CATALDI

Charlotte wrestler Donovan Cataldi works a pin against Blake High’s Jaquez House in the Class 2A 120-pound quarterfinals.

It was business as usual for Charlotte High School's Lucas Willis.

Back to defend his title, he was relaxed and determined as he cruised into today's state wrestling semifinals in the 2A, 152-pound class. He made it a quick afternoon as well, wrestling for just 3:53 seconds in two bouts with two pins. 

His pin against Lake Gibson's Elijah Gray in the quarterfinals came just 18 seconds into the bout. His experience at this level has seemed to give him the advantage as he charges toward another crown.

"He's got two state titles, he better not be nervous," Charlotte coach Evan Robinson joked. "He's really come a long way with his wrestling and his mental game. He's great with the guys and great to have around. That pin was a big head-to-head with Lake Gibson so that was good to get."

Day 1 of the FHSAA State Wrestling Championships was long and taxing at Silver Spurs Arena in Kissimmee. But 10 of 25 local wrestlers made it out unscathed and will join Willis in pursuit for titles today.

Charlotte led with seven wrestlers still in contention and sits in second to Lake Gibson in overall team points. Lemon Bay was just behind with three wrestlers remaining and sits seventh in points.

For the Tarpons still alive, few matches went the distance. Cataldi, Willis, Gjerde and Valdez each won both of their bouts via pin. The depth of talent on the squad quickly began to show.

"These guys have been doing it for a long time" Robinson said. "They know we need extra points to hang in the team race so they go out and get them. To have seven guys in the semis is incredible, I don't think we've done that before. Let's hope we can get them to the finals and see what happens. I couldn't be a prouder coach."

For the Tarpons, Andrew Austin (106), Donovan Cataldi (120), Ted Gjerde (132), Cody Rice (145), Willis (152), Anthony Andou (195) and Jose Valdez (220) reached the semifinals and sit two wins away from a title.

For Lemon Bay, Bryce Taranto (120), Lance Schyck (152) and Tyson Davids (170) also reached Day 2 in addition to Imagine School of North Port's Keon Hoffman (126).

It was an emotional day for both coaches and athletes. There's something to be said about reaching the podium with the chance of a title.

For coach Schyck, that came watching his son pull off a late victory in the quarterfinals only to turn around and watch Davids get a late takedown to send him forward.

"I was watching my son get the upset and I start to get myself composed to go watch Tyson and he's over there losing," Schyck said. "Just watching him tough one out and get a takedown at the end, it was just emotionally exciting. I wanted to just start crying and let it go."

Both Lance Schyck and Davids come from wrestling families. Coach Schyck wrestled at Ohio State and Davids father wrestled at Minnesota. But neither kid succumbed to the pressure. Lance beat out the No. 5 ranked wrestler in Florida and Davids upset the top-ranked guy in his class.

"You wonder what goes through these kids heads with the pressure of trying to do something like this," Schyck said. "Someone sent me a picture of Lance up in the stands and he was just in tears. The pressure and the weight of a win like that to be on the podium is just second to none."

Taranto also reached the semis with a pin in the first round and a 10-major decision in the quarters. Taranto lost in the finals last year and is ready to make another run.

"Bryce in a gamer," Schyck said. "He just loves to be in that limelight to where he's gonna compete in these big moments. Some people they're put in these big moments and they don't know, there's a little bit of doubt or whatever. But he just competes and I love that he's just itching to get back there.

North Port had two wrestlers in the meet. After winning his first bout, North Port's Quinn White fell in the quarterfinals and teammate Tavis Bell lost his opening matchup.

So now comes Day 2, which looks to be much tougher than the opening rounds. The remaining wrestlers get going at 9:30 a.m. in Kissimmee followed by the consolation rounds. The finals will begin at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $12 at the door.

Email Jacob Hoag at jacob.hoag@yoursun.com and follow him on Twitter @ByJacobHoag.

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