By:  J. Daniel Pearson for Positively Osceola

The field has been set and 27 high school athletes from Osceola County will compete for titles as the FHSAA State Wrestling Championships are slated for Feb. 29-Mar. 2 at Kissimmee’s Silver Spurs Arena. 

Individual and team champions will be crowned in three different classifications (1A through 3A) for the boys; while the Girls Championship Tournament (single class) will be held concurrently.

Regionals were held this past weekend and Osceola High – a traditional state power – will send 10 wrestlers to the state meet including four regional champions.  That list of regional champions includes Anderson Heap (150-lb. class) and Gunner Holland (175), each of who will be seeking the third state championship of their career.

Heap, who finished second as a freshman before winning back-to-back titles in 2022-23, qualified for another shot at a state title by breezing through the 150-lb. class.  He opened the tournament with a bye followed by a pin of East Lake’s Mark Veltre. He then recorded a 17-2 technical fall over Steinbrenner’s Darian Monserrate before pinning Palmetto Ridge’s Xavier Barnhart in the final to go to 54-5 on the season.

Holland, who won titles as both a freshman and sophomore before finishing third a year ago in an injury-riddled season, was equally impressive.  He picked up three pins and a technical fall in the tournament, including a first period pin over Riverview’s Romarion Farquharson in the finals.

“Those two guys have been stalwarts here for the past four years.  They both have battled injuries and illnesses all season,” Osceola coach Rick Tribit said about his senior leaders.  “They are getting healthy at the right time.”

In addition, Osceola posted two other regional champions as freshman Adaias Ortiz (48-7) won at 113-lbs. with a pin of Palmetto Ridge’s William McGowan in the finals; while Isfandier Sharipov (28-6) took a 6-1 decision over Venice’s Massimiliano Pellicano in the 132-lb. final.  Oritiz will be a favorite at the 3A state tournament next week, as he has been ranked number one or number two all season long by several ranking services.  

Those four are being joined by six teammates, who also qualified for the state tournament via a top-four finish at regionals.  Talyn Fisk (3rd-120), Ehab Shalaby (3rd-138), Jayson Ortiz (4th-144), Nathan Cabrera (2nd-157), Deacon DeLong (4th-165), and Bryan Gari (4th-190) also qualified for the Kowboys.

Osceola will attempt to keep two remarkable streaks alive at the state tournament.  They have had at least one individual state champion for the last 18 years and have finished in the top six in the team race for 18 years in a row.

In the race for the regional team title, Osceola trailed by nearly 50 points at the start of day two, the Kowboys battled back to finish second in the region behind Palmetto Ridge (203-198.5).  Palm Harbor was third (97) in the 32-team event; Palm Harbor (87.5) was fourth.

“At the end of the day, I was really happy with the results but not totally satisfied with our performance.  Still, we advance 10 to the state finals and had four regional champions,” Tribit said.  “I was really pleased with how we fought back in the consolation rounds.  I think we went 5-0 in the consolation semifinals or ‘blood round’ — the matches they had to win to get to the state tournament.  We’ll make adjustments and hopefully improve next week.”

Wrestling in the same regional, Celebration and Poinciana saw their seasons come to an end. The two schools sent a total of six wrestlers to the regional round, but had no advancers to the state meet — although Celebration’s Jorge Feliz just missed at 113-lbs.; coming up one match short when he lost in the consolation finals  — a.k.a. the “blood round.”  

The Osceola wrestlers will be joined by six qualifiers from Harmony and one from Tohopekaliga.  The Longhorns and Tigers wrestled at the 3A, Region 3 championships at Seminole Ridge High School (Loxahatchee, Fla.) this past weekend.

Battling against several state powers including eventual champion Wellington (180 points); the Longhorns came up with an impressive second place finish (167.5); edging out Viera (136.0), Olympic Heights (122.5) and Park Vista (104) in a tournament that featured 31 teams.

Harmony had three wrestlers come through as regional champions as Nathan Lytle (106), Shawn McCallister (158), and John Fernandez (175) all won their classes.  Lytle (37-2 on the season) got to the finals with a tough 6-2 win over Chris Schonobrick (Olympic Heights) in the semifinal before absolutely dominating Freedom’s Xavier Santiago in the finals – winning by technical fall, 16-1.

Shawn McCallister (43-1), one of the favorites to win a state title next week, breezed through the tournament with three falls in the preliminaries before taking a 14-4 major decision over Giovanni DeAngeles (Park Vista) in the finals. Fernandez won his first regional title with a 7-4 decision over Wellington’s Dwayne Shaw in the finals.

Gabriel Nascimento (3rd-126), Carlos Rodriguez (3rd-132), Carlos Estrada (2nd-138) will give Harmony six wrestlers in the state tournament.  Last year, Harmony finished sixth in the 3A team race behind state champion Nelson Toro (285).

“Our guys battled like crazy in a super hard regional this weekend,” Harmony coach Vic Lorenzano said.  “We were able to push six through to the state tournament and I was really pleased with our resolve in some tough battles.  We are a team that is battle scarred and tested and that has given us a hard edge heading into states.”

Tohopekaliga sent seven to the regional and advance one to the state meet as Nate Barrett won a championship at 138.  Barrett recorded a fall and a pair of major decisions on his way to the final, where he took a medical forfeit win over Harmony’s Carlos Estrada.

St. Cloud and Gateway were at the Class 2A Region 2 championships at Brandon.  Referred to as the “Region of Doom” it featured defending state 2A Champion Lake Gibson and state powers Brandon and Winter Springs participating – it is considered one of the toughest regionals in the state. Lake Gibson (236.5).  Only Gateway advanced a wrestler to states, as Jason Perez became the 18th male wrestler from the county to qualify for states by finishing second at the 106-lb. class.  

St. Cloud was represented by eight wrestlers, with three reaching the “blood round,” but each failed to advance.

The state championships will include the single classification girls’ championship that will run concurrently to the boys’ tournament.  

The state championships will include the single classification girls’ championship that will run concurrently to the boys tournament.  Regionals for the girls were held last week and the county had three champions in Osceola’s Anoyah Whayne (100-lb. class), Liberty’s Delialah Betances (120), and Poinciana’s Kaylie Collado (145).  They will be joined by other county qualifiers including Celebration’s Alea Morales (4th-100); Osceola’s Paola Ramirez (2nd-115), Erica Hernandez (4th-140), and Lily Tucker (3rd-170); and Harmony’s Kiley Vinson (4th-135) and Emari Brown (2nd-190).

Tickets for the state tournament are $11 per session in advance and $14 the day of the event.  An all-tournament pass is $55 and parking is $10 per day and are available at the gate or from