With spring sports going full bore, the big news last week in high school sports came from the winter sport of wrestling. Osceola’s Cooper Haase took on some of the top high school juniors in the nation and came away with a national championship.
Last month Cooper Haase won his third consecutive state title, now the junior can add National Champion to his resume. Competing in the junior class at the National High School Coaches Association Nationals, Haase bested more than 300 other juniors from around the country by going 7-0 to win the 132-lb. weight class. Along the way, he defeated Colorado state champion Lain Yapoujian in the round of 32(1-0), Southwest Miami all-state performer Danny Martinez in the semis (5-3), before claiming the national championship by beating Ohio State Champion David McClelland (Desales HS) in the finals, 6-3. Four other wrestlers from Osceola High competed and brought home All-America honors as Anderson Heap (6th) and Gunner Holland (3rd) placed on the podium in the sophomore class; while Elijah VanSickle took third place in the Freshman Division and Kyla Oliver took second in the girls’ freshman division at 112.
In other wrestling news, you have to be tough to participate in the sport, but apparently being smart doesn’t hurt either. There are more than 120 Florida Schools that wrestle in Class 3A. A recent report listed the team grade point averages of each team. Osceola County had three schools in the top 25 including #2 Celebration (3.395), #12 Harmony (3.240) and #24 Osceola (3.088). It should be noted that both Osceola (4th) and Harmony (5th) also finished in the top five in Class 3A on the mat at this year’s state tournament.
Former Kowboys wrestler Malyke Hines, who now wrestles at Lehigh University, qualified and participated in his second consecutive NCAA Tournament this past week.
Playing tough schedules, both Harmony and Osceola continued their up and down seasons. Osceola dropped a 7-4 decision to Lake Minneola but beat Davenport Ridge on Friday will take a 7-4 record into this week’s play. Senior Blake Birchler was leading the team with a .444 average. Harmony dropped a 12-0 decision to powerful First Academy of Orlando last week. The Royals went to 12-0 on the season and are ranked third in Class 3A. The Longhorns have three games this week, including a home rematch with Osceola on Friday. Harmony (3-6) defeated the Kowboys earlier in the season.
Next week will mark the return of the Orange Belt Baseball Tournament. The event is scheduled for Apr. 4- 9. Because of the pandemic and other issues, this marks the first team OBC event tournament since the fall of 2019. With the exception of baseball, all spring team sports titles this year are being determined by round robin play.
“We really wanted to bring the OBC Tournament back for all the spring team sports, but we had some scheduling issues,” Osceola County Athletics Director Ryan Day said. “We were able to work it out for baseball this spring and starting next fall, all the team sports will have an OBC Tournament Week.”
Osceola will host the first and third place games on Friday, Apr. 8 beginning at 5 p.m.
Osceola High School will be the center of the sport this week as it hosts the 30th annual Roger Jones Kissimmee Klassic at the Fortune Road Athletic Complex, Mar. 31-Apr. 2. Thirty-two teams will participate in one of two, 16-team brackets. The Blue Bracket features four of the top 10 ranked teams in Florida, including Bartow – who comes into the event with a 10-0 record and a #1 overall ranking in Florida and a number 14 national ranking. Bartow features one of the top young players in the country in Kaetlynn Oxley. In 10 games this season, Oxley is 8-0 with a 0.00 ERA. She has allowed just six hits on the season with 130 strikeouts in 51.2 innings. Oxley has fired six no-hitters. For good measure she leads her team in hitting with a .600 average and 18 RBI.
The host Kowboys will play in the Gold Division, that features Lake Wales, the number one ranked team in Class 4A. The Kowboys will open play at 9 a.m. on Friday against Clayton High of New Jersey. Formerly the Kissimmee Klassic, the tournament was renamed the Roger Jones Kissimmee Klassic in 2019 in honor of the former coach, administrator, youth sports mentor and co-founder of the event who passed away in 2018. Longtime Osceola coach and Klassic co-founder George Coffey, who passed away late last year, will be honored with his name going on the MVP Trophies. Single day tickets for the tournament are $15 a day or $33 for an all-tournament pass. Fans are encouraged to purchase their tickets at www.kissimmeeklassic.hometownticketing.com/embed/all.
Both the Celebration boys’ (7-2-1) and girls’ (8-3-0) team remained undefeated in Orange Belt Conference play. The Storm boys are 5-0 in conference play and the girls are 6-0. FLAG FOOTBALL Harmony and St. Cloud are expected to battle for the OBC Conference title. Paul Strauch’s Longhorn team is off to a 4-0 start, including a 3-0 record against county schools. The Bulldogs are 2-2 with both losses coming to out-of-area playoff teams from a year ago. With a 2-0 record in OBC play the Bulldogs game with Harmony on Apr. 5 could be for the conference title.
With wins over Harmony (3-1) and Liberty (3-0) this week, the Celebration Storm (7-1, 6-0 OBC) clinched the Orange Belt Conference championship and took a major step in helping the Storm clinch their first overall OBC Championship in school history. Celebration’s only loss has come to Tampa Bay HEAT, a homeschool education activities team.