Eagles just short of Highland Prep

Detwiler still unbeaten

By Randy Lefko
Posted 2/6/18

BRANDON – With a slew of defending state champions in front of them and the honor of wrestling one of the top 10 high school wrestling teams in America, Fleming Island High’s wrestling team, led …

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Eagles just short of Highland Prep

Detwiler still unbeaten


BRANDON – With a slew of defending state champions in front of them and the honor of wrestling one of the top 10 high school wrestling teams in America, Fleming Island High’s wrestling team, led by still-unbeaten Paul Detwiler, hammered away at Lake Highland Prep’s star-studded lineup, but fell just short at the Tony Ippolito Memorial Wrestling Invitational held Saturday at Brandon High School.

Ironically, a much-awaited match between Detwiler, third at 152 last year in Class 3A, and Lake Highland Prep’s unbeaten two-time defending Class 1A champion Erich Byelick never happened as Byelick, who was at the tournament in street clothes, was not on the Lake Highland Prep roster in the 170 bracket. Byelick was also a defending national champion.

“We don’t run away from competition,” said Fleming Island 113 pound wrestler Briar Jackson. “We know coming in that we have to wrestle just a little bit better than out best and gets some breaks along the way to take out a team like Lake Highland Prep or even Brandon.”

Lake Highland Prep scored 351.5 points for the team title with Fleming Island runnerup at 316 followed at a distance by Brandon at 230 points.

Jackson, who followed teammate Lou Gagliardo’s championship win at 106 over Manatee’s Noah Wadle 13-2, took out Lake Highland Prep’s Jake Wohltman. Wohltman finished fourth in Class 1A last year; losing to Gagliardo.

In the slamfest of state powerhouses; Lake Highland, Class 1A champions; Brandon, Class 2A champion and Fleming Island Class 3A runnerup to South Dade, the finals set up to be a handful of Fleming Island vs. Lake Highland Prep as the two teams stayed within as little as 11 point in wrestling rounds prior to the finals.

“We had six of seven finalists matched up with them (Lake Highland),” said Fleming Island coach P.J. Cobbert. “A couple of breaks here and there and the score is very different.”

In the championship matches, after Gagliardo and Jackson established a first strike for the Golden Eagles on the scoreboard, Lake Highland struck back with defending champion Nic Bouzakis at 120 pounds, just an eighth grader, beating a bloodied Albie Snedaker 16-5. Bouzakis had a string of first period pins before meeting Snedaker in the final. Snedaker matched Bouzakis in destruction with his own three pins to the fall with one in 43 seconds.

From there, lake Highland Prep rattled off a string of wins with state medalists; Ryan Chauvin (126 champ), Joey Silva (132 champ), Noah Castillo (138 champ) and Kai Bele (3rd 145) to boost the team score and heighten the upcoming heavy weight matches with Detwiler, Ryan Smenda and Jose Concepcion all set to compete against Lake Highland Prep opponents in the final matches of the night.

Ironically, at 160, Brandon wound up with two wrestlers set to battle in the final prior to Detwiler’s match with Highland Prep’s Max Cosmides, a Class 1A runnerup last year at 152. As Detwiler started to ramp up his warmup, Brandon pulled their wrestlers for a injury forfeit that forced Detwiler to cut his warmup short.

Cosmides, wrestling in place of Byelick, had no answer to Detwiler’s speed and power as Detwiler dominate the match to a 14-2 major decision.

With 182 and 195 going to Lake Highland and Manatee, the anticipated showdown between Smenda, still unbeaten after a late start from football, and Lake Highland’s two time defending champion Ben Goldin turned out to be the barnburner as expected with Smenda fighting to a 1-1 tie after three periods. Both wrestlers had rifled through their preliminaries rounds with smashing pins.

In the overtime periods, Smenda, fifth in 3A last year, fell behind 4-1 in the matching 30 second overtime periods that pushed the match to a final segment that Smenda had to score in or the match would end.

With Goldin in the bottom position, Smenda surprised the crowd, and probably Goldin, with a shocking Spradle hold that tossed Goldin to his back with just 2.5 seconds to go that had both wrestlers roll toward the scorer’s table. Officials scored no points for Smenda to end the match at 4-1.

In the 285 pound match, pitting Concepcion, sixth in 3A last year, against Lake Highland’s Curtis Ruff, third in Class 1A last year, in a battle of stalwarts. With both wrestlers battling on their feet, each scored an escape to end the regulation time at 1-1 and force a tournament ending overtime bonanza that Ruff scored a final escape to win 3-2.


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