Wrestling rivals to reunite at district tournament
| 9:01 a.m. February 19, 2015
Things are heating up on the mat as the varsity wrestling season transitions from the regular season to district tournaments and beyond.
The four programs covered by the West Orange Times & Observer — Dr. Phillips, Ocoee, Olympia and West Orange — are in a key stretch of the season, amid a two-week break between the Metro West Conference meet, which took place on Feb. 11, and the Class 3A District 2 meet, which will take place on Feb. 25 at Edgewater High School.
The respective fields for the two events are similar.
West Orange (175.5 points) took the top spot at the Metro West meet, edging Apopka (171) on the last match of the day — the heavyweight championship between the Warriors’ Ishmael Hollis and the Blue Darters’ Marvin Woods. Hollis, a first-year wrestler for head coach Kristen Iannuzzi’s program, scored a pin to seal the victory for his teammates at the gathering of neighboring programs.
“(Winning Metro West) means a lot,” Iannuzzi said. “This is who you’re closest with, and this is who you see all the time … (the Metro West meet is) that last thing before what really matters.”
Iannuzzi, who played role in convincing Hollis, a senior football player who will play at the junior college level in the fall, to come out for the program, praised the first-year grappler for coming through in a pressure-packed situation.
“It’s a tenacity — (Hollis has) got the wrestler mindset, for sure, and he’s a fighter,” Iannuzzi said.
Rounding out the eight-team field at the Metro West Conference meet, which was held at West Orange this year, were Edgewater (151.5) in third, Dr. Phillips (98.5) in fourth, Ocoee (96) in fifth, Olympia (92.5) in sixth, Evans (61) in seventh and Wekiva (22) in eighth place.
For Ocoee, a fourth-year program under head coach John Parmenter, the fifth-place finish — and two individual champions (Jules Joseph and George Schanck), is a program best.
“It’s the best we’ve done (at Metros),” Parmenter said. “We had five guys that placed, which was a team record for us. I’m pleased with our progress.”
As the respective programs all now turn their attention toward the District 2 meet, which also will include Edgewater, Apopka, Forest (Ocala), Wekiva and West Port (Ocala), positives from Metros can be building blocks to bigger things.
“I think (our success at Metros) gives us something to shoot for — we know what we have to improve, where we have to improve and what we have to maintain,” Parmenter said of Ocoee’s chances at districts.
Dr. Phillips coach John Miller was pleased with the Panthers’ fourth-place finish, especially considering Dr. Phillips placed ahead of Olympia, which beat the Panthers in a regular-season dual meet.
Miller said the two-week period between Metros and districts, while problematic for scheduling purposes, gives his staff and his athletes a chance to hone in on minor adjustments that could make the difference at the district meet.
“That’s maybe an advantage because I saw some things in the Metros, which if I work with a couple kids hard enough, and they put some effort in, that may just help us out,” Miller said. “I looked right at a couple of kids, and I said, ‘I expect you to do better than what you did, and we have two weeks to make it all work.’”
Among Miller’s bunch is arguably one of the best wrestlers in the state in sophomore Dylan Meeks. Meeks was named the meet’s Most Outstanding Wrestler and won all three of his matches by pin in the first round. The Panther sensation and reigning individual state champion is 19-0 this season with all of his victories by pin — and Miller says Meeks is still improving.
“Dylan’s wrestling very well … where he is today and where he was a year ago, he’s just a different person,” Miller said, adding that the sophomore has improved his strength and speed.
Given the way district and Metro fields align, the two-week stretch is unique in that many of the wrestlers know each other and will wrestle one another twice in a matter of weeks, given the similar fields.
Although the teams are all seeking victory on the mat, the proximity of the programs and the culture of the sport, mean the successive gatherings of neighboring programs is a unique point in the season.
“It’s a good thing,” Parmenter said. “As soon as the match is done, we put that behind us, and we actually go out to eat with these guys.”