Team Race: Despite losing 5x State Champion Fox Baldwin, three State Placers, and two State Qualifiers, the Osceola Kowboys are back with a very strong team and ready to defend their Region 2 title. The key to the Kowboys success in 2015-2016 is the continued development of Gavin Arnold, Bryan Beriguete, Malyke Hines, and John Locksmith. Arnold and Beriguete missed the 2015 post-season due to injury, Locksmith took the season “off” and Hines is just a freshman. The quartet must wrestle well in order to compliment Bonilla, Perez, and Velazquez. If they do, this is a team to threaten not only the Region 2 title, but perhaps a state title as well. North Port and Manatee are the two likeliest teams to push the Kowboys for the region title. The Bobcats return seven with 2015 post-season experience including State Placers John Cruz and Dacoda Flenard. Manatee returns nine including State Placer Caleb Rudisill and three State Qualifiers. Each team has the ability to put pressure on the Kowboys. The key is how well the “supporting” cast” will wrestle. Keep an eye on George Jenkins, Strawberry Crest, and Lakewood Ranch. They have the numbers and quality to push any of the teams in Region 2. Sarasota and Riverview (Riverview) are lurking in the shadows and if given the opportunity could make some noise in the team race as well.
Contenders: Nine Region 2 wrestlers, who return in 2015-2016, finished the 2014-2015 season on the podium in Kissimmee. Super sophomore Cullen Telfer, the defending 113 lb. State Champion, of Strawberry Crest was simply outstanding en route to his first title. Don’t be surprised if it is the first of many. Osceola’s Giovanny Bonilla and Riverview’s Kizhan Clarke each made the finals in 2015, only to fall to two of the best wrestlers in the state in 2015. Bonilla dropped a 16-4 decision to South Dade’s 2x State Champion Patricio Lugo III and Clarke fell 8-3 to Palm Harbor’s 3x State Champion, and 4x State Finalist, Jared Prince. Expect both Bonilla and Clarke to among the favorites to claim their first titles in 2016. Isaiah Hills (285) of Bloomingdale, Caleb Rudisill of Manatee, Hunter Reed (113) of Lakewood Ranch, and John Cruz (145) of North Port finished 3rd in 2015. All four have the ability to take the top step in 2016. Don’t be surprised if all four are wrestling for a title Saturday evening. Dylan Cameron (4th at 126) of Lakewood Ranch and Dacoda Flenard (5th at 160) of North Port finished on the podium in 2015. Each has a legitimate shot at the top step, but will need to wrestle extremely well if they are going to knock off the competition and take the top step in 2016.
Hunting the Podium: Seventeen Region 2 wrestlers qualified for the State Tournament in 2015, but failed to make the podium. Sam Harrison of George Jenkins and Michael Bush of Sarasota finished the 2015 tournament with two or more wins and are likely candidates to be high on the podium in 2016. Miguel Vasquez of Gateway, Darrius Mosley of George Jenkins, Gage Hollingsworth of Lakeland, Marshall Craig and Charles Small of Manatee finished 1-2 in Kissimmee in 2015. Each will be looking to improve on that mark and find the podium in 2016. Lucas Rodriguez of Gateway, Kristian Perez and Leandro Velazquez of Osceola, Demetrius Anderson of St Cloud, Matthew Moskowitz of George Jenkins, Avery Edward of Lakeland, Manuel Ramirez of Strawberry Crest, Brett Behers of George Steinbrenner, Matt McAleer of Manatee, and Yosbiel Garcia of Sarasota 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. Gavin Arnold, Bryan Beriguete, and John Locksmith of Osceola and Joe Capone of Palm Harbor missed out on a trip to Kissimmee a season ago, but each has the ability to be on the podium in 2016. Don’t be fooled by their absence a season ago.
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 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:
District 5: Isaiah Dawson and Christopher Navarro of Lake Nona, Jonny Bishop and Stevie Galluscio of Melbourne, Malyke Hines of Osceola, and Jacob Bell, Graham Sokolovic, and Jack Zurewich of St Cloud.
District 6: Christian Bounce of George Jenkins, Kai Cook, Payton Stewart, and Jonathon Tutiven of Lakeland, Sean Behrens, Jonathan Isaac, and Joe LeBarre of Newsome, and Andrew Burbridge of Strawberry Crest.
District 7: Gamaniel Calderon of East Bay, Jacob Hill of Wiregrass Ranch, Spencer Phillips of George Steinbrenner, Anthony Munoz of Plant, Devon Forrest and Tony Hernandez of Riverview (Riverview), Jacob Darr and Hamid Salahutdin of Sickles, and Gabriel Aleman-Perez and Mykail Robinson of Wharton.
District 8: Philip Brown of Countryside, Zach Ben-Guzzi of Lakewood Ranch, Ty Flenard, Devin Gouvia, and Braydon McLellen of North Port, Nick Gust, Ewan Hatcher, and Chris Fragalie of Palm Harbor, Noah Farrelly and Trayvon Taylor of Pinellas Park, and Steven Mercadante of Sarasota.