The Dr. Phillips High girls wrestling team enjoyed winning a state championship in 2017 so much that the Panthers decided to do it again in 2018.
Hosting the 2018 Florida Girls Wrestling State Championships Feb. 2, the Panthers cruised to a decided first-place finish, nearly doubling the point total of Osceola, the state runner-up.
Five wrestlers for Dr. Phillips won individual state titles and 15 Panthers, overall, placed.
“It feels good — we put a lot of work into it and the girls are extremely focused,” Dr. Phillips coach Kirwyn Adderly said. “It all paid off at the end. We challenged them to win it back-to-back and to do it in our house.”
Where the Panthers’ first team championship in 2017 entailed some late intrigue, this time Dr. Phillips sealed its championship earlier in the day.
“We took care of it early, and that was our goal, honestly,” Adderly said. “I wanted the girls not to focus on the team title but to focus on their individual goals — and we did really well.”
Karoline Ortiz (122 pounds), Remy Vargas (162 pounds), Shania Gowan (172 pounds), Shedeline Ulysse (197 pounds) and Amani Guzman (287 pounds) all won individual state titles.
Ortiz and Gowan each completed undefeated seasons — the Panther pair had records of 43-0 and 38-0, respectively — and of the group, only Vargas was a senior.
Three Panthers finished as state runners-up — Jessica Corridor, Naomi Alezi and Aaliyah Hyacinthe — and two more — Jennifer Charles and Jada St. Cyr — finished in third place in their respective weight classes.
With the wild success of the program these last two seasons, Dr. Phillips has established itself as the premier girls wrestling program in the state.
The sport is not yet sponsored by FHSAA and operates independent of it, but participation is growing, and the Panthers are at the forefront.
“We train year-round, and we have five of our girls who wrestle in national tournaments,” Adderly said. “We have really good numbers of retention. We’re not losing a lot (of girls), so the learning process — we don’t have to start over a lot.
“And then our girls are really engaged,” Adderly said. “It’s a family atmosphere.”
On the season, the team compiled a 9-0 dual meet record and won championships in eight invitational tournament. Twenty-four girls participated on the team, up from 17 in 2017 and just eight in 2016.
The icing on the cake might be that only three seniors will graduate from this year’s team, meaning the Panthers likely will be right back in the thick of things next winter, looking for a three-peat.