Grappling for respect

AVON PARK - The Sebring Blue Streaks and the Avon Park Red Devils finished second and third respectively in the Avon Park Wrestling Duals that attracted 12 schools on Saturday.

"Our upperclassman are in the upper weights this year," said Sebring wrestling coach Josh Miller. "We tend to get slow starts at the beginning of matches, but roll through people at the end so kind of what I expected. Our younger kids have done well also in a lot of the weights, but a good start for the day. I was worried that we would be a little lethargic seeing that we sat the first round out."

Rolled they did through the first three matches as Sebring beat Immokalee 61-18, Mulberry 72-6 and Bradenton 60-18 to reach the top three bracket to determine the dual champion.

The Red Devils also started the day winning their first three matches. They beat Kathleen 42-28, Bayshore 42-27 and squeezed past Clewiston 42-39 to be one of the three teams to battle for first place.

In the end, it was not much of a battle as the eventual dual champion, Freedom High School, easily cruised past Avon Park 69-10 and Sebring 62-6, leaving the Red Devils and Blue Streaks to battle the last match of the day for second and third place.

With Avon Park forfeiting five matches, one being a double forfeit, Sebring outscored Avon Park 54-23.

In actual matches, Avon Park won the first four as Sebring won the last five in pinfall to help the Blue Streaks secure the second place finish and knocking the Red Devils down to third overall.

"We did pretty good placing second out of twelve teams," said Miller. "You can't be too disappointed in that. I'm disappointed that the score against Freedom was not a little closer. They matched up against us very well, but we were up in three or four matches and just did silly stuff or did not finish strong and ended up losing those matches."

For Avon Park wrestling coach Blake Germaine felt that his squad performed well despite missing some wrestlers due to sickness, work and other circumstances.

"I knew coming in we were going to have two forfeits per match," said Germaine. "But by the end of the day it was five."

"The kids wrestled tough all day, the first three matches went really well, the last two could have went a little better. But third place is not a bad finish out of twelve teams."

Though Sebring finished the match on a streak of five pins, Germaine noted that Sebring matches up well against their inexperienced wrestlers and a couple of other things. "It is just something we have to work on and learn from our mistakes."

For the day, Sebring and Avon Park had several wrestlers that went 5-0.

Sebring's Casey Ricker and Ty Johnson were perfect as well as Avon Park's Dre Neely and Delroy Blake.

Sebring's Luis Sanchez, Brandon Washburn and Dakota Slade each finished 4-1 in their five matches.

Neely remains undefeated for the season, currently 17-0 for the year and Blake improved to 16-1 with his only loss being to last year's state champion.

The next huge wrestling event will be the Spiegel Tournament to be held in Sebring in January in which 22 schools have already committed to participate in.