Team Race: It is easy to see why 2A Region 2 is often referred to as the Region of Doom. The level of competition is some of the best in the state and with the new realignment that competition might be better in 2015-2016. It is no surprise that Brandon enters as the favorite in 2015-2016. The Eagles are, and have been, the best team in 2A, and Florida, for so many years it is difficult to count. The 2015-2016 edition of the Brandon Eagles should be no different. That will not dissuade several teams from giving the Eagles a challenge, namely Tampa Jesuit. Jesuit returns four wrestlers that competed in the state finals in 2015. The key for the Tigers will be the “supporting cast” to step up and score points. If that happens there is no reason to think Jesuit doesn’t stand a chance at toppling the Eagle Empire. Jesuit isn’t the only team with the firepower to be in the mix in 2015-2016. Keep an eye on Belleview, Lake Gibson and Pasco. Springstead is normally part of that conversation, but they were decimated by graduation and will need to reload if they are going to be in the hunt. Harmony, Auburndale, and Lennard are close, but need some new faces to step up to help their hammers.
Contenders: Eighteen Region 2 wrestlers, who return in 2015-2016, finished the 2014-2015 season on the podium in Kissimmee. Returning 4x State Champion Kyle Norstrem leads a number of Eagles that will be looking to grab the top spot in 2016. 126 lb. State Runner-up Frank Bruno, Joe Marcano (3rd at 195), Bailey Sheppard (5th at 220), and Noah Ridley (6th at 132) of Brandon have a legitimate shot at joining Norstrem on the top step in 2016. The Eagles aren’t the only team to return more than one placer in 2016. In fact, three teams, Tampa Jesuit, Lake Gibson, and Pasco feature multiple State Placers that return all gunning for the top step. Tampa Jesuit features four wrestlers that wrestled for the title Saturday evening in 2015. 145 lb. State Champion Adam Lewis and 138 lb. State Champion Julian Ramirez, a transfer from Miami Belen Jesuit, will be looking to add another title. 170 lb. State Runner-up Brian Buser and 106 lb. State Runner-up Jacob Conrad, a transfer from Tampa Prep, will be looking to get over the hump and claim their first title. Three wrestlers just missed on being in the finals and ended up 3rd in 2015. Diamonte Perry (3rd at 106) of Lake Gibson, Lukas Twardosky (3rd at 120) of Pasco, and Rowdy Driggers (3rd at 285) of Lennard should enter the 2015-2016 season as one of the favorites. Given the depth in 2A, the following six State Placers are a threat to claim the top step, but will need to overcome some great competition if they are going to claim an individual title in 2016. They include: Christian Febus (5th at 152) of Lake Gibson, Nickolas Burt (4th at 220) of Pasco, Adam Pyle (4th at 160) of Auburndale, Jared Burgess (6th at 152) of Belleview, Silas Root (5th at 285) of Harmony, and Connor Knauer (6th at 182) of Hillsborough.
Hunting the Podium: It is the rare occurrence when the number of returning State Placers outnumbers the number returning State Qualifiers. One reason this is often labeled the “Region of Doom”. Twelve Region 1 wrestlers qualified for the State Tournament in 2015, but failed to make the podium. Kyle Irwin and Malichi Ortiz of Belleview, John DeAugustino and Bryant Haire of Pasco, and Emmanuel Torres of Wesley Chapel finished the 2015 tournament with two or more wins and are likely candidates to be high on the podium in 2016. Tommy Barker of Springstead, Jesse Seidl of Land O’Lakes, David Kirk of Lennard, and Ronnie Estep of Sunlake finished 1-2 in Kissimmee in 2015. Each will be looking to improve on that mark and find the podium in 2016. Brandon Burgess of Springstead, Jarrett Roop of Tampa Jesuit, and Charles Heidt of Robinson finished their 2015 trip to Kissimmee 0-2. Each member of that group will be looking to be on the podium in 2016, but must wrestle much better in 2016 if any is 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 from: Jakob Crew and Jordan Ortega of Belleview, Justin Allan of Citrus, Ivan Gonzalez of South Lake, Jakari Jones of Springstead, Gabriel Gonzalez of Deltona, Miguel Rubiera of East River, Jeff Basista and Mark Freshour of New Smyrna Beach, Esau Bazilme of Poinciana, Matthew Kohler of Seabreeze, Nicholas Donaghy of Armwood, Austin Mobley and Grant Smith of Auburndale, Trey Lane, Justin Ingram, Ryan Mandell, and Alex Popke of Brandon, Kavlin Mareus of King, Johnathan Fan-Fan, Clayton Leach, and Devan Lopez of Lake Gibson, Blake Castillo and Anthony Irizarry of Pasco, Jack Faysash, Rudy Hajaistron, and Brandon Rivera of Wesley Chapel, Andrew Chinnery and Larson Razzano of Winter Haven, Brad Bolesta and Brenda Santos of Gaither, Christopher Gray of Jefferson, Matt Daner and Thomas Mooney of Tampa Jesuit, Tyler Jagernauth of Lennard, Donny Avila of Leto, and Keyton McCoy and Lance Peltier of Robinson.