The Tarpon wrestling program hasn’t had to sweat much to this point in the postseason dual tournament.
But things are about to heat up as Charlotte travels to Osceola High School today to compete for the regional and state crown.
The Tarpons started this journey by beating Port Charlotte, 76-0, and Braden River, 75-3, to claim the district. They then beat Pinellas Park, 72-12, and Braden River again, 71-12, to set up a matchup with Palmetto Ridge for the region title for the second straight year.
Last year, the Tarpons defeated the Bears, 45-21, and came within a bout of claiming the state title.
This year, the Bears have 10 ranked wrestlers, led by senior Trillyon Fils-Aime at 220 pounds, sophomore Brennan Van Hoecke at 126 pounds and senior AJ Ayala at 138 pounds.
If Charlotte is able to get past Palmetto Ridge again, it would get a chance to avenge last year’s finals loss with a possible meeting with powerhouse Lake Gibson.
Lake Gibson is a favorite to win the title again this year after finishing first at the Osceola Christmas Knockout, which is regarded as one of the toughest tournaments of the year. Charlotte finished eighth.
However, that matchup only happens if Lake Gibson gets past Tampa-Jesuit, who finished third at the Knockout and finished second in team points in the individual state championship last year.
Either team would pose a significant challenge for the Tarpons in the semifinals.
Jesuit features 10 ranked wrestlers, six of whom are ranked first in their weight class by the Orlando Sentinel. Lake Gibson has 16 ranked wrestlers with one ranked first.
But Charlotte brings plenty of firepower with nine ranked wrestlers.
Most notable is Lucas Willis, who is top ranked at 152 pounds and came into the postseason with a 22-1 record. He’ll be gunning for his fourth straight individual state title in March.
Other wrestlers to watch for the Tarpons include: Patrick Nolan (No. 5 at 106), Andrew Austin (No. 2 at 113), Donovan Cataldi (No. 4 at 132) and Cody Rice (No. 4 at 170), among others.
In the upper weights, which had the least experience returning this season, Biaggio Frattarelli has come on strong postseason in 220-pound class.
The Tarpons wrestle for the region title tonight beginning at 6. If they advance, the semifinals kick off at 1 p.m. on Saturday with the finals at 6 p.m.