Four Osceola County students are wrestling state champs after grapplers from across the state competed in the FHSAA State Wrestling Championship at Osceola Heritage Park in Kissimmee.
Osceola Junior Anderson Heap and senior Cooper Haase each won state championships at the 145 and 152-pound weight classes at the FHSAA State Wrestling Championships held at Osceola Heritage Park to give the Kowboys at least one state champion in each of the last 17 years. Osceola’s 108 team points was good for a third place finish – also marking the 17th consecutive Top 6 Finish in the state.
“I am so incredibly proud of Cooper, Anderson and our entire team,” Osceola coach Rick Tribit said. “We brought seven wrestlers to states and six made the podium. We had a top three team finish and a runner-up in state duals. It was a great season for Kowboys wrestling.”
With the two champions, Osceola now has had 18 different wrestlers win a total of 34 state titles overall.
Heap (56-2 on the season) would make sure that the streak would continue at Osceola’s first opportunity, when he took a 3-1 decision over South Dade’s Misha Arbos in the Class 3A, 152-pound class.It was second tight contest between the two, as Heap needed overtime to decision Arbos, 10-7, in the State Dual Meet Championship match in late January.
In Saturday’s championship, the two wrestled to a scoreless tie in the first period before Arbos got an escape in the second to take a 1-0 lead. Heap got a takedown with 38 seconds remaining and then rode Arbos out for a 2-1 lead after two periods. Starting from the bottom, Heap managed an escape to make it 3-1 and then the two wrestled to a stalemate the rest of the way with the match ending with both wrestlers on their feet.
Haase would quickly follow with Osceola’s second champion on the night. He would finish his legacy by winning his fourth consecutive state championship to tie Fox Baldwin for most in school history. He needed less than a period to pin Riverdale’s Alexander Soto and run his record to 49-1 on the season. With a 204-11 career record, the United State Military signee has had just two losses in his final two years. Almost all defeats have come at the hands of other nationally or state ranked wrestlers.
“I grew up watching Fox and Malyke Hines (3-time state champion) and I wanted to be like them,” Haase said. “It’s been a great ride for me here and I am honored to join Fox as a four-time Osceola High champion. I am extremely close to Anderson and when he lost in the state finals as a freshman it broke my heart. To be able to go out with us winning back-to-back championships during the last two years was really an important goal for me.”
Osceola entered the state tournament with hopes that it’s “Triple H” combo of Heap, Haase and Gunner Holland could all repeat as state champions.
That goal fell just short when, where two-time state champion Holland suffered a 5-3 loss to South Dade’s Lawrence Rosario – the eventual state champion — in Friday’s semifinal. He would come back to defeat Doral Academy’s Albert Manzini by pinfall in the consolation semis, before recording a major decision over Miami Palmetto’s Ronald Butler in the third place match. “Obviously disappointed,” Holland said. “I had my chances in the semis and came up short. If anything, I promise you this will inspire me next season.”
Coach Rick Tribit noted that Holland wrestled the last half of the season with torn ligaments in his hand, along with several other injuries that could require off-season surgery. “To his credit, he never once complained or used the injuries as an excuse for the loss, Gunner is just tough as they come.”
The trio were not the only athletes to excel for the Kowboys.
Holland’s third place finish was one of two for the Kowboys, as promising sophomore Elijah Vansickle suffered a disappointing 3-2 loss in the semifinals but came back with two more wins in the consolation rounds to also secure third place. Vansicle (34-10) went 4-1 in the state tournament and improved throughout the year. “He overcame some early season injuries but also got better and better every week,” Coach Rick Tribit said. “He has a chance to be a title contender in the future.”
Evan Martinez (120) and Jomar Sanchez (190) each finished sixth as Osceola put six of its seven state qualifiers on the podium.
Nelson Toro finished his campaign at Harmony with a perfect 46-0 record on the season with a hard-fought 7-4 decision over Palmetto Ridge’s Austin Foye, 7-4, in the finals. “It was a great season for Nelson, after moving up from 220 last year,” Longhorns coach Vic Lorenzano said. “All season he was giving up 20 or 30 or more pounds to his opponent and while he may have been quicker and more athletic in most of those matches, there’s always a danger of getting trapped by a bigger opponent. For him to go undefeated says a lot about how smart a wrestler he is.”
Toro becomes Harmony’s second state champion but its first “homegrown one” according to Lorenzano. “Absolutely nothing against our first champion Sawyer Root but he transferred to Harmony for his senior year from Alaska. Nelson is the first of hopefully many future Longhorn champions who wrestled all four years here.”
Troubled by an injury riddled season, the Longhorns only qualified four wrestlers for the state championship – about half of what they qualified in the last three years – but still managed to put three wrestlers on the podium and record a top 10 team finish. Rey Ortiz(132) and Shawn McCallister (138) finished third and fourth place respectively for Harmony to give them three place winners.
The 2nd Annual FHSAA Girls State Championship was held in conjunction with the boys’ tournament. Osceola’s Kealonie Vega (39-1) breezed through the field with four straight pins to become the county’s first official state champion with a win in the 100-pound class. Vega, considered one best in the country, most likely would have won a state championship last year but missed the season with an ACL injury.
She has wrestled with the boys’ team several times in her career, posting a winning record. “I’m so happy to be win the state title, especially after missing last season by injury,” Vega said. “This has really been a dream season for me.”
Kelliana Mack (35-12) placed 7th for Osceola at 130 and Cathia Timas (44-13) placed 7th at 140 as Osceola compiled 60 points to finish in fourth place in the team standings. Gateway was in 15th place with 34 points and had Emiliana Martinez (36-5) reach the finals at 155, where she lost a 5-0 decision to undefeated Mya Bethel (27-0) of North Miami. Elody Rodriguez (27-12) placed 4th at 145 for the Panthers.