Overall depth proved to be the difference, the Harmony Longhorns scored valuable team points in 13 of 14 weight classes to edge Osceola, 205.5 – 195.5, and claim their third consecutive Orange Belt Conference county wrestling team championship on Saturday afternoon at Poinciana High.
The Longhorns sent eight men to the finals and managed to win four individual weight classes – two less than the Kowboys. But Harmony picked up four seconds, three thirds, and a fourth; compared to Osceola who did not have a competitor at two weight classes and failed to score points at 134.
“We had our ups and downs today, fortunately, we scored enough points in some key wrestle-back matches in the consolation round to secure the team title,” Harmony coach Vic Lorenzano said. “As with any tournament, we had our ups and downs today, but I was certainly pleased with the overall effort today.”
Harmony did a lot of damage in the lighter-weight classes, with Landon Davis (115) and Carson Estrada (120) both winning by pin fall in the finals. An expected showdown between the Longhorns’ Rey Ortiz (23-1) and Osceola’s Anderson Heap (40-5) never materialized; as Heap took an 11-0 major decision.
The most anticipated match of the night, the 140-lb. final between Harmony undefeated JC McNichols (39-0) and Osceola defending state champion Cooper Haase (40-3) did not disappoint. Haase fell behind 5-0 in the first period and was trailing 7-2 in the second before rallying to tie the score 7-7 in the third. With time running out, he intentionally allowed an escape and then recorded a quick takedown – holding control for the final 24 seconds to preserve the 9-8 win.
“Epic match between two great wrestlers,” Lorenzano said. “If the brackets hold, I would not be surprised if this did not serve as a preview of the state finals in March.”
“I certainly did not expect to be down 5-0 in the first,” Haase said. “I just tried not to panic and remember my training. At the end, I did not want it to go to overtime, so I allowed the escape knowing I would need a quick takedown to win. Fortunately, it worked out for me.”
Antonio Falotico took a second-place finish for the Longhorns at 160; and along with Shawn McAllister’s title at 134, Harmony was able to lock up the team title when Nelson Toro (37-2) recorded an 8-0 majority decision over Osceola’s Jomar Sanchez in the 222-lb. final.
Still, Osceola had strong individual showings, posting a county-leading six individual OBC champions. In addition to Heap and Haase, the Kowboys saw Melvin Ewan (147), Gunner Holland (162), George Duncan (172), and Bryan Gari (184) all take crowns.
Celebration had a solid meet, sending four to the finals and getting an individual championship from Chase McBroom (30-7) at the 154-lb. class. Other winners included Gateway’s Aiden Cooper at 197, Liberty’s Brainys Robles at 287, and Poinciana’s Landon Trigueros finishing on top of the 108-lb. class.
In addition to the boys OBC meet, Poinciana hosted the first official Girls OBC Wrestling Championship. Osceola (28) won the team championship in razor-close finish with Poinciana (26), Gateway (24), and Celebration (22).
Lady Kowboys champions included Stacy Pule (105), Kelliana Mack (125), Talia Lugo (130) and Cathia Timas (140). Celebration’s Hayeni Costa (170), Gateway’s Emiliana Martinez (235), Harmony’s Julia Martin (120), and Poinciana’s Kaylie Collado (160) won individual titles; as did Tohopekaliga’s Valentia Borges (100) and Andrea Rivera (135).
All county teams (boys and girls) will participate in districts this coming weekend. The top four wrestlers in each division will advance to regionals the following weekend. The FHSAA State Championships, including the first official girls tournament, is slated for Silver Spurs Arena on Mar. 3-5.