VENICE – Outside of winning another district championship, the Charlotte Tarpons wrestling team had one big goal at Saturday’s Class 2A-District 10 tournament: qualify all 14 of their wrestlers for the upcoming regional tournament.
They met that goal with relative ease.
The Tarpons had 11 wrestlers win individual district titles, and the other three starters qualified by placing in the top four in the annual meet at Venice High School. Charlotte also claimed the district title, outscoring runner-up Venice 275-153.
Charlotte freshman Andrew Austin opened up the finals on a winning note, defeating Venice junior Lauren Stone on a technical fall in the 106-pound final. Stone, who won her third straight girls wrestling state championship last weekend and qualified for the boys state finals a year ago, also earned a regional berth.
Defending state champion Donovan Cataldi (120-pound class), Malachi Schaeffer (126), Ted Gjerde (132), Richard Lawyer (138), Cody Rice (145), Cade Newton (182), Anthony Andou (195) and Lucas Willis – another former state champion – won the 152-pound title and claimed his 200th career victory.
The 170-pound tilt between Charlotte’s Sean Taft and Palmetto’s Matt Wyatt was one of the day’s best. The duo squared off to a scoreless draw in the first two rounds before Taft scored 7 quick points in the final minute to earn a 7-2 win.
“He’s a first-year kid and he’s come a long way this year,” Charlotte coach Evan Robinson said.
Charlotte’s Jose Valdez and Venice’s Jack Marble staged an epic battle for the 220-pound title. Marble kept things close for most of the match until Valdez took him to the mat and came away with a pin. The Charlotte senior improved to 46-1 on the season.
“The sky is the limit and Jose has his sights set on a state title,” Robinson said of Valdez, a state runner-up a year ago. “He’s working hard and hopefully he can get to that goal. He’s a hungry kid and he fights for every moment.”
Patrick Nolan (113), Matthew Andou (160) and Taylor Johnson (285) also earned regional berths for the Tarpons, who will host a Class 2A regional tournament next Saturday at the Wally Keller Gym.
“Everybody pretty much did their job,” Robinson said. “You couldn’t ask for more. With 14 guys next week that’s a lot of points we can score. Hopefully we don’t leave many on the table...and that our home field advantage pays off.”
Jack Stone won the 113-pound title for Venice, while Tyler Conway (138), Eric Beck (120), Josh Stewart, (160), Elijah Day (170) and Will Litzler (182) qualified for the regional.
“We competed really well,” Venice coach Pat Ryan said.
“In tournaments like this there’s people that wrestle at and above expectations...and unfortunately there’s times where kids wrestle below expectations. The key is to punch your ticket to next week, where everybody is 0-0 again.”
Port Charlotte’s Nick Sloane (126), Okten Logue (220) and Anthony Mandile (runner-up in 285) qualified for Saturday’s regional tournament. The Pirates finished sixth in team points with 30.