It was a day of mixed results for the Venice High School wrestling team on the first day of the Region 2A-3 Wrestling Championships at the Wally Keller Gymnasium at Charlotte High School.
While the host team was doing a konga line, it was more of a struggle for the Indians. But it was worth it, with four wrestlers earning trips to the semi-finals and four others still alive for a potential state berth.
Jack Stone (113), Chris Wozniak (132), Gage Tippman (152) and Jack Marble (220) won their first two matches, while Lauren Stone (106), Shane Conway (126), Tyler Conway (138) and Sam Exler (145) remain in contention despite losing a match.
“It was a great effort. I thought we all wrestled very well. We have young kids on the team that did a great job,” Venice coach Pat Ryan said. “At this time of the year it’s not so much about technique as it is just battling. That’s what we did.”
Jack Stone didn’t have to work too hard, earning two quick pins. Stone said he was pleased as a freshman to perform how he did, but as a freshman, he’s worried about the pressure ratcheting up Saturday.
“I had some decent mat time today, but I’m nervous about tomorrow. I have to put it all on the line to reach states,” Jack said. “This group is great. We’re all doing our best.”
Wozniak had to really work to win as he out-pointed both opponents in defensive minded matches after having to cut weight after his birthday.
“I wasn’t really ready for the weigh-in this morning and I was pretty tired, but I had pinned my opponent twice already so I was confident,” Wozniak said. “My second match I was able to get him off his feet.”
Lauren Stone is still alive. Incredibly, she had to wrestle the only other girl in the meet, Madison Stogsdill of East Lake, in one of the first matches of the day, which she won before going down to Cullen Guerrero of Palmetto Ridge by pin. She had to face Charlie Sonalia of Naples in the wrestle-backs and won with a pin.
The Conways and Exler also won their first match and lost badly in the second before coming back in the wrestle-backs to stay alive. Shane Conway and Exler by close decision and Tyler Conway by fall.
Ryan said that despite all the success on Friday, Saturday is everything.
“Everything we do is for the postseason. You want to put yourself in the best position in regionals and get to the state tournament,” Ryan said, “Half our team is very inexperienced and to do that would be huge.”