As the winter sports season winds down, wrestling takes center stage this week with regional tournaments being held across the state. Regionals are the last step before the individual state championship tournament, which is slated for Kissimmee’s Heritage Park on Mar. 3-5.
In basketball, the Osceola Kowboys remain alive in the state tournament. Steve Mason’s team advanced to the regional semifinals with a win over Ft. Pierce Central and will now face Wellington on Tuesday night at home, with the winner advancing to the regional final.
Here is a look at sports around the county:
Most county teams will start their season this week with Tuesday’s openers featuring East Ridge at Osceola, Celebration at Poinciana, Cypress Creek at St. Cloud and Liberty at Gateway. Thursday will be Tohopekaliga’s opener as they host Evans. Harmony got off to a flying start last week, beating Gateway in its opener, 11-0.
The Kowboys kept their season going last week, moving to 19-5 with a 67-51 win over Ft. Pierce Central in the Class 7A, Region 3 quarterfinals. Sean and Chris Combs combined for 40 points in the game, including a game-high 23 from Sean. Cory Vega added 10 as the Kowboys used a big 28-point fourth quarter to put the game away. Osceola will face Wellington (22-6), a team that defeated the Kowboys by a 77-33 score earlier this year. Osceola played in that game without three starters. Tipoff is 7 p.m. at Osceola’s gym.
Gateway (18-9) saw its season end with a 63-50 loss to a talented Jones team in a Class 5A, Region 2 quarterfinal game; while City of Life Christian Academy (20-8) lost in the same round of the Class 2A tournament.
The season came to an end for all Osceola County teams, as both Gateway and St. Cloud lost in their respective regional finals. Gateway suffered a heart-breaking 37-35 loss to Bishop Moore in the Class 5A, Region 2 final as they came up just three points short of a trip to the Final Four.
Bishop Moore’s Alyssa Brasko grabbed an offensive rebound and hit the game-winning bucket with just 14 seconds left. “If you would have told me before the game that we were going to hold Bishop Moore to 37 points, I would have happily taken it, unfortunately, it turned out to not be enough,” Coach Justin Marino said of his team that finished with a 22-8 record.
There was no such theatrics in St. Cloud’s matchup with perennial power Wekiva in the 6A, Region 2 final as the Bulldogs fell 52-32. Jada Eads led the way for Wekiva with 19 points as the Mustangs advance to their fourth consecutive Final Four appearance. “We came up against a very physical, fast and athletically gifted team. I was proud of the fact that we stuck with them for two and a half quarters, but in the end, we simply did not match up with them. I am proud that this team won 20 games, a district title and made a deep run in regionals,” Coach Chad Ansbaugh said. St. Cloud, which started four sophomores for most of the season, finished with a 20-9 record.
District tournaments were held last week and Osceola County wrestlers did very well – advancing 57 wrestlers – including 24 district champions – to this week’s regional tournaments. In order to advance to the state championship meet at Osceola Heritage Park on March 3-5, wrestlers must finish in the top four this week.
Osceola hosted the Class 3A, District 5 Tournament and won yet another team district title with 252.5 points. Celebration was third with 160 points and Poinciana (68) was sixth. The Kowboys advance 12 wrestlers to next week’s regionals including district champions Anderson Heap (126), Cooper Haase (138), Melvin Ewen (145), Gunner Holland (170), Bryan Gari (182), Jomar Snachez (220) and Elijah Vansickle (285). Haase and Holland are defending state champions, Heap finished second in his weight class last year.
Celebration advances 10 to regionals, including district champions Kaluv Peterson (132) and Chase McBroom (152); while Poinciana sends four, including 106-lb. champion Landon Trigueros. All three schools will send their qualifiers to the Class 3A, Region 2 Championships at Osceola High School.
In the Class 3A, District 9 Tournament at Harmony, the Longhorns dominated in winning 10 of 14 weight classes and claiming the team championship with 285 points. Tohopekaliga (132.5) finished fourth.
Landon Davis (106), Carson Estrada (120), Ray Ortiz (126), Shawn McAllister (132), JC McNichols (138), Kade Toner (145), Maverick Hauser (152), Anthony Falotico (160), Nelson Toro (220) and Caden Gayle (285) all won district titles for Harmony, which also advanced two other wrestlers to regionals. McNichols ran his season record to 43-1.
Tohopekaliga will send eight to next week’s regional, including second-place finishers Jacob Noid (170) and Jayson Ortiz (132). All three schools will compete in the Class 3A, Region 3 meet at Harmony.
St. Cloud hosted the Class 2A, District 8 Tournament on Thursday, finishing fourth in the team championship with 119 points. Gateway was third (156.5) and Liberty (50) placed 6th in the eight-team event.
“Given we only had eight wrestlers in the 14 classes, I was very pleased with our team performance,” Bulldogs coach Mike Short said of his team that advances six wrestlers to regionals, including Tyler Bullard – the champion at 132.
Gateway will send 10 wrestlers through to regionals including Talyn Fisk, the district champion at 106; while Liberty saw its only two entrants both advance and win district titles as Daniel King (30-4) took the 220-lb. title and Brainys Robles (39-1) won the 285-lb. class.
St. Cloud, Gateway, and Liberty advancers will compete at the 2A-Region 2 meet at Lakeland’s Lake Gibson High.
A total of 32 teams, including six from Osceola County, competed in the Class 1A, Region 2 Tournament in Kissimmee last Friday. Freedom High School ran away with team title, scoring 241 points – advancing 10 girls including four regional champions to the state meet. Gateway was fourth with 84 points; followed by Osceola (64-6th), Poinciana (45-9th), Celebration (29 – 14th), Tohopekaliga (27-16th) and Harmony (10-28th).
In all, Osceola County will send 11 girls to the historic first-ever FHSAA Girls Wrestling State Championship, that will be held in conjunction with the boys tournament at Heritage Park on March 3-5.
Gateway will send four to the state meet, including regional champ Emiliana Martinez (190). Joining her will be Panthers Josie Glass (3rd-155), Lilly Yamber (2nd-170), and Fredlina Jones (2nd-235). Celebration will send regional champ Heyeni Costa (170). Osceola will have three representatives in Stacy Pule (2nd-105), Kellina Mack (3rd-126) and Cathia Timas (2nd-140). Poinciana advances two to the state finals, including Ivanis Pimentel (4th-140) and Kaylee Collado (2nd-145). Tohopekaliga sends one representative in Angela Banegas (3rd-105).
Most county teams open their season this week, including Poinciana at Celebration on Monday; Lyman at Osceola and Liberty at Bartow on Tuesday; St. Cloud hosting Timber Creek on Wednesday and Tohopekaliga opening with a home game with Celebration on Thursday. Harmony got an early start and win with a 5-2 win over Lake Nona last week; while Gateway dropped a 16-0 decision to Heritage.