Some of the favorites to win state titles are Bryan Canedo (44-3) of Palm Beach Gardens, Frankie Tal Shahar (45-0) of American Heritage and Olympic Heights’ Wilkinson Saul (37-0)
Of the 38 high school wrestlers representing Palm Beach County, each enter this weekend’s Florida High School Athletic Association State Tournament in Kissimmee with the same opportunity.
They each have a beginner’s chance of winning a state championship.
Realistically, the percentages are significantly lower as reality settles in after the first round of the meet at the Silver Spurs Arena on Friday.
The odds are a little big higher for defending champs Bryan Canedo (44-3) of Palm Beach Gardens and Frankie Tal Shahar (45-0) of American Heritage. Then there’s Wilkinson Saul of Olympic Heights, who at 37-0 is the only undefeated wrestler in the 285-pound division in Class 3A with 10 or more matches.
If Saul can finish his senior season at Heights as a state champion, he’ll also finish 41-0 to be become the first male undefeated wrestler in school history.
He would join Leidaly Rivera, who became the first female at Heights when she finished 16-0 and won a state title last year at 122 pounds in the girls unsanctioned state tournament.
"He is lean, fast, strong and explosive at 240 pounds," Olympic Heights coach Boomer Mears said. "He is a poised athlete that knows he’s capable of winning a state title, but only by winning one match at a time."
Saul, who has received an offer from the Penn, fell just short of placing last season as a junior.
Despite dealing with some nagging injuries after the football season, Saul has worked himself into championship potential.
"Saul has come a long way to lead and guide this team," said Mears.
Not to be over shadowed are Tal Shahar and Canedo. Though both seek to repeat as state champs, they would so in different weight classes from last year.
Tal Shahar is poised to win his third title in four years at 138-pounds. He won state titles in 2017 and 2019.
He is a smart and seasoned wrestler that commands the mat. Tal Shahar helped the Stallions finish second at last year’s championships and the team is in good standing to at least repeat that feat, if not win it all this year.
Heritage has advanced 11 competitors, more than any school from Palm Beach.
Watch for Vincenzo Napolitana at 145 pounds and Chase Thompson at 220 pounds of Heritage-Delray to have a strong meet.
Canedo will wrestle at 195 pounds in his bid for consecutive titles after winning at 220 pounds last season.
"He made the choice to change weight class because that isn’t available in college," Palm Beach Gardens coach William George said. "He had his flaws last year, but this weight best suits him. He’s more athletic, but it’s his mat smarts that are his best weapon."
The Gators qualified five wrestlers for the Class 3A meet, including William George Jr., the coach’s son, at 160 pounds. He has strong chance to reach the final.
Wellington has had a solid season under Travis Grey with senior leadership from Jesse Weinberg, Lukas Forehand and Justin Henry.
The Wolverines best finish was eighth in 2018. This year, they had five wrestlers advance to the tournament, mostly in the lower weight classes.
Jupiter (3A) and Suncoast (2A) have also qualified wrestlers to the tournament.
Palm Beach County State Qualifiers
106: Patrick Jones (Wellington), 50-13; 113: David Correct Jet (Palm Beach Gardens), 41-8; 120: Elijah Ortiz (Palm Beach Gardens), 44-10; Ethan Howard (Wellington), 31-11; 126: Ryan Ullayk (Palm Beach Gardens), 34-20; James Marvel (Wellington), 50-11; 132: Cole Bosch (Olympic Heights), 36-7; 138: Pedro Azevedo (Olympic Heights), 37-14; Zachary Creeden (Jupiter), 52-5; Jesse Weinberg (Wellington), 52-8; 145: Lukas Forehand (Wellington), 47-4; Max Wyatt (Olympic Heights), 44-11; 152: Justin Henry (Wellington), 52-5; 160: William George Jr. (Palm Beach Gardens), 47-10; 170: Bakr Khaleel (Palm Beach Gardens), 27-12; Robert Preisendorf (Jupiter), 35-12; 182: Aiden Alexander (Jupiter), 43-14; 195: Edwin Mendez (Jupiter), 27-20; Bryan Canedo (Palm Beach Gardens), 44-3; 220: Jaafar Abulgab (Olympic Heights), 37-14; 285: Wilkinson Saul (Olympic Heights), 37-0.
106: Nick Kapsos (Suncoast). 126: Lorenzo Falcon (Suncoast), 54-19; 145: Omar Davis (Suncoast), 36-14; 152: Jeffery Federick (Suncoast), 38-10; 182: Sebastian Macaulay (Suncoast), 48-19; 285: Teo Richards (Suncoast), 33-8).
106: Zach Weidler (American Heritage-Delray). 32-13; 113: Jonathan Hudson (American Heritage-Delray), 34-16; 120: Andrew DeSola (American Heritage-Delray), 13-7; 126: Rafael Romero (American Heritage-Delray), 35-10; 132: Aiden Gasper (American Heritage-Delray), 28-15; 138: Frankie Tal Shahar (American Heritage-Delray), 45-0; 145: Vincenzo Napolitana (American Heritage-Delray), 35-15; 160: Joseph Nicolosi (American Heritage-Delray), 34-12; 170: Shane Cannon (American Heritage-Delray), 45-8; 195: Mikey Tal Shahar, 6-1; 220: Chase Thompson (American Heritage-Delray), 40-3.
Editor’s note: Article and headline has been corrected to reflect that 38 wrestlers from Palm Beach County, including Suncoast’s Nick Kapsos at 106 pounds in Class 2A, are headed to the state championships