Team Race: 1A Region 2 features a host of really talented teams; unfortunately they share the Region with defending State Champions Lake Highland Prep. The Highlanders might be the best team in Florida regardless of classification and the top team in the southeast. With four returning State Champions, two State Runners-up, and a host of other talented wrestlers in the room, the Highlanders are not likely to be challenged in the 2016 Region 2 Tournament. With Clay and Pasco moving out of the Region, the race for the #2 spot could be interesting. Keep an eye on Astronaut, Weeki Wachee, and Nature Coast. Nature Coast must replace State Placers Mark Espinosa and Le’Shaun Gray, but return 220 lb. State Runner-up Anthony Contegiacomo. Weeki Wachee returns State Placers Brandon Smith and Dean Brooks and State Qualifier Brandon Enoch from a team that finished 6th at the 2015 Region 2 Tournament and 20th at the 1A State Tournament. Astronaut might be the odds on favorite to claim the runner-up trophy in 2016. The War Eagles return State Placer Connor Kirk and four other State Qualifiers from a team that finished 4th in the 2015 Region 2 Tournament. Watch out for Crystal River and Atlantic. Both teams will fly under the radar, but have the numbers and quality to challenge if given the opportunity.
Contenders: Twelve Region 2 wrestlers, who return in 2015-2016, finished the 2014-2015 season on the podium in Kissimmee. Not surprisingly, the parade of returning Champions comes by way of Lake Highland Prep. The Highlanders return four state champs, Elijah Cleary (160), Bryce Rogers (145), Joey Silva (113), and Mason Wohltman (106). Each appears eager to defend their 2015 state titles and help lead the Highlanders to back-to-back team titles. Two other Highlanders (one by way of a transfer) fell in the finals and will look to avenge that loss in 2016. Jake Brindley fell to Arnold’s Richard McClanahan at 126 lbs. and Erich Byelick (when at Cardinal Gibbons) fell to now teammate Bryce Rogers at 145 lbs. Nature Coast’s Anthony Contegiacomo fell in the 220 lb. finals and Satellite’s Chris Ralston finished 3rd at 195. Each should be considered one of the favorites entering the 2015-2016 season. Four wrestlers found the podium, but will need to wrestle well and overcome some excellent competition if they are going to claim an individual title Saturday evening. They include: Brandon Smith (4th at 106) and Dean Brooks (6th at 285) of Weeki Wachee, Ben Goldin (5th at 195) of Lake Highland Prep, and Connor Kirk (5th at 113) of Astronaut.
Hunting the Podium: Thirteen Region 2 wrestlers qualified for the State Tournament in 2015, but failed to make the podium. Edward Bennis of Crystal River, Brandon Enoch of Weeki Wachee, Damien Whitmore of Atlantic, Kevin Ford of Lake Highland Prep, and Leron Berry and Cody Silvestri of Astronaut finished with two or more wins and each expects to find himself very high on the podium in 2016. Nathan Napolitano of Anclote, Ryan Violette of Bishop Moore, and Ethan Ahrens and Nickolas Lebeau of Astronaut finished 1-2 in Kissimmee in 2015. Each will be looking to improve on that mark and find the podium in 2016. Jessen Hendrix of Trinity Catholic, Grant Cardwell of Anclote, and Max Cosmides of Lake Highland Prep finished their 2015 trip to Kissimmee 0-2. The trio will be looking to be on the podium in 2016, but must wrestle much better in 2016 if they are going to medal.
Under the Radar: Many of the following wrestlers finished the 2015 Region Tournament with two or more wins. Don’t be surprised if each punches his/her ticket to Kissimmee in 2016. Win four matches in a row in Kissimmee and you are a State Champion. That isn’t likely, but each could find the podium if given the opportunity. Better keep an eye on the following: Nicholas Bunts, Dalton David, and Jaret Flynn of Crystal River, Bryce Follett of Dunnellon, Kenneth Vance of Eastside, Logan Hastings and Brennen Wykoff of Interlachen, Phillip Baer of North Marion, Eron Carter of Palatka, Collin Smith of Trinity Catholic, DeJesus Gonzales of Anclote, Evan Simonson of Gulf, Michael Listebarger and Robert Graves of Hernando, Drake Carson, Dalton Kaechele, and Zander Knowles of Hudson, Keegan Davis and Jordan Gibson of Nature Coast, Nathaniel DeJesus, Hunter Gibson, and Donte Young of Weeki Wachee, Justin Perkins and Matt Whitehouse of Atlantic, Aaron Mason, Nick Tomesko, Nick Walker, and Jake Wheeler of Bishop Moore, Cameron Monzadeh, Noah Castill, and Kia Belle of Lake Highland Prep, Austin Bonasota, Ryan Hatcher, and Kevin Rochon of Villages, Louis Cortez, Harry Hampton, and Kenneth Willoughby of Astronaut, Chris Biondo of Cocoa Beach, EJ Krajewski and Nael Lopez of Rockledge, and Tyler Hansen and Roger Stanley of Satellite.