KISSIMMEE – Ridgeview High freshman Matthew Rodriguez got his first look at the state wrestling championship aura last year as an eighth grader with University Christian and came home with just one …
KISSIMMEE – Ridgeview High freshman Matthew Rodriguez got his first look at the state wrestling championship aura last year as an eighth grader with University Christian and came home with just one win.
“It was an education to come here that young and just see the speed and strength of the other wrestlers,” said Rodriguez, a slim 106 pounder. “I worked harder to be strong for my size and quicker on my feet.”
In his Class 2A bracket, Rodriguez came home with a hard-fought bronze medal after losing 3-0 in his semifinal to eventual champion Chase Ayers of Class 2A champions Lake Gibson High School.
“I was 1-2 last year with good competition,” said Rodriguez. “I wasn’t as nervous this year.”
Rodriguez focused on his 3-0 loss with Ayers.
“I’m definitely more experienced and learned a lot from last year.”
For Ridgeview, senior Saeid Ejmali (49-6) was expected a strong final season with an opening round 15-0 blowout.
“I was feeling really strong and fast,” said Ejmali. “My second match was a tough one.”
Ejmali’s second rounder was a 6-5 loss that finished with a flurry and a last-second point for David Ortiz of Golden Gate High School. Ortiz would finish third.
“I really wanted that quarters match,” said Ejmali. “Failure is not going to stop me though. I will keep pushing at the next level. The room at Ridgeview is getting better each year and this will be a part of it.”
Ridgeview’s third wrestler, sophomore Gabriel Guzman at 113, finished 0-2.
For Ridgeview coaches Bryson Barker and Bart Rodriguez, Matthew’s dad, the Panther program took a step to returning to past years of gold; twice champion Jamarius Jackson from years past.
“When I first got there, I saw that most of the kids needed consistency in training and coaching,” said Barker. “Saeid has been a big part of getting the push in the room.” Rodriguez said Matthew’s approach in the semifinal was a bit tentative.
“I tell all the kids to just wrestle hard and compete,” said Rodriguez. “Matthew kind of did not pull the trigger in his semifinal.”
Also in Class 2A, Orange Park High senior Reed Danielson finished sixth in the 195 pound division after losing his opener, but rebounded with three wins before losing in the consolation semifinals to eventual third place finisher Chad Nix of Jensen Beach.
Middleburg’s Tazz Hampton, at 106, who lost in opening match then won in consolations before losing to eventual sixth placer. Chris Burch, also at Middleburg at 132, lost his opening match, won his next then lost 9-3 in consolations.