Blake battling for gold

LAKELAND - Two Heartland wrestlers qualified for the championship round of Friday's FHSAA state wrestling finals, but only one advanced.

Avon Park's Delroy Blake (49-1) handily defeated Wakulla's James Douin by a score of 17-4 in Friday's quarterfinals of the Class 1A 195-pound weight class.

Blake continued his stellar wrestling on Saturday with a medical win over Dunnellon's Cole Fagan in the semifinals.

The Avon Park senior wrestled Ryan Thomas of Cardinal Gibbons for the state championship Saturday night.

"Nothing is guaranteed in wrestling," said Avon Park wrestling coach Blake Germaine. "It should be a good match."

Results were not available at press time.

Blake has his heart set on a state championship.

"I've been working for this moment the whole season," Blake said. "I was here last year and now I'm a lot more mature. I just want to go out there and give it all I got to see what spot I get."

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Sebring's Luis Sanchez was the other local grappler to advance to the championship round. Sanchez (40-9) won his first round match in the Class 2A 285-pound bracket due to a medical forfeit by Sebastian River's Zach Finnegan (28-5).

In the quarterfinals, Sanchez grappled with arguably Florida's best Class 2A heavyweight: Tampa Jesuit's Austin Underwood, who entered the match 33-0.

Undwerwood was aggressive from the opening whistle and he quickly had Sanchez on the defensive. Fighting to get off the mat for most of the match, Sanchez lost on a fall at the 2:12 mark in the first round.

"He went against one of the top two kids in the state," said Sebring wrestling coach Josh Miller. "Underwood already has a full-ride to a Division I school and has been one of the state's best wrestlers. But Luis wrestled tough. It's just hard to get a read on Luis, though, he's stone face."

Miller noted that early lapses might have cost Sanchez the match.

"It's just you have to watch the little mistakes. Little mistakes in the heavyweight class turn into big mistakes."

Sanchez defeated Ed White's (Jacksonville) Kelton Johnson (24-6) with an 8-4 decision in his first wrestleback to stave off elimination. But with a chance to grapple for fifth place, Charlotte's Bucky Dennis defeated Sanchez with a fall at the 3:45 mark.

Casey Ricker was the Blue Streaks other state qualifier.

The 170-pound senior lost a tough match in the opening round, dropping a 5-4 decision to Choctawhatchee's Shamar Johnson (40-6).

In wrestlebacks, Ricker defeated Ariel Jimenez (24-12) from Belen Jesuit (Miami) with a fall at the 4:06 mark in the second round to stay alive. But grappling for a shot at fifth place, Barron Collier's (Naples) Jemel Davis defeated Ricker in a 4-1 decision.

"If Casey was going to lose one, we wanted it to be in the first round," Miller said. "We're disappointed of course, we don't want to lose at all, but he would have a better chance to get back into the mix if he excelled in the wrestlebacks."

Avon Park's Dre Neely was the other state qualifier from Highlands County. He forfeited his first two matches in the 113 class due to not making weight at Friday morning's weigh-in.