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Two Tarpons bring home titles, other locals come close

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Charlotte 220-pounder Jose Valdez earned redemption, winning a state title Saturday after ending last season as runner-up.

KISSIMMEE — His first state title was the sweetest. Going into the finals as an underdog 8th grader, Charlotte’s Lucas Willis didn’t know what to expect.

That is no longer the case as he strutted into Saturday’s 2A state finals with his chest out as the clear-cut favorite, winning his third straight state title by tech fall in the second round.

For him, mindset is everything and he wants everyone to know his secret to success.

“I’m the best, that’s it,” Willis said. “That’s the only thing I think, only thing I eat, sleep and drink. That’s always in my head, ‘I’m the best, I’m the best. I will not lose.’ Even when I lose, I’m the best. I study my matches. If I’m already good, might as well get better because then I’m great.”


Charlotte’s Lucas Willis hugs coach Evan Robinson after winning his third state title.

Willis cruised his way into the finals pinning each of his first three opponents, one in 18 seconds to reach the 152-pound semifinals in front of a well-traveled, but rather relaxed Tarpon fan base.

Once on the verge of another title, there wasn’t much that could slow him down. It only took one takedown to get him started and the points kept rolling from there. He finishes his sophomore season 58-3.

“I wanted a pin,” Willis said. “I wanted pin, pin, pin, pin, but once I saw it was 12-0 and I heard him count the fifth swipe, I was like screw it. And I let him up. It felt good, I was excited.”

As Willis claimed yet another championship, his teammate, 220-pounder Jose Valdez, was seeking redemption after finishing runner-up in last year’s tournament.

Valdez got an early takedown to gain momentum and continued to get his opponent, Jesuit’s Mason Arnold, to the ground before letting him up and doing it again.

“I just wanted to stay calm,” Valdez said. “I beat him earlier in the year, so I knew if I could stay calm and stick to my attacks, I’d beat him. I didn’t want to get too frustrated and give up a big move on me. I just had to stick to the plan.”

As the clock hit triple zeroes with a 12-4 advantage for Valdez, he jumped up and ran to his coaches before turning to point to the Tarpon crowd.

“It’s amazing,” Valdez said. “I worked so hard for this moment. I lost in the finals last year, so I had to wait a whole year to come back and win. It was hard, but I stuck with it.”

Charlotte’s Donovan Cataldi also reached the finals, but fell a point short in the 120-pound class. In total, seven Tarpons reached the podium and Charlotte finished third in team points behind Lake Gibson and Jesuit.


Charlotte’s Donovan Cataldi flips his opponent in the 120-pound finals. Cataldi came up one point short, finishing runner-up.

Reaching the podium were Willis and Valdez as champs, Cataldi as runner-up, Anthony Andou (195) in third, Ted Gjerde (132) in fourth, Cody Rice (145) and Andrew Austin (106) in fifth and Richard Lawyer (138) in sixth.

“Donovan was one point shy, but he’ll be back next year. He’s won this thing before so sky’s the limit for him,” Charlotte coach Evan Robinson said. “Five other place winners. They did a great job all year long. A third place team finish, I can’t complain about anything.”

In the 1A tournament, Lemon Bay came close to a title, but senior Tyson Davids fell in the 170-pound finals. Davids only had three losses on the season, all to Colin Nation of Tampa Prep.

Lemon coach Mike Schyck thought their body types didn’t match up well, but commended Davids on a strong season.

“Tyson is a lighter 170, he only weighed in at like 167-168,” Schyck said. “Colin looks like he could be a 195, he’s solid. But Tyson had a heck of a year. He moved down to Florida and only lost to one guy all year. It was an incredible senior season for him."

Also reaching Day 2 were Lance Schyck in 152 and Bryce Taranto in 113. Lance fell in the Dominic Isola from Lake Highland Prep, but wrestled back for fourth place as a freshman. Taranto, who was runner-up last year, wrestled back for a fifth-place finish as a sophomore.

Both showed great resiliency and add to what looks to be a strong core for next season.


Lemon Bay senior Tyson Davids shoots on Tampa Prep's Colin Nation in the 170-pound finals. Davids finished runner-up.

“Lance could’ve gave up the pin right there, but he didn’t,” Schyck said. “He got out of it and then took him down twice late to almost win it. To come back like that was so great to see for a kid that hasn’t wrestled very long, only about a year and a half.

“I’m excited about next year. Lance comes back and might be up a class, Bryce comes back. I’m excited about a lot of the guys we have. We’re going to have a very strong core. Now it’s time to get into camp mode and get ready for next season.”

Koen Hoffman from the Imagine School of North Port also reached the podium at 126. After falling in the semis, Hoffman wrestled back to beat Matthew Owen from Wakulla 4-3 to reach the third place match. He finished fourth.


Lemon Bay (1A)

Second— Tyson Davids, 170

Fourth — Lance Schyck, 152

Fifth — Bryce Taranto, 113

Imagine School (1A)

Fourth — Koen Hoffman, 126

Charlotte (2A)

First — Lucas Willis, 152

First — Jose Valdez, 220

Second — Donovan Cataldi, 120

Third — Anthony Andou, 195

Fourth — Ted Gjerde, 132

Fifth — Cody Rice (145), Andrew Austin (106)

Sixth — Richard Lawyer, 138

Email Jacob Hoag at and follow him on Twitter @ByJacobHoag.


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