News-Sun photo by DAN HOEHNE Chris DeJesus has his arm raised in triumph after topping Mike Aroyo for his second win of the day Friday at the FHSAA State Wrestling Finals at the Lakeland Center.
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published: Sunday, February 17, 2013
Four of eight alive at State
By DAN HOEHNE
LAKELAND - Things started off in strong fashion for the Highlands County Eight at the FHSAA State Wrestling Finals at the Lakeland Center Friday, with five of the combatants claiming victories in the opening round.
And two of those three losses would have a chance in the wrestleback round to continue on their path toward the medal stand.
Sebring's Ty Johnson, however, wasn't one of them.
"His leg was locked when he was taken down and he hurt his hamstring pretty bad," Blue Streak head coach Josh Miller said.
A hard pill to swallow, having to withdraw due to injury in his first appearance at this penultimate event, but the junior has another year ahead of him to build on this experience.
Avon Park's Bernard Charles, also a junior making his first appearance at State, lost a major decision in his opening match and came up short in his wrestleback attempt, leaving him with a chance to take the experience as a building block next season as well.
Not having another chance at it is Sebring senior Nathan Franklin, who lost two close decisions Friday, totaling five points between them.
"It's tough," Miller said. "But you know, he came so close to getting here last year, it's great that he was able to make it to State in his last year. That itself is an accomplishment for him to have."
The second round of Friday's matches proved tougher for the remaining five as they went 2-3 in their respective weight classes.
Avon Park freshman Dre Neeley and senior Jose Torres each took two-point losses in the Class 1A 113- and 120-pound classes, respectively.
Neeley was on the short end of an 8-6 decision to Cardinal Gibbons' Dominick Gibson, while Torres lost 6-4 Tampa Bay Christian's Ty Lucas.
Red Devil senior Johnny Baldridge, after a 12-10 shootout win in his opening match, couldn't solve Jupiter Christian's Elijah Cleary in an 8-2 loss in the second round.
All three would still have their chance to continue with wins in the ensuing wrestleback round.
Unfortunately, Torres wouldn't make it out of the wrestlebacks.
Having just missed reaching the medal rounds a year ago, Torres again found his path blocked as Jamel Morris of Cardinal Gibbons outpointed him to end his quest.
Neeley and Baldridge, however, bounced back in impressive fashion to continue on their missions.
Neeley won by fall just 38 seconds into the second round of his match with Mourning High School's Maher Jaser, and Baldridge took an 11-5 win over Josh Calhoun of The Bolles School.
While insuring their continuation into Saturday, both Neeley and Baldridge still need one more win to guarantee a place on the medal stand.
Neeley was slated to face Jarred Wolfenberger of Indian Rocks Christian early Saturday, with Baldridge set to meet Christian Perez of Doral Academy.
The final two wrestlers still alive have already assured themselves of bringing home some hardware by going 2-0 on Friday - Sebring's Chris DeJesus and Avon Park's Delroy Blake.
Both took strong wins in their opening matches and had to battle for wins in the second round.
In the Class 2A, 160-pound class, DeJesus took an 8-3 win over Alex Luttrell of Crestview, before facing a physically imposing Mike Aroyo of Olympic Heights.
"He's a very strong kid," Miller acknowledged. "But Chris is very sound with his tactics and usually does well against strong opponents."
He would need to get those tactics in order late as Aroyo carried a slim lead into the third round.
But a couple of scoring moves within the final two minutes nabbed the 8-4 win for DeJesus.
After reaching State, but going two-and-out last year, the turnaround to 2-0 this time around was a very welcome accomplishment.
"It's a great feeling, having my first medalist as a coach," Miller said. "It's also a relief, like a great big monkey off my back.
"And he made things easy for himself," he continued. "When I medaled, I had a loss going into Saturday, so I had to fight my way back into it. He got his two wins and can now take the rest of the night to recover and relax."
Blake, a Red Devil junior making his frist trip to State, was competing in the Class 1A, 195-pound weight class and wasted little time in coming out of the gates with a 10-3 win over Mark Hinchcliffe of Florida High.
In his next match, against Cardinal Gibbons' Ryan Thomas, it was more of a feeling out process as the early going was light on decisive scoring moves.
But the pace soon picked up, as did Blake's scoring.
At one point, Thomas' nose began to bleed, leading to a delay in the action as both he and the mats were attended to.
And when the action continued, Blake held his lead and took a 6-3 win to stamp his medal reservation.
"We came through here earlier this week for a walk-through and warm-ups and at first I was scared," Blake said. "But when we came back, it wasn't so bad and I was feeling a lot better.
"To do well, it feels great, but for me it's so much about being a part of this team and how well everyone is doing and the support for each other," he continued. "I just love being a part of Avon Park wrestling."
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