By Chuck Ballaro, Sun Correspondent
PUNTA GORDA – His grandfather, father and brother all wrestled. So it was natural for Charlotte freshman Donovan Cataldi to follow the family legacy and pick up their love for the sport.
And it might well be his legacy that future generations follow as he earned the Region 2A-3 wrestling championship Saturday at the Wally Keller Gymnasium in the 106-pound weight class, the only area champion besides those from Venice.
After winning his first three matches by pin, Cataldi defeated fellow freshman Tajh Clayton of Riverdale 12-4 in the finals to help lead Charlotte, which sent four wrestlers to states, to a third-place team finish, behind Riverdale and Venice.
Cataldi, who has wrestled since he was 4 years old and spent five years on the Hammerheads, Charlotte’s development squad, kept tightening the vice on Clayton.
“I had to keep pressure because I knew he would break. He started to get sloppy and I started to score more,” said Cataldi, who improved his season record to 40-4.
Coach Evan Robinson said the team has had its ups and downs, but the lower weights, particularly Cataldi, have been doing the job all season.
“He’s a scrappy guy. He’s been working hard all year and beaten top-ranked kids all season,” Robinson said. “To win a regional title is a heck of a job for a freshman. Hopefully, he’ll have a good run (at state) and we can put his name on the wall.”
Charlotte had three others reach the top four and punch their tickets to Kissimmee next weekend. Ted Gjerde finished fourth at 113, Yvens Candio was fourth at 160, and Dalton Mills won his third-place match at 195, overcoming an early takedown to rally past Naples’ Dinel Chery.
Mills was beaten by Chery in overtime in the second round on Friday and was looking forward to a rematch with him with a clear mind.
“Friday, I didn’t sleep and didn’t do what I needed to do and should’ve been smarter and I suffered the consequences,” Mills said. “Last night, I didn’t think about wrestling and today I felt better and got what I wanted and banged with him.”
Venice had three regional champions and five state qualifiers. Dan Stone won at 132, Luke Veigel at 170 and Kyle Johnson at 220 stood on top of the podium. Nathaniel Parker (106) was third and Jacob Mathis (152) was fourth.
It was not a good tournament for Port Charlotte, which brought five wrestlers to regionals and managed two match victories, Gavin Spencer at 182 and Ziggy Bond at 195.
Region 2A-3 Wrestling Championships
At Charlotte High School
Riverdale 169; Venice 137; Charlotte 108.5; Fort Myers 105.5;, Cypress Lake 86; Golden Gate 81; Palmetto Ridge 78.5; Palmetto 78; Gulf Coast 67; Dixie Hollins 66.5.
106: Donovan Cataldi (CHS) d. Tajh Clayton (RIV) 12-4; 3. Nathaniel Parker (VEN); 113: Ben McAllister (PR) d. Orande Smith (EST) 7-5; 3 :Lleyton Taylor (RIV); 120: Chris Rivera (FM) d. Kevin Schneider (PAL) pin 3:51; 3. Dean Nunziato (GC); 126: Justin Rivera: (FM) d. Kyle Nesbit (EST) 8-0; 3. Drew Harrington (DH); 132: Dan Stone (VEN) d. Christian Minto (MAR) 7-5; 3. David Ortiz (GG).
138: Jalen Soto (CL) d. Christian Sharbono (BR) 3-1; 3. Grant Cardwell (DUN); 145: Colby Singletary (PR) d. Juan Cruz (NAP) 11-4; 3. Ricardo Ramos (GC); 152: Jesse Martinez (RIV) d. Dominic Bass (PAL) 7-0; 3. Coleman Bryant (DH); 160: Hunter Weeks (RIV) d. Mike Edouard (FM) 6-3; 3. Devin Price (GG).
170: Luke Veigel (VEN) d. Philip Sapp (SEB) 2-0; 3. Jermaine Teague (CL); 182: Jack Simpson (BC) d. Brian Giminez (CL) 12-10; 3. Aidan Davis (GC); 195: Matt McQuinn (FM) d. Nikolas Perovic (GC) 13-3; 3. Dalton Mills (CHS); 220: Kyle Johnson (VEN) d. Justyn Cordones (MAR) pin 1:20; 3. Jean Malivert (CL); 285: Cole Schneider (RIV) d. Brendan Bengtsson (BR) default; 3. Jesse Smith (DH).