KISSIMMEE — Kaleb Williams was the area’s last hope.
Kissimmee had been mostly unkind to our local wrestlers. Friday yielded little in the way of success, as seven athletes posted a combined 3-13 record on the first day of the Florida High School Wrestling State Championships despite putting their best feet forward. Six were sent home and five left without a single win, the state’s highest wrestling stage living up to its billing.
When Saturday began, only Williams, a Fort Walton Beach junior, was still alive in wrestlebacks.
He made it count, claiming sixth place at 220 pounds in the Class 2A tournament after pinning Okeechobee sophomore Jose Monrroy in just 36 seconds in the blood round to secure a podium finish.
Okaloosa County’s lone region champion to make the trip to Kissimmee, Williams put together Friday’s only winning record, finishing 2-1 to reach the blood round. Williams topped Bayside junior Zandy Lanier in the opening round, forcing a fall in 2:39, before falling to Lake Gibson junior Tristan Middlebrook 9-2 in the second round. Williams then opened wresltebacks with a 9-8 tiebreaker victory against Gaither senior Sammie Lee to set up a fourth match with Monrroy on Saturday morning.
After pinning Monrroy, Williams lost a tight 2-1 decision to Winter Springs junior Marvin Collins with a berth in the third-place match up for grabs before dropping a 7-1 decision to Fort Myers senior Ethan Carr in the fifth-place match.
Williams’ teammate, junior Brandon Mallin went 0-2 at 120 pounds, losing a 12-5 decision to Poinciana’s Zayveon Mitchell in the opening round and 9-6 decision to Fort Myers’ John Vadyak in the first round of wrestlebacks.
Likewise, Viking senior Patrick Adams fell at 182 pounds to Cypress Lake senior Aryeh Mehl in 3:27 before losing an 8-7 decision to Heritage junior Chance Gorman in wrestlebacks, and 195-pound senior Eddie Alexis lost a 6-1 decision to St. Thomas Aquinas’ Noah Lusk in the opening round before falling to Harmony junior Juan Gomez in 1:38 in wrestlbacks.
The only other area wrestler to grab a state win, Niceville senior Jayden Pinto went 1-2 Friday at 132 pounds, falling to Lake Gibson senior Alejandro Rosario in 1:54 in the opening round before topping Pinellas Park junior Miguel Martinez 3-1 in the opening round of wrestlebacks. That momentum, however, wouldn’t carry over, as Pinto dropped his second match in wrestlebacks to Mosley sophomore Nick Hejke 5-2.
Fellow Eagle senior Keane Creager went 0-2 at 145 pounds, falling Barron Collier’s Justin Ugarte in a 15-1 major decision in the first round before Melbourne’s Richard Skidmore eliminated him wrestlebacks 17-13.
South Walton’s lone wrestler in the Class 1A tournament, sophomore Canyon Dart went 0-2 Friday at 132 pounds, falling Lake Highland Prep’s WIlliam Kennedy in 0:44 and to Sarasota Military Academy senior Garret Murphy in a 4-0 decision in wrestlebacks.