Victory just out of reach
Highlands TodayLAKELAND - Saturday's FHSAA state wrestling tournament wasn't nearly as kind to local wrestlers as Friday was. The four wrestlers who qualified for the second day of the tournament went a collective 3-7 on the day.
Published: February 18, 2013
Published: February 18, 2013
Perhaps no loss was as difficult to swallow as Sebring's Chris DeJesus, who was seconds away from advancing to the state finals as he led Jabari Irons in the late going of the third period, only to see Irons score a reversal and win the match in overtime.
"That was probably the best match I've ever seen Chris wrestle up until the final 10 seconds," said Sebring coach Josh Miller. "He should have won the match."
The after-effects were evident in DeJesus' final two matches of the tournament, as he dropped them both — including a 6-2 loss to Mike Arroyo, whom he had beaten earlier in the tournament, in the fifth-place match.
"It affected him, it definitely did," Miller said. "He was wanting a state championship, and to get so close and then have a tough loss like that is a lot to overcome. Still, he is a state placer."
DeJesus took home the sixth-place medal and Miller said it was a testament to the work DeJesus has put into the sport the past few years.
"He put in so much time after practice," he said. "I'm very proud of him and what he was able to accomplish. And I'm proud to have my first state placer."
Miller said having DeJesus place at state was big for the program.
"Now the younger kids have seen what it takes and what you have to do if you want to be a state placer," he said.
Miller said DeJesus, like many wrestlers, had to experience the state tournament last year before coming back and placing his second trip there.
He was hopeful that junior Ty Johnson, who was injured during Friday's action, would follow suit.
"Ty's doing better, he's almost able to walk normal," Miller said. "We're going to come back and work hard this summer."
For Avon Park, Delroy Blake placed fourth at 195 pounds. In the semifinals, he was pinned late in the third round by eventual state champion Alex Krukinaski. Krukinaski led 8-4 at the time.
"I told him going into the match that was the best kid in the tournament," said Avon Park coach Blake Germaine. "He tried a desperation move there at the end. That was the best match he wrestled all weekend long and I told him to give me 100 percent and he gave it his all."
Blake came back and won his next match, before falling in the third-place match.
Dre Neely became the first freshman wrestler to snag a state medal at Avon Park when he finished fifth at 113 pounds. After winning his first match of the day, he dropped a tough 2-1 decision to third-place finisher Anthony Artalona.
In the fifth-place match he handily defeated Dominick Gibson, who he had lost to 8-6 in the quarterfinals.
"He had a bad call in the quarterfinals and then came back and beat that kid 8-1," Germaine said.
"His goal was to place and that's what he did. I think not knowing how big of a deal the state tournament is helped him a lot."
Germaine said he was happy to have two medal winners coming back, but he also felt bad for his seniors — Jose Torres and Johnny Baldridge — who came up a bit short.
"They were in the two toughest weight classes in the whole tournament," Germaine said.
"Jose got a bad deal in the quarterfinals and he didn't really get back into it. It can take a lot out of you.
"Johnny just didn't wrestle well on Saturday. There are going to be times where you just have a bad match."
Germaine also shares the belief that seeing their teammates bring home medals is invaluable for the program and it also shows the other wrestlers what it takes to place in the big stage.
"I've been telling them that hard work pays off," he said. "I'm glad the younger kids got to see five make it to state and that hard work really does pay off."
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