Dan PearsonBy:  J. Daniel Pearson
For Positively Osceola

High school sports action heats up in Osceola County this week, as three teams will compete for district soccer titles, OBC wrestling championships are on tap for the weekend, and girls’ basketball begins district play. Add in a great performance by athletes in the Class 3A, Region 3 weightlifting championships and there’s a lot to read about in this week’s Positively Osceola’s County Sports Wrap-up.

Girls Weightlifting
It was a stellar performance for the St. Cloud girls as they took three of 10 weight classes to win their first regional weightlifting championship since 2016. The Lady Bulldogs (42) topped 2021 champion Northport (29) and Celebration (26) for the team title. The top six lifters in each weight class added team points, as the event was scored on a 7-5-4-3-2-1 basis.

“We do projections before each big meet and frankly we exceeded the point total I thought we would get,” St. Cloud Coach Cory Aun said. “We were really dominating in the first three weight classes and I was proud of our team’s effort in winning regionals.”

Automatically moving on to the Feb. 12 Class 3A State Championship meet for St. Cloud were weight class champions Ashley Aun (101), Abby Davis (110), and Javani Roberson (129). With the 16 next best non-regional winners earning at-large spots in the state tournament, Aun believes at least five other Bulldog lifters, including Kaitlyn Gallagher (2nd Place-110), Nyla Roberson (2nd place- 129), Aija Diaz (4th-101), Kiley Holland (3rd-154), Lara Laylah (5th-119), will most likely get at-large nods; while the Lady Bulldogs also have two other athletes on the bubble.

Osceola County will be well represented at the state championship as Harmony’s Adrinna Rosa (139) and Celebration’s Helena Huyke (129) also won regional crowns. Rosa, who placed second in the state meet a year ago, has been absolutely dominating her weight class this year. She won her class (155 bench press-205 clean and jerk-360 Total) by 65-lbs. over her closest competitor.

Counting champions, as many as 20 lifters from Osceola County may make the state championship field when the final lineup is announced later this week.

The FHSAA also has added a separate “snatch” competition to this year’s state series. That discipline, which coaches believe will eventually replace the bench portion of the state championships, is being held separately in 2022.

In that contest, Mitchell High (Pasco County) pulled a minor upset to win the team title with 41 points. St. Cloud was second (33) and Northport (25) was third.

Going to states in that event as regional champs from St. Cloud are Aun (101) and Davis (110). Other regional champions from Osceola County gaining automatic entry include Harmony’s Rosa (139) and Celebration’s Fabianna Millian, the winner at 154-lbs.

Girls Basketball
District action begins this week with two county teams hoping to advance to the regional round. St. Cloud (16-8) is the top seed in Class 6A, District 6, and will host South Lake on Wednesday. A win there would pit them against the winner of the other semifinal matchup between second-seeded Poinciana and Monday night’s Harmony / East Ridge winner. “We are entering the post-season with some confidence, but it is tempered. Poinciana has done a really good job lately and because we have such a young team you can’t take anything for granted in the post-season,” Bulldogs coach Chad Ansbaugh said of his team that is currently starting four sophomores.

Despite an outstanding season where they went 18-6 and barely lost the OBC title to St. Cloud, Gateway will have a tough row to hoe in the Class 5-A District 7 tournament, where they are only a number four seed behind Bishop Moore (19-5), Lake Wales (15-4), and Auburndale (16-5), teams that are currently ranked fifth, seventh and 16th in the state for Class 5-A.

Boys Basketball
The final week of the regular season is upon us and two Osceola County teams will be looking to improve on their current rankings before the start of district play. Osceola High went to 16-4 last week with impressive, hard-fought wins over Oviedo (59-57) and Life Christian Academy (52-47). They have a huge season finale this week against Oak Ridge (16-6), which is currently ranked fifth in the state in Class 7A. That contest will be in the Kowboys home gym Friday night at 7 p.m.

