Some of the Southeast’s best wrestlers filled the Osceola High gym the weekend after Christmas.

Coach Jim Bird and the Kowboys wrestling program hosted the Knockout Christmas Classic, and many of Florida’s top wrestlers, who will likely make another appearance in Kissimmee at the state wrestling tournament in March at the Silver Spurs Arena, took to the mat.

That included Osceola’s own Jaekus Hines and Nolin Eaddy, who reached the championship match in their weight classes, no easy feat. Hines, a two-time state runner-up, won four matches Friday and Saturday over in-state competition before falling to Woodward Academy’s (Ga.) Nick Masters, who moved to 37-0 on the year with a win in the 132-pound championship match. Hines is now 22-1.

Eaddy, who’s also been to the state meet twice, rolled to the championship match at 182 pounds with three pins in four wins before bumping into Lake Gibson’s Ashton Habeil, another state qualifier, in the finals.

Freshman Cooper Haase finished fourth at 106 pounds, falling to Adrian Morales, a wrestler from South Dade you’ll see at the Silver Spurs this spring, in the quarterfinals and third-place match.

George Duncan (120 pounds) and Dylan Ruiz (220) won three matches and reached the second round of the consolation bracket.
Osceola finished in 12th place among the 42 teams with 91 points, a respectable showing considering the teams at the top — Lake Gibson, Woodland, Tampa Jesuit, South Dade, Southwest Miami and Fleming Island, a veritable “Who’s Who” of Florida wrestling programs.

But this time of year, with district and regional meets for the state’s wrestling duals tournament starting Jan. 8, Bird’s goal is to get his wrestlers the best matches possible in order to improve and be ready for those state-level meets, be it the duals over the next month or the state individual brackets at the end of the season in late February and early March.