By Jordan Kroeger, SunCoast Sports
BRADENTON — A year ago, as a sophomore, Lemon Bay’s Michael Morales lost his regional title match to Kristopher Bozeman of Tenoroc High School, pinned in just 42 seconds.
Saturday, it was another wrestler from Tenoroc that stared at Morales from across the mat for the 285-pound regional title, but one that would prove to be no match for the Manta Ray.
Morales pinned Tenoroc’s Sean Monday in just one minute, 24 seconds to claim Lemon Bay’s lone championship at the Region 1A-3 meet. The junior is one of six wrestlers headed to next week’s Class 1A state meet for the Manta Rays, who finished second as a team with 124 points, just 7.5 behind host Southeast.
“I feel like I had to redeem myself a little bit from last year,” Morales said. “I wanted to show improvement.
“Hopefully, next week I can pin a lot of guys. A lot of the guys last year that beat me pretty easily have all graduated. There’s not that many heavyweights out there anymore. It’s kind of up for grabs.”
Morales’ regional final bout was anything but, something coach Mike Schyck expected from his heavyweight wrestler.
“Mike is clicking on all cylinders right now. He has been,” Schyck said. “The good news for him is that he won this tournament so he’ll get a fourth-place finisher next week. Going to regionals and winning it helps your seed going into the next week so he’s going to have a draw that’s going to favor him.”
Lemon Bay went to regionals with 10 wrestlers and seven made it through to the second day on Saturday. Two others were in the winner’s bracket along with Morales.
Brad Fuson (126) and Tripp Lytle (132) also advanced to the regional finals before falling in their title matches. Fuson lost to Immokalee’s Gabriel Ramirez 9-1 while Tripp was bested by Booker’s Jeffrey Phillips on an 8-4 decision.
Four other Manta Rays had to fight their way through the “blood round,” with three making it into the consolation finals to clinch their spots at state. Albert Werden (120) and Tyler Brady (113) finished third while Jarred Dilley (138) placed fourth.
Lemon Bay finished second despite five wrestlers being sick, including 220-pounder Brock Lavallee, who wasn’t even able to compete. But Schyck pointed to his group’s toughness as a big reason why it’s headed to state with momentum, toughness that he says only recently came to the surface.
And toughness that will be pivotal next week.
“Sometimes at the state tournament the most talented guys aren’t always going to win,” Schyck said. “It’s the guys who want to win and the guys who believe in themselves and are tough that are going to win. I see that from my guys right now and it’s awesome.”
Werden easily won his match over Avon Park’s Timothy Ferreira by a 9-0 decision while Tyler Brady’s victory was even easier — a forfeit by Caleb Lemmons from Admiral Farragut Academy after he was injured in his semifinal match. Dilley was thwarted by Dunbar’s Daylon Hutchins via a 16-7 decision.
The only Manta Ray that didn’t make it out of the consolation bracket Saturday was Mark Towers, who lost 9-3 to Fivay’s Jamal Wesley.
It was a tough day for Imagine School, which only had two wrestlers make it into the second day. Danya Jones from Gibbs defeated Gannon Wertz in consolation semis of the 106 class with a pin at the 1:25 mark while Werden rallied from two points back to win 5-3 over Kyle Garoutte in the consolation semis.
REGION 1-3A CHAMPIONSHIP
At Southeast High School
1. Southeast 131.5; 2. Lemon Bay 124; 3. Lely 87; 4. Saint Stephen’s Episcopal 81; 5. Lake Wales 71; 6. Avon Park 69; 7. Northside Christian 65; 8. Zephyrhills Christian Academy 64.5; 9. Victory Christian 57; 10. Immokalee 56.
106: Nic Bouzakis (CPC) d. Jonathan Conrad (CDS) 13-3; 3. Matthew Malavsky (ECS); 113: Ben Buhler (TP) d. Travon Spry (AP) 9-5; 3. Tyler Brady (LB); 120: Alexander Prunoske (CCC) d. Alan Morano (SSE) 7-3; 3. Albert Werden (LB); 126: Gabriel Ramirez (IMM) d. Bradley Fuson (LB) 9-1; 3. Jose Pontinela (AP); 132: Jeffrey Phillips (BOOK) d. Tripp Lytle (LB) 8-4; 3. Christopher Sexton (AFA); 138: Alex Roldan (SE) d. Nicolas Carbone (NC) 6-3; 3. Daylon Hutchins (DB); 145: Kamen C. Wilmington (NC) d. Grayson Fisher (CDS) 7-2; 3. Jahreece Murphy (CLW); 152: Anthony Artalona (TP) d. Marlon Moreta (LLY) 0:10; 3. Jovon Cine (SMA); 160: Jake Ross (SSE) d. Mitchell Kerr (NCS) inj. 0:00; 3. Jamal Wesley (FVY); 170: Jacob Safee (BP) d. Zack Wendle (VC) 9-7; 3. Parker Lansberg (SSE); 182: Stephen Kelle (SE) d. Willie Knighton (LW) 11-2; 3. Christopher Leiva (OS); 195: Lucny Jean (LW) d. Stetson Smith (VC) 1:22; 3. Eric Chavarria (BOOK); 220: Darrien Grant (SE) d. Judas McKenzie (DB) 5:19; 3. Cole Coyne (FVY); 285: Michael Morales (LB) d. Sean Monday (TRC) 1:24; 3. Malik Jones (ZCA).