Leading by example
Sebring’s Chris DeJesus didn’t waste any time to make it known that he was going to be a force this season. Coming away with a victory over Avon Park’s Delroy Blake at the Avon Park Preseason Classic despite giving up nearly 40 pounds, DeJesus hit the ground and never looked back, finishing with a sixth-place medal in the Class 2A state meet at 160 pounds. “Chris had a great year,” said Sebring coach Josh Miller. “He beat a lot of tough kids this year. He had a tough state tournament and ended up getting a little banged up, but I’m very proud of him. He’s my first state placer and he earned every bit of it.” DeJesus qualified for the state meet last year and Miller said getting a taste of the event let DeJesus know what he needed to do to join the elite wrestlers in the state and he went out and did just that. “Chris put in numerous hours outside of practice,” Miller said. “He was a great example for the younger kids to see what is needed to take that next step.”For his accomplishments, DeJesus has been selected as the 2013 Highlands Today All-Highlands Wrestler of the Year.
Brendan Doty, freshman, Sebring: Doty had a strong first season for the Blue Streaks, advancing to regionals.
“Brendan is a very athletic, talented kid,” Miller said. “He came in without much knowledge, but finished way over .500. He qualified for regionals and came close to qualifying for state, but had a tough regional bracket with four of the top 12 kids in the state.”
Dre Neely, freshman, Avon Park: The Red Devils have had plenty of talented wrestlers over the years, but none of them ever accomplished what Neely did when he placed fifth at 113 pounds in the state meet, becoming the first Avon Park wrestler to place as a freshman.
“Dre was a big surprise for a freshman,” said Avon Park coach Blake Germaine. “I knew coming in that he was going to be a tough kid, but he did a lot better than I thought he would do this year. As the year went on, he just kept winning the matches I didn’t think he would win against juniors and seniors.”
Jose Torres, senior, Avon Park: Torres was a three-time state qualifier and finished the season with a 34-5 record at 120 pounds.
“Jose never quits,” Germaine said. “He has the attitude where he doesn’t want to lose, even in the practice room every day. Whatever he decides to do in life, he’ll be successful.”
Johnny Baldridge, senior, Avon Park: Baldridge made his second appearance at the state meet this year and finished the season with a 39-11 record at 126 pounds.
“Johnny showed up every day and worked hard,” Germaine said. “When it comes to competing, he wants to win. He was always asking how he could get better and what he needed to work on.”
Bernard Charles, senior, Avon Park: Charles qualified for the state meet in his final year of wrestling, finishing the season with a 35-15 record at 132 pounds.
“Bernard had a great year,” Germaine said. “He had a tough regional draw and he beat somebody at regionals who he lost to in districts. He’s never going to quit and that’s I like about him.”
Dakota Slade, sophomore, Sebring: Slade improved dramatically over the course of the season for the Blue Streaks and was a solid performer at 138 pounds. With two years remaining, Miller is looking for big things from him in the future.
“Dakota put in a lot of time over the summer and it showed,” Miller said. “He had a real tough district meet and I know he’s going to work hard over the summer.”
Christian Suarez, junior, Avon Park: Suarez was injured during the season and was unable to compete in the post-season tournaments, but ended up with a 20-6 record at 145 pounds.
“He had an injury at the end of the year so he couldn’t compete in districts, but I think he would have been right on the bubble for going to state,” Germaine said. “He has the potential to do it next year.”
Casey Ricker, junior, Sebring: Ricker had a strong season for the Blue Streaks at 152 pounds, advancing to regionals, and Miller is looking for him to have a big senior season.
“Casey had one of the toughest classes in the state this year, but he definitely has the potential to qualify for state,” Miller said. “He can keep up with the best in the state and he’s putting in a lot of time right now.”
Matt Juve, senior, Sebring: Juve did whatever the team needed to do, as he bounced between several different weights and advanced to the regional meet at 170 pounds.
“He had a great year for us,” Miller said. “He wrestled in three different classes for us this year and had a good showing in the post-season. His weight class was probably the second toughest in the state.”
Ty Johnson, junior, Sebring: Things came together for Johnson this season, as he won the district title at 182 pounds and qualified for the state meet.
“Ty stepped up for us this year,” Miller said. “He’s a tough kid and really turned the corner this year. Once he got that confidence in himself he just took off.”
Delroy Blake, junior, Avon Park: Blake has always had the talent to great things on the mat, but for some reason things never really clicked—until that changed this year in a big way, as he placed fourth in the Class 1A state meet at 195 pounds and finished the season with a 47-4 record.
“He finally put it together and I knew he could,” Germaine said. “It was about him getting confidence and wrestling to his ability. He definitely has the ability to go and win it all next year.”
Dylan Brown, senior, Avon Park: Brown suffered an injury late in the season, but still finished with a 33-5 record at 220 pounds.
“Dylan tweaked his shoulder, but he had already signed to play football in college,” Germaine said. “We talked it over and thought it was better for him to sit out at regionals and get healthy for college football.”
Luis Sanchez, junior, Sebring: Sanchez qualified for regionals in the heavyweight division and Miller said he finished the season on a high note.
“Luis had a great year and turned the corner this year,” Miller said. “It was funny to see at the end of the how many kids were afraid to go on the top position against him because he re-rolled and pinned a number of kids this year. His defensive game on the mat is really good and we look for big things from him next year as a senior.”
Kenny Egan, freshman, Avon Park: Egan had a strong freshman year for the Red Devils, advancing to regionals at 106 pounds after placing second at districts
“Kenny has a bright future,” Germaine said.
Nathan Franklin, senior, Sebring: Franklin placed third in the regional meet, advancing to the state tournament in his final season.
“Nathan did really well for wrestling just three years, he didn’t wrestle his freshman year,” Miller said. “He worked hard this year and did well qualifying for state.”
Amaia Unanue, senior, Sebring: Unanue placed third in the Florida State Girls Wrestling Championships held in January and is coming off a second-place finish in the girls nationals held during the summer, earning her All-American status.
Coach of the Year
For guiding the Avon Park Red Devils to their second straight Class 1A-District 7 title, Avon Park’s Blake Germaine has been selected as the Highlands Today All-Highlands Wrestling Coach of the Year.