Although students are on holiday break, athletes from Osceola County will stay busy with both practices, games, and tournaments for the next two weeks. “This is my favorite time of the year,” Gateway basketball coach Travis James said. “No school is in session so we get some really quality practice time in. This is the time period where we can get work on bonding, team chemistry and fundamentals without a lot of distractions.”
Gateway, like many other teams, will be participating in a Holiday Basketball Tournament, but perhaps the biggest event will take place at Osceola’s Heritage Park, where the Osceola Kowboys wrestling team will host the Knockout Christmas Classic, Dec. 27-28.
One of the premiere high school wrestling events in the country, more than 60 teams from 10 different states are expected to compete in the event including Florida powers Southwest Miami, South Dade, Lake Gibson and host Osceola.
“Without question this is one of the biggest and best tournaments in the nation. A lot of weight classes are going to have multiple state champions in them,” Osceola Head Coach Jim Bird said. “In some weight classes, winning a title in this tournament may be more impressive than winning a state championship. For the wrestling fan, this is the tournament you do not want to miss.”
Two-day tickets at $30 and single-day tickets are $10. A separate middle school and girls high school knockout tournament is also scheduled with the girls tournament taking place on the 27th and the middle school tournament on the 28th. Those tournaments are included in the admission price.
Here is a look at area county schools:
Osceola (7-1) lost its first game of the season on Friday night when it fell to the state’s second-ranked team in Class 7A, Olympia, by a 73-59 score. The Kowboys fell behind by as many as 21 in the second half but rallied back to close the gap to nine before running out of gas. Cory Vega led Osceola with 16 points; while electric super sophomore Jizzie James had 34 for Olympia. Osceola did win twice last week, defeating Celebration (63-51) on Monday night and rival Gateway (54-53) on Thursday.
Celebration (3-5) will play in a tournament at Okeechobee Dec. 27-28. Gateway (6-4) will be busy over the holidays, participating in tournaments both before and after Christmas. After going just 13-49 in the last three years, Tohopekaliga under head coach Jesus Merced, has a winning record heading into the Holiday Break. With a 66-58 win over Celebration, the Tigers were 5-4.
Behind Michael Tirado’s 13 points a game, Harmony was 6-4 on the season – including a 49-42 win over Lyman on Friday night. Ashton Arroyo had 12 points as St. Cloud (1-6) picked up its first win of the season on Thursday night against The First Academy, 57-49. After starting out 4-0, City of Life Christian Academy lost to both Forest and Gateway last week to fall to 4-2. Poinciana (3-4) beat Liberty (4-5), 75-48 on Thursday, and will now head to the prestigious City Beautiful Tournament in Orlando next week. The Chargers have a non-tournament game with City of Life over the break.
After a three-game losing streak, Gateway (8-3) righted its ship with three wins last week – defeating City of Life (88-45), Oakridge (45-37) and Seminole (67-64). Like the boys team, the Lady Panthers will participate in both a pre and post-Christmas tournament, traveling to Cocoa and Jacksonville respectively.
St. Cloud was 6-3 after a pair of wins over Harmony (75-17) and Lake Nona (42-28) last week. Emily Lockey had 12 points in the Harmony win that saw 11 different Lady Bulldogs score in the game. St. Cloud is slated to play in a pair of holiday tournaments.
After winning just five games (5-55) in its previous three years, Tohopekaliga was on a four-game winning streak and checked in at 4-4 with a 57-27 win over Altamonte Christian. With a 55-26 loss on Tuesday to George Jenkins, Osceola was 2-5 on the season. Celebration was 1-6 and having trouble scoring points in losses to Winter Park (49-12) and South Lake (36-15).
A three-game losing streak last week, including a heart-breaking 64-63 loss to Edgewater, left the Poinciana Eagles with a 4-5 record. Liberty (0-8) was looking for its first win after a 65-22 loss to Edgewater.
Osceola Kowboys had a pair of D-1 signings on Wednesday, as quarterback Chad Mascoe inked a letter of intent with FCS school Campbell and safety Jeremiah Wilson will be heading to Syracuse in the ACC. “Both kids worked extremely hard to make themselves good football players,” Head Coach Eric Pinellas said. “They earned this opportunity to play at the next level.”
Harmony hosted the 15-team Rotary Classic Tournament over the weekend and the Longhorns (273.0) came away with the team championship over Somerset Academy (234.5). Tohopekaliga (121) was fourth; while St. Cloud (46.0) and Poinciana (43.5) placed 13th and 14th respectively.
It was a dominating performance by the Longhorns, with Nelson Toro (21-0), Rey Ortiz (13-0), and JC McNichols (19-0) remaining undefeated on the season by claiming championships at 220, 126, and 145-lbs. respectively. Harmony had three other champions in the event with Carson Estrada going to 13-2 on the season with a title at 120, Scott McAllister improved to 13-1 this season a 4-0 record in taking the 132 titles and Antonio Falotico (7-1) won all four of his matches to win at 170.
Ortiz, McCallister, and Estrada all upset number one seed to win their weight classes; while JC McNichols, top-ranked in the state in 3A, was named the tournament’s Oustanding Wrestler.
Top finishers for Tohopekaliga were second-place finishes by Bryan Ruiz (160) and Jacob Noid (170). Caleb George took fourth place as 132 for St. Cloud; while Trystin Davis went 3-2 in the tournament and took a fifth-place finish for Poinciana at 220-lbs.
Both Celebration and Osceola participated in the 16-team, 10th annual Johnny Rouse Duals at Hagerty High School in Oviedo. The Kowboys advanced to the championship round by winning their pool on Friday, defeating Deltona (48-30), Mantanza (42-40) and host Hagerty (33-33, tie-breaker total wins 7-6).
In the Championship Round on Saturday, Osceola was defeated by 3A state power Southwest Miami (56-19), Winter Springs (42-18), before rallying to defeat Palm Harbor (47-27). That put the Kowboys into the match for fifth place, where they defeated Flagler Palm Coast 33-30.
In seven matches on the weekend, Cooper Haase and Anderson Heap went 7-0; while Gunner Holland was 6-1. Depth hurt the Kowboys in team scoring, as they had no entries at 106, 113, 120, 170 and the 182-lb. weight classes.
Celebration won twice over the weekend and finished fourth in the consolation round. Chase McBroom had a great tournament for the Storm, going 7-0 on the weekend at 160.
Celebration remained undefeated on the season at 7-0-3, collecting wins last week over Windermere by a 3-2 score and blanking Harmony 3-0 on Thursday. The Storm has allowed just four goals in 10 matches on the season; while scoring 37. Edgar Marquez leads all Storm players with six goals but Celebration’s balanced attack has seen 10 different players with two or more goals this season. Harmony (4-4-1), St. Cloud (4-3-2), Gateway (3-2-2), and Tohopekaliga (4-4-2) all entered the Christmas break with records of .500 or better.
Three county teams were at or above .500 at the holiday break, including Gateway (4-2-1), Harmony (5-4-1), and Celebration (5-5-1). Three-sport standout Erin Ozyurek continued her outstanding season on the pitch with 14 goals in 11 matches.