The Charlotte Tarpons wrestling team placed first in a field of 27 teams Saturday at the Cradle Cancer Invitational at Jensen Beach.
Charlotte registered 280.5 points, with their next nearest competitor, Ft. Pierce Central, finishing with 206.5 points.
Defending state champion Lucas Willis, won the 152-pound weight division; Anthony Andou was best in the 195-pound class and Jose Valdez took honors in the 220-pound division.
The Tarpons had four grapplers finish second, Andrew Austin at 106-pounds; Patrick Nolan at 113-pounds; Donovan Cataldi at 120-pounds and Cody Rice in the 145-pound division.
The Tarpons boast an experienced roster, one with two returning state champions, Willis and Cataldi, and a state runner-up. Many of the wrestlers have competed for years, creating a strong foundation and a cohesiveness with a sole, defined objective in mind.
“The only way to compete for a state title anymore is to have the depth, and have the individuals who are competing at a high level,” said Evan Robinson, Charlotte Tarpons wrestling coach. “I know these guys. That’s their goal, to push for a state title. Many of them have been wrestling since their youth. They’ve seen the high school as they’ve grown up. One of their major goals is to win something together. That’s what they’re after.”
The Tarpons success has instilled a sense of self-confidence, and their mental approach and commitment to winning puts them in good stead.
“They’re pushing forward, they know what they can do,” said Robinson. “There’s always things to fix and work on, ways to get better, but they understand that. They continually set their goals higher. Our main goal is to peak in March.”
Four tarpons are currently ranked no. 1 in the state, Cataldi, Willis, Andou and Valdez, solidifying the Tarpons as one of Florida’s elite programs.
No rest for the weary, Charlotte’s challenging schedule has kept the roster on its toes, preparing for a series of formidable foes.
“We had back-to-back tough weekends,” said Robinson. “We went to the (Osceola) Knockout and that was 40 teams. It was probably the toughest tournament in the Southeastern United States. There were Tennessee state champions, Georgia state champions, Alabama state champions, Florida state champions, and we finished fifth. It was a big deal for us. It was very impressive for the boys.”
Saturday, in addition to the champions and four runner-up placings, Charlotte had three thirds and one sixth.
“We had some nice performances, and then from some guys who haven’t had as much success this year,” said Robinson. “They came out and did some nice things; helped us win a title.”
The team continues to evolve, often venturing out of their comfort zone to face a higher level of competition, something the Tarpons have done on a routine basis this year.
“We put together a pretty tough schedule for these guys, so they would see the best,” said Robinson. “So when we get to the state tournament, the nerves aren’t so bad. There are always going to be nerves, but you want your kids to be able to compete at a high level, without worrying as much. We’re putting them in as many things as we can, not allowing them to get stale, nervous or things of that nature.”
A strong mental approach, staying fit and injury free are among the challenges facing the Tarpons during a long season with a demanding schedule, but the wrestlers composing the roster are more than up to the task. ‘
“The main thing is that you definitely want to stay healthy,” said Robinson. “The focus will be on bringing their intensity level higher as we go. That way we’re picking up the pace, so they’re not slowing down, not getting stagnant. That’s something that can happen because the wrestling season is so long. You start in November and you go to March.”