Lakeland’s Willie Lampkin and Kathleen’s Jeremiah Jackson head to the 285 semifinals and could be on a collision course.
KISSIMMEE — Lake Gibson rolled like never before.
The two-time Class 2A defending state champion Braves steamrolled the competition through the first day’s action of the FHSAA wrestling state tournament and posted a 24-1 record while placing 11 wrestlers into the semifinals Friday at Silver Spurs Arena.
"I don’t want to say the brackets kind of favored us today, but some of our first-round matches were tougher than our second-round matches. We sort of knew that coming in," Lake Gibson head coach Danny Walker said.
"We traveled all over the state and wrestled a lot of these guys ... A lot of these guys came to our Braves Invitational, so it paid off that we have seen a lot of them."
Lake Gibson qualified a school record 12 wrestlers for the tournament and only lost Frank Soloranzo to the wrestlebacks after he suffered a second-round loss. The Braves won 19 straight matches at one point. Soloranzo won his wrestlebacks match and advanced to third round for Saturday, leaving all-12 Lake Gibson wrestlers in the tournament.
All wrestlers reaching the semifinals, which begin at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, are guaranteed a state finals medal, which go to the top-six places in each of the 14 weight divisions.
When the first-day’s action concluded, Lake Gibson was in first place with 111 points and Tampa Jesuit was second with 76. Jesuit won the 2A duals state championship in January after beating Lake Gibson 29-27 in the quarterfinals.
"We have been preaching intensity all dang week. We have to score bonus points and we have to get a big lead because (Jesuit) is going to have their champions. It is inevitable. But we can handle what we can handle. We have to do a better job making sure it comes down to what we do and not what they are doing," Walker said.
Reaching the semifinals for Lake Gibson are Hayden Whidden (106), Jesse Gehr (113), Alex Walker (120), Connor Williams (126), Alex Rosario (132), Brian Abdon (138), Evan Butler (145), Raul Soto (160), Ashton Habeil (182), Caden Cunningham (195) and Tristian Middlebrook (220).
"Alex Walker, a sophomore, wrestled amazing and this is his first time at a state tournament and he will be a state placer. Then there is Tristian and all the stuff he went through. It is just amazing with his turnaround. He gave up football, and for it to pay off today means a lot," said Walker, referring to Middlebrook, who was in the hospital during the first part of last season fighting for his life after collapsing at practice.
Also in 2A, Lakeland’s Willie Lampkin (285) continued his unbeaten season, picking up two wins to move into the semifinals on Saturday against Jesuit’s Mason Arnold. Lampkin is now 45-0.
"My first match wasn’t as good as I wanted it to be, but I still got the ‘W,’" Lampkin said. My second match is how I wanted to end the day off, so I did what I do. I picked up the intensity. I want a gold medal."
Kathleen’s Jeremiah Jackson (285) will also join Lampkin in the 2A semifinals after picking up two victories.
If Lampkin and Jackson win their semifinal matches, they’ll meet for the 2A state title on Saturday night. Lampkin is 3-0 against Jackson this year.
"We’ve had some tough matches. I’m super proud of Jeremiah being a sophomore and a first-time state qualifier. He’s becoming a wrestler and not just a big athletic football player,"Kathleen head coach Bing Osborn said.
Also for Kathleen, Chris Barthelemy (138) and Maurice Blackmon (170) fell in their quarterfinal matchups and were forced into the wrestlebacks. Blackmon was the lone Red Devil to win advanced to the third round of wrestlebacks on Saturday.
Despite a positive start for four 1A wrestlers, no one from Polk made it out of the first day unblemished.
Tenoroc’s Travis Howarth (138) and Leighton Tinch (152) and McKeel’s Guy Yodock (113) and Vish Williams (145) were victorious in their first-round matchups, but fell in the quarterfinals and were sent to wrestlebacks with the rest of Polk’s 1A competitors.
Yodock was the lone McKeel wrestler to pick up a win in the wrestlebacks and advanced to the third round of wrestlebacks on Saturday.
"We’ll be back and Guy is going to try to place tomorrow. He is nails," McKeel head coach Frank Olinger said. "I am proud of all my guys."
If any of the wrestlers advance past the two rounds of wrestlebacks on Friday night, then they’ll move on to the consolation bracket Saturday.
Bill Kemp can be reached at Bill.Kemp@theledger.com; follow him on Twitter @BillKempSports.