An opportunity to qualify for the state dual wrestling championships and a couple of Orange Belt Conference Championships will be decided this week as winter sports get into full swing for Osceola County public schools.
In wrestling, both the Osceola Kowboys and Harmony Longhorns can grab spots in the Class 3A state dual meet championship tournament when they host their respective regional tournaments on Thursday.
In girls basketball, the 2021-22 Orange Belt Conference (OBC) Championship will most likely be decided tomorrow night as St. Cloud hosts Gateway. The OBC Girls Weightlifting Championship will be determined on Friday as the Harmony Longhorns host the all-county meet at 5 p.m.
A look around the county:
Both Osceola and Harmony advanced to this Thursday’s regional round of the Class 3A 2020-21 FHSAA State Dual Championships by claiming district championships last week. Both teams will host, as Osceola will wrestle Palm Bay at 5:30 p.m. If the Kowboys will, they will take on the winner of the George Steinbrenner – George Jenkins match at 7 p.m. for an opportunity to advance to the State Championship slated for Jan. 21-22 at Osceola High School.
The Kowboys qualified for the regionals by easily winning the District 6 title. As top seed, Osceola opened with a bye before beating Poinciana (75-6) in the semifinals and topping George Jenkins (58-24) in the finals. Eight wrestlers picked up two wins each for Osceola, including defending individual state champions Cooper Haase and Gunner Holland.
Eight teams (winners from the top and bottom half of each regional bracket) advance to the state championship tournament. The Kowboys have reached the Elite 8 State Finals in all four previous years of the tournament – claiming a state runner-up spot in 2020.
Harmony, which moves up from Class 2A to Class 3A, advanced by winning the upper half of District 9 Meet at Tohopekaliga this past Saturday. Vic Lorenzano’s squad defeated Cypress Creel (71-12) and Oak Ridge (57-12) in the preliminaries; before claiming the District title with an impressive 48-30 win over Freedom in the final.
The Longhorns will host the regionals on Tuesday, where they will face Treasure Coast in the first round. A win would pit them against the winner of the Freedom – Ft. Pierce Central for a chance to qualify for the state tournament.
“Ft. Pierce Central and Freedom are sort of mirror images of each other,” Lorenzano said. “We’re going into regionals knowing that we definitely have some work to do in order to advance.”
Harmony will be seeking its second trip to the State Finals but is marking its fifth trip to the regional round of state duals tournament.
The OBC girls’ basketball championship will most likely be decided tomorrow night when St. Cloud (11-6) hosts Gateway (15-4) at 7 p.m. The OBC title is determined by round-robin competition between county schools and Gateway (6-0) can clinch the title outright with a victory. St. Cloud (4-0) would have to win the game and then defeat Osceola and Liberty in the coming weeks to claim the championship – but would be highly favored to do so — which most likely makes Tuesday’s game a title match.
“Justin (Gateway head coach Justin Marino) has done a great job with the Gateway program and we are looking forward to a great game and this opportunity,” St. Cloud head coach Chad Ansbaugh said. “The key for us is going to be our bench. We know what the starters are going to give us, but when called on our reserves are going to have to step up and deliver.”
Both teams are entering the game on a roll. Gateway has won five straight and 10 of its last 11; while the Lady Bulldogs have won four of six and took the state’s top-ranked team in Class 2A — Faith Christian (16-3) — to the wire last week before fading in the final minutes.
Osceola (10-4) wrapped up the 2020-21 OBC title with wins last week over Harmony (58-26) and Poinciana (55-25). Although the Kowboys have one more OBC game left with St. Cloud, every other county team has at least two conference losses which means Osceola (6-0) has clinched the crown. Chris and Sean Combs combined for 23 points in the Poinciana win last Friday, as the Kowboys jumped out to a 34-7 lead at the half and never were challenged.
In other action, Gateway (13-5) continued its fine season under Travis James – beating Harmony, 62-58, behind a 22-point effort from Jordan Birmingham last Thursday before dropping a 62-48 decision to state-power Apopka (13-2) on Saturday. The Blue Darters are the seventh-ranked team in the state in Class 7A.
Harmony, Celebration, St. Cloud and Tohopekaliga will most-likely challenge for the team title when the Longhorns host the Orange Belt Conference Championships on Friday at 5 p.m. St. Cloud’s Abby Davis and Kaitlyn Gallagher will battle it out for the 110-lb. title; while Harmony’s Adriana Rosa will be favored at 139. St. Cloud head coach Cory Aun believes all three have a good chance to advance to the state tournament later.
High school weight lifting in Florida has consisted of a combination of the bench press and clean and jerk, with the two added together for a final score. This year will mark the first time that a separate snatch combination will be added to both OBC’s and the state tournament but will be scored separately. Aun is hopeful that the state will eventually eliminate the bench press portion of the competition and replace it with the snatch to allow the sport to fall in line with how the Olympics are contested.