50-5 last season, after losing in the finals as a freshman. He pinned Northport’s Sean Michael-Gonzalez in the finals last year. Competing in the same bracket where four different wrestlers who defeated him in the regular season, Holland did not give up a single point in the state tournament in winning a state title for a second consecutive year. Holland is back in the wrestling room after completing his football season and should see action this week at the Danny Byron Invitational.
Meanwhile, Osceola opened its season with a third place finish at the Rumble at the Reservation at Lake Gibson High School in Lakeland, where the Kowboys tallied 169 points to finish behind national power Lake Highland Prep (279) and Class 2A power Lake Gibson.
Haase (3-0), Heap (3-0), and Jomar Sanchez (3-0) each claimed individual championships. Haase (152-lb. class) took care of business to remain undefeated overall; while Heap needed a 3-1 decision over Lake Gibson’s Hayden Whidden in the 145-lb. final to take his title. Sanchez (220) was also dominant over his opposition – recording two pins and a majority decision in his three matches.
While Holland will be a force when he returns, Osceola should be strong at several other weight classes this year including Evan Martinez (120), Isfandier Sharipov (126) and Deacon Law (160). Martinez is a home-grown kid from Osceola’s program and wrestled at Freedom High last year. All three of those wrestlers took third place at Rumble.
“We’ve had some minor injuries and other small setbacks so far this season, but it’s nothing too serious,” Tribit said. “Gunner, Elijah Palmero and Akeem Knox are all back from football and that will certainly help our depth. We have the Danny Byron Invitational this week and will face a lot of top level competition again.”
While Osceola has enjoyed the most success in the state tournament, Harmony coach Vic Lorenzano continues to build a tremendous program with the Longhorns. The Longhorns defeated Osceola (210-195.5) to win their third consecutive Orange Belt Conference Championship last season, but finished in 5th place in the state team championship (76 points) — one spot behind Osceola (106.5). The Longhorns sent 10 wrestlers to the state championship and had four all-state performers – including Nelson Toro, who finished second at 220-lbs.
In addition to Toro, head coach Vic Lorenzano returns many talented wrestlers this season, including Shawn McAllister (138), Antonio Palotico (160), Rey Ortiz (132) and Landon Davis (120) – who will likely drop to 113 for state tournaments.
In early season action, the Longhorns traveled to the Miami area for the 48th edition of the Sea Horse Open, the oldest wrestling championship in Florida. Rey Ortiz and Nelson Toro each won individual championships; while McAllister (3rd) and Palotico (2nd) each finished near the top of the podium. The following weekend, Harmony hosted the Longhorn Duals where they went a perfect 5-0 with wins over Cypress Creek (72-12), St. Cloud (76-6), Lake Nona (66-12), George Jenkins (48-34) and Olympic Heights (43-31).
“Things have been going well for us in the early going,” Harmony coach Victor Lorenzano said. “We have sent 10 wrestlers to the state championship the last two years as we continue to build our program. Team –wise getting into the state duals will be a goal for us and continue to build on our medal count at the state IBT. Winning a fourth straight Orange Belt Conference Tournament is also a goal.”
Gateway and Poinciana competed in the same Lake Gibson meet as Osceola. The Panthers took fourth place overall with 127; while Poinciana was sixth with 63 points. Gateway’s top performers included second place finish by Elijah Abreau, a third place showing by Ivan Rivera (106) and fourth place finishes by Dashawn Reese (160) and Aiden Cooper (195). Poinciana’s top wrestlers this year will most likely include senior Landon Trigueros, who took third at 113 and Jayden Swaby, who was 4th in the 220-lb. weight class.
St. Cloud coach Mike Short Short said his team is both young in age and wrestling experience. “I just want to see us compete every week to the best of our ability. We have a nice core of kids and they will battle with anyone they face. While the goal is to be on the medal board in the room, right now our main focus is getting better daily and weekly,” Short said. Bulldogs top wrestlers include Nate Heron (Jr., 132), John Fernandez (Jr., 182), Andres Colantanio (So., HWT) and Jose Martinez (Sr., 170). Terrance Griffin (So., 160) is a promising newcomer to the Bulldogs’ squad.