The Evans High School gymnasium was packed with action all morning long Dec. 11, as four West Orange and Southwest Orange teams competed in the FHSAA Class 3A, District 3 wrestling team duals for the right to be named the district team champions.
Windermere, Dr. Phillips, Ocoee and Olympia all competed, with Apopka, Wekiva and Evans making up the rest of the teams.
West Orange was supposed to compete, as well, but pulled out earlier in the week for an unknown reason.
Because of the odd number of teams in the tournament, teams that won their first round matchups faced the winners of the next round, as well as a consolation bracket for teams that lost. A squad that lost two consecutive duals was eliminated from the competition.
Because of West Orange’s absence, Olympia received a first-round bye. However, that advantage didn’t last long. The Titans fell to Windermere in their first dual, but the team found its footing as the competition continued.
In their next dual against Evans, the Titans won 42-24. Then, they defeated Ocoee to take third place in the meet.
Buoyed by performances from multiple wrestlers, the Wolverines started strong by defeating Dr. Phillips and Olympia in the first two rounds of the tournament before losing to No. 1 seed Apopka in the final to come away with a second-place finish.
Windermere senior wrestler Kurt Vollenweider won all three of his matches during the day. He did not surrender a single point against his first two opponents before giving one up in his final match during the Wolverines’ dual against Apopka in the final round.
Sophomore Lucas Drone also had a solid tournament with two wins of his own as Windermere continued its solid start to the season.
Ocoee came out with a strong performance in the first round against Wekiva. Wrestlers Ethan Smith, Andy Delva, Grover White, Kenny Carrasquillo and DeAndre Scott all won their matches against the Mustangs to advance them forward to the next round — Apopka.
“It was one of our best performances we had in a while at the district level,” head coach Robb Karbowsky said. “All the guys gave their best, and while we had a tough loss to Olympia, I couldn’t be happier with how they competed.”
Despite losing to the Blue Darters, 9-5, the team managed to score the last five out of six victories.
A big moment came in the final match of the dual. In the 106-pound division, Knights freshman Nazzia Hurley pushed through a tough match and scored a pin that made the whole team go crazy for him. His teammates carried him on their shoulders in celebration.
“It was our first 106-pound victory in over eight years,” Karbowsky said. “We had never had a 106-pounder in a long time. He’s not quite 106 pounds — more like 88 — but he has a lot of energy. It was a pretty big moment there for us at the end.”
Scott and Smith also picked up wins against the Blue Darters. The team finished fourth in the end after losing to Olympia in the third place competition by a razor-thin 35-32 margin.
As always in wrestling, there is plenty to learn in defeat. Encouraged by the way his team competed on Saturday, Karbowsky was optimistic with how things would look going forward this season.
“We have a good mix of veterans and young guys, and they are all stepping up for us right now,” Karbowsky said. “So, if they can come in against good competition and compete as well as they did today, then I’m very excited about where we are going to be at the end of the year.”
For Dr. Phillips, back-to-back losses to Windermere and Ocoee marked a swift end to its day. Despite the exit, the meet was a good measuring stick for the team — it was the wrestlers’ first competition of the season.
Head coach David Aubrey said he came away with plenty of positives.
“We’re a young team with more freshmen and sophomores than we had prior,” he said. “I’m happy with how we competed and look forward to where we go from here.”
Any experience is good for a young team, and although the Panthers lost to Windermere, the Panthers scored two consecutive wins to even things up. They managed to keep pace with the Wolverines until the end, when Windermere pulled ahead with several more victories.
With the District Duals now out of the way, the teams now move forward to year-end competitions to close out 2021. Windermere heads to Lyman Dec. 17 and 18 for a tournament there.
The next time all four of these teams will meet will be at the Metro Conference tournament Feb. 4.