Team Race: A season ago, Dunedin powered to the team title over a host of teams. The Falcons have moved up to 2A and the battle for the 1A Region 3 title should be very competitive in 2015-2016. The Terrapins of Tampa Prep finished 2nd a season ago and return some excellent quality in 138 lb. State Champion Anthony Artalona, 152 lb. State Runner-up Leonardo Tarantino, and State Placers Ashton Habiel and Aaron Mills, but they have relatively little depth behind their big guns. The same could be said for Indian Rocks Christian. The Golden Eagles return 160 lb. State Runner-up Connor Allshouse, State Placer Michael Gingras, and State Qualifier Jack Pohler. If either of these teams are going to capture the title, which is a distinct possibility, they will need some unfamiliar faces to post points at the 2016 Region 3 Tournament. Dunbar, which finished 4th at the 2015 Region 3 Tournament, has fewer superstars, but a greater number that can contribute to their team score. The Terrapins, Golden Eagles, and Tigers appear to have the inside track on capturing the title in 2016, but don’t sleep on Lely, Southeast, Clewiston, and Evangelical Christian. The quartet has outstanding individuals and the ability to crash the party. Keep an eye on Avon Park and Berkeley Prep. Both teams finished outside the top 10 a season ago, but return some quality, and numbers, and could push the top group if given the opportunity.
Contenders: Nine Region 3 wrestlers, who return in 2015-2016, finished the 2014-2015 season on the podium in Kissimmee. Super sophomore and multiple State Champion Anthony Artalona of Tampa Prep leads the group. Artalona captured the 1A 138 lb. title in 2015 and followed that up with a superb trip to Fargo this summer. Tampa Prep’s Leonardo Tarantino and Indian Rocks Christian’s Conner Allshouse fell in the finals a season ago. Tarantino dropped a tough 5-3 overtime decision to 2x State Champion Adam Breindel of Clay and Allshouse fell 10-3 to LHP’s Elijah Cleary. Both will be pushing hard this season to make sure that doesn’t happen again in 2016. The terrific trio of Ashton Habiel of Tampa Prep, Michael Gingras of Indian Rocks Christian, and Jared Escorcia of Clewiston took 3rd in 2015. Expect all three to be wrestling for the title Saturday evening. Each will likely have to beat a formidable opponent to capture the title, but each has the ability to do so.
Four wrestlers found the podium in the past, but will need to wrestle well and overcome some excellent competition if they are going to claim an individual title Saturday evening. They include: Dre Neely (4th at 120) of Avon Park, Lavaris Preston (6th at 160) of Dunbar, Jessie Martinez (6th at 120) of Evangelical Christian, and 2014 State Placer Aaron Mills of Tampa Prep.
Hunting the Podium: Sixteen Region 3 wrestlers qualified for the State Tournament in 2015, but failed to make the podium. Laurence Grundy of Berkeley Prep, Kamen Wilmington of Northside Christian, Jake Walker of Sarasota Military Academy, Matthew Malavsky of Evangelical Christian, and Eric Garcia of Lely finished with two or more wins and each expects to find himself very high on the podium in 2016. Christopher Garcia of Avon Park, Jack Pohler of Indian Rocks Christian, Darrien Grant and Stephen Kelle of Southeast, Judah Bertolotti of Dunbar, Jason Meyer of Evangelical Christian, Lucas Willis of Imagine School, and Andonet Thermidor of Immokalee finished 1-2 in Kissimmee in 2015. Each will be looking to improve on that mark and find the podium in 2016. Jeffrey Phillips of Booker, Azeekwuia Bryant of Clewiston, and Latham Johnson of Dunbar 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: Austin Barr, Kenny Egan, and Junior Pontinela of Avon Park, Wayne Mercer of Lake Placid, Henry Pabst of Lake Wales, Marlon Bienvidez, Kris Harmon, and Luke Schwartz of McKeel, Kris Bozeman, Justin Cole, Rene Gonzalez, and Josiah Oquendo of Tenoroc, Dylan McKnight of Victory Christian, Sam Chadwick, Colton Karpman, and Jacob Safee of Berkeley Prep, Jack Lescarbeau of Admiral Farragut, Jeffrey Clarke of Bayshore, Alexander Prunoske of Clearwater Central Catholic, Tra’Vaughn Harrington and Danya Jones of Gibbs, Mitchell Kerr and Selbourne Steward of Indian Rocks Christian, Nick Carbone of Northside Christian, Davis Ullrich and Simon Ullrich of Sarasota Military Academy, Jonathan Locke of Southeast, Matthew Vary of Clewiston, Marcos Anderson, Trevor McDaniel, and Judas McKenzie of Dunbar, Pierre Jean of Immokalee, Adrian Martinez, Marcus Martinez, and Kayhan Peksen of Lely, and Zach Dagg of Lemon Bay.