KISSIMMEE — Don’t let Dylan Meeks’ undefeated record and second consecutive state championship fool you — the Dr. Phillips grappler loses all the time.
Not in varsity competition, of course, but in practice.
Cognizant of the need to push himself outside of his comfort zone to continue to improve, the athletically gifted sophomore regularly practices with — and gets beaten by — members of the club wrestling team at UCF.
Competing against competitors who are between three and six years his senior helps keep the Panthers star, who is favored nearly every time he steps on the mat for FHSAA competition, humble and hungry.
That dedication paid off March 14, as Meeks stood atop the podium as the state champion in Class 3A at 220 pounds.
“If you go to practice and you lose all the time, you’re like, ‘I must not be that good,’” Meeks said. “(But) you come to (varsity) tournaments and you win and you’re like, ‘Alright, this is working. I’ll take the butt whooping in practice any day.’”
Those practice matches also probably came in handy for Meeks throughout the state tournament, where the level of competition was higher than it had been at any point during the regular season.
Going into the tournament, Meeks had won all of his matches by pin, most of which occurred just second into the first round, but he had to win twice by decision during the 16-man tournament in Kissimmee: a 4-0 decision over South Dade’s Michael Rodriguez in the quarterfinals and a 4-1 decision over Miami Southridge’s Darius Hamilton in the championship match.
Although it was expected, the heightened level of competition was something the sophomore grappler had to adjust to on the fly.
“Honestly, during it, you don’t enjoy it,” Meeks said. “You’re like, ‘Man, normally, I would’ve won by now.’ (But) it’s a lot more rewarding in the end.”
Although he was the lone state champion from the coverage area, Meeks (34-0) was not alone at the Silver Spurs Arena.
Meeks’ teammate, junior Tajh Glemaud, represented the Panthers in the heavyweight (285 pounds) classification. Glemaud (33-15) won his first round match but fell in the quarterfinals and dropped down to the consolation bracket. There, he won his first consolation match but fell in the following match to end his remarkable run.
Ocoee’s Jules Joseph (36-6), wrestling at 195 pounds, had a similar performance in his respective bracket. He won his first match, dropped his second, won his first consolation match but fell in the following match.
Joseph’s teammate from Ocoee, George Schanck (35-8), wrestled at 170 pounds and got the unenviable task of facing Osceola’s Fox Baldwin — undefeated at 58-0. Schanck wrestled valiantly against the varsity legend-in-the-making but fell in that match and his consolation to be eliminated from the tournament.
West Orange senior Chris Briscoe went 0-2 at 180 pounds to conclude his season with an impressive 34-10 record, and Olympia’s Tyler Ingle, a senior appearing in the state tournament for the first time wrestling at 152 pounds, lost his first match but was victorious in his first consolation match before falling in the following round, finishing with a 31-8 record.
As for Meeks, although his celebration in the moments after defeating Hamilton was mild relative to some of the day’s other champions, he expressed pride in winning his second consecutive state title — and the implications that come with it.
“It means I did win, it wasn’t a fluke, and I can defend (the title),” Meeks said.