By: J. Daniel Pearson
For Positively Osceola
Thirty one athletes from Osceola County’s public schools will be seeking state championships this weekend when the Silver Spurs Arena at Heritage Park hosts the FHSAA boys and girls wrestling championships beginning Thursday, Mar. 2 and culminating with the finals on Saturday, Mar. 4.
The boys will compete in one of three classifications based on enrollment (1A to 3A); while the girls will compete in one classification (1A), as their sport enters its second year of official sanctioning by the FHSAA and continues to grow in participation. Admission is $9.00 per session if purchased in advance via Ticketmaster, and $12.00 if purchased day of (No Re-entry). Parking is $10.
sceola enters the boys’ tournament with a county-high seven participants who qualified last weekend at the Class 3A, Region 2 championship. In winning the regional team championship with 171 team points, Osceola sent five wrestlers to the finals, with Anderson Heap (145-lbs.), Cooper Haase (152), and Jomar Sanchez (190) all winning individual regional titles.
Gunner Holland (170) and Elijah Vansickle (225) finished second in their weight classes to earn a trip to the state finals; as did Kowboys’ top-four finishers Evan Martinez (3rd– 120) and Isfandier Sharipov (4th – 126).
Haase, who is nationally ranked and 45-1 on the season, will be chasing history as he attempts to join Fox Baldwin as Osceola High’s only four-time state champion. Last year, Haase joined Malyke Hines (2017-19) as the only other Kowboys’ wrestlers to win three individual state championships.
Haase breezed to his fourth regional championship, beating Sarasota’s Reese Hibbard by technical fall, 26-5. It was also his 200th career win.
“Fox is a legend,” Haase said. “We’ve had a lot of state champions here and a lot of great wrestlers at this school but to join Fox as the only second wrestler in school history to win four state championships would be an absolute honor.”
Success at the state tournament has been nothing new to Osceola.
The Kowboys have had at least one state champion for the last 16 years and has had 18 different wrestlers win a total of 32 state titles overall. In addition to Haase, Holland and Heap each won state titles last year. Nicknamed “Triple H” the Osceola trio of Heap, Haase and Holland are a combined 145-7 this year and own six state championships between them.
Holland’s 3-2 loss in the region final to Palmetto Ridge’s Roman Garcia dropped him to 48-4 on the season but was not a major concern for coach Rick Tribit. “First, there is really a lot of talented wrestlers in every weight class once you get to this point of the season and Roman is certainly one of them. Nothing is easy in regionals or states and anything can happen. That said with the score tied 1-1 late in the final period, Gunner was pressing a little, got a little bit too aggressive, and making a mistake and giving up a takedown on a counter. He will learn from that and be ready next week.”
Holland has a history of turning it on in the state tournament. After winning the 152-pound title as a freshman, he had a double-digit loss season last year, taking a 42-10 record into the state tournament. Wrestling in the 160-pound class, Holland had four wrestlers in his 16-man bracket that beat him during the regular season. He not only won his second championship, but did not allow a point in any of his four matches.
Across town, Harmony was hosting the Class 3A, Region 3 championships. Harmony (143) finished third to Wellington (161) in the team race; while Tohopekaliga (118.5) was fifth.
Although Tohopekaliga will be sending five wrestlers to the state finals, Harmony will be the team most likely to challenge Osceola as the top county school at states. The injury-riddled Longhorns are only sending four to the state tournament but all four — Rey Ortiz (132), Shawn McCallister (138), Anthony Falotico (160) and Nelson Toro (285) — won regional titles.
Ortiz and McCallister have had fine seasons while suffering just two losses each; but Toro (42-0) may be the Harmony’s best bet to challenge for a state title. If he is successful, it would mean a little extra to head coach Vic Lorenzano as it would be the first “home grown” Longhorn wrestler to win a state championship.
Sawyer Root, who transferred to Harmony from Alaska a half decade ago remains Harmony’s lone state wrestling champion. “I am no way taking anything away from Sawyer, he was a Harmony champion but we are still waiting for our first champion that came in as a freshman and wrestled his entire high school career for us,” Lorenzano said.
Lorenzano believes Toro has a good shot at becoming that first. “He has pretty much already faced most of the top kids in the state this year and has won them all. Some were close and a few went to overtime, but the point is he won them all and nothing should come as a surprise to him.”
The Tigers advance five to the state meet, including top-four place winners Egar Gastilo (120), Nathan Barrett (132), Jacob Noid (170), Luis Rosario (182) and Chris Luyanda (195). Barrett (36-9) and Rosario (35-8) were Toho’s top finishers, as they reached the finals of their respective weight classes before finishing second.
St. Cloud and Gateway were at the 2A, Region 2 championships at Brandon High School. St. Cloud’s John Fernandez advanced to the state championships at 170-pounds with a third place finish; while Gateway’s Meison Broche (152) and Aiden Cooper (195) also advance with a pair of third place finishes.
The girls’ FHSAA state championship will be held concurrently with the boys’ tournament. The ladies participated in their regionals a week earlier. Osceola hosted the region that included all county schools and qualified a county-high six wrestlers for the state title. Here are all the Osceola County qualifiers for the state tournament:
20 COUNTY STATE QUALIFIERS (BOYS)
OSCEOLA (3A): Evan Martinez (120), Isfandier Sharipov (126), Anderson Heap (145), Cooper Haase (152), Gunner Holland (170), Jomar Sanchez (195), Elijah Vansickle (220). HARMONY (3A): Rey Ortiz (132), Shawn McCallister (138), Anthony Falotico (160), Nelson Toro (285). TOHOPEKALIGA (3A): Egar Gustilo (120), Nathan Barrett (132), Jacob Noid (170), Luis Rosario (182), Chris Luyanda (195). CELEBRATION (3A): Chase McBroom (170) ST. CLOUD (2A): John Fernandez (182). GATEWAY (2A): Meison Broche (152), Aiden Cooper (195)
11 COUNTY STATE QUALIFIERS (GIRLS – ALL COMPETE IN 1A):
OSCEOLA: Kealoni Vega (100), Daniela Tabora Contreras (110), Paola Ramirez (120), Keira Suro (125), Kelliana Mack (130) and Cathia Thomas (140). GATEWAY: Genesis Fernandez (130), Elody Rodriguez (145), Emiliana Martinez (155), Lily Yambor (170). ST. CLOUD: Emari Brown (190)