Gateway (16-6) has won 10 of 12 including a 68-43 win over Lake Buena Vista last week. Friday’s game with Osceola was canceled due to an on-campus incident at OHS earlier in the day. The Panthers play St. Cloud tonight before concluding its regular season with Southland Christian on Wednesday.

Three teams will play for district titles this week, with at least one of those teams most likely needing a win to move on to regional play.

With a 3-2 come-from-behind victory over Windermere last week, undefeated Celebration (10-0-4) moves on to face host-Olympia (11-6-3) in the Class 7A, District 5 Championship game on Tuesday night. In the Windermere win, Celebration scored all three of its goals in the second half in what head coach Chad Boudreaux called “one of the most inspiring performances I have seen in my coaching career.”

The Harmony boys’ team (12-5-2) advanced to the Class 6A, District 7 Championship game with a 4-0 shutout of St. Cloud. The win puts the Longhorns at home Wednesday night against top-seeded Ridge (9-3) for the district crown. Alex Tuyo led Harmony to the Bulldog win, scoring two goals. Head Coach Brett Ballard believes that his team’s current ranking may be enough to get them into regionals as an at-large team if they lose districts, the Longhorns will be going full bore to win. “We haven’t won a district championship in a long time, and if we do, it takes the uncertainty of the rankings out of the equation,” Ballard said. “Our team goal from the beginning was to win districts and we have that in our sights.”

Also playing for a district crown is the Harmony girls’ team. At 9-5-1 on the season, the Longhorns moved into the district final, where they will play top-seeded Ridge (16-1-3) in the finals at St. Cloud on Tuesday night. The Longhorns advanced on penalty kicks after tying St. Cloud 3-3.

Despite a solid record, Coach Scott Marlega believes the Longhorns must win the district title to advance to regionals. “Right now we are ranked 10th in the region and you never know, but it would be tough to jump into the top eight without a win over Ridge,” he said. “They are a very talented, explosive and offensive minded team. We will need to change our approach, play tough defense and look to score off counters.”

Three-sport Celebration star Helena Huyke is expected to ink a track scholarship this week to run hurdles for Embry-Riddle University.

Harmony will be looking for its third consecutive team title this weekend when it travels to Poinciana High School for the Orange Belt Conference Championships. Osceola, which dominated the OBC team championship for more than a dozen years, has finished second to the Longhorns two years running.

The county’s top teams were in action this week, as Osceola participated in the Live Greco Tournament at River Ridge High School. The Kowboys came away with champions in five weight classes including Anderson Heap (126), Cooper Haase (138), Melvin Ewen (145), Gunner Holland (160), and George Duncan (170).

Osceola (189.5) finished second in the tournament to state power Southwest Miami (301.5), who also posted five individual champions. “I’m incredibly proud of my team,” Head Coach Jim Bird said. “Not only did we have five champions, those same guys show up at youth clinic the next day and serve as volunteer coaches. Totally an unselfish act on their part…doing what others don’t want to do.”

Harmony competed in the prestigious 36th annual Flagler Rotary event hosted by Palm Coach High School. The Longhorns came through with a fourth-place finish (167.5) behind Fleming Island (201.5), Ft. Pierce Central (207), and champion Winter Springs (225.5).

Showing solid depth, the Longhorns scored team points in 11 different weight classes; including individual champions Rey Ortiz (126) and JC McNichols (138), while Nelson Toro took second at 220.
McNichols, one of the top-ranked wrestlers in the state, remained undefeated with five wins to push his record to 37-0 on the season; Ortiz is now 22-1 overall.

St. Cloud had five of eight wrestlers place at the 17-team Wolfpack Classic at Timber Creek High School on Saturday, finishing in 8th place with 111 points. Hernando (221) took the team title, Gainesville’s Bucholz (206) was second. Top Bulldog finishers included a first-place finish by Caleb George (138); and a pair of runner-up finishes by Nathaniel Huron (120) and Luis Herrera (126).