By Danny Morales, Sun Correspondent
KISSIMMEE — Dalton Mills was one win away from taking a state championship back to Punta Gorda, but the Charlotte High senior was defeated on a pin by Fort Myers’ Matt McQuinn in the state wrestling final in the Class 2A 195-pound class.
“I had a great run,” Mills said following his loss in the final. “It’s going to leave a little bit of a sour taste in my mouth knowing ‘dang you made it there and couldn’t finish,’ but I’ve got time. I’m going to go wrestle out at nationals, see how I do at nationals and then go from there.”
Mills (29-3) opened up the tournament with back-to-back wins by fall and then advanced to the final with a victory over Kih’aviyan Nettles of Pace. The loss brings Mills’ Tarpons’ wrestling career to an end, while Charlotte finished 15th in the tournament with 39.5 points.
“Dalton has had a great career with us, qualifying as a sophomore and then becoming a state finalist as a senior,” said Charlotte head coach Evan Robinson of Mills. “He’s done a great job for us and hopefully he’s shown the younger guys how to push through some adversity and push through to the finals, which is nice for a senior to do.”
Donovan Cataldi (41-6) took home fifth place for Charlotte in the 106-pound weight class. The freshman bounced back from a loss in the fourth round of wrestle backs to defeat Olympic Heights’ Michael Butler with a 6-0 decision.
“It feels amazing because as just a freshman, everyone was underestimating me,” said Cataldi. “I just came out here and did what I had to do to win.”
Charlotte had two other wrestlers qualify for states but fail to place in the tournament. Ted Gjerde (112) was eliminated early with a 4-1 decision to Lleyton Taylor of Riverdale in the third round of wrestle backs. Yvens Candio (160) lost his first two matches on Friday.
Michael Morales (50-10) of Lemon Bay made it to the semifinals of the 1A 285-pound division, but suffered two straight falls to drop to the fifth place match. The junior then rallied against Cardinal Gibbons’ Adam Fox for a 6-4 decision to claim fifth.
Morales was struck by an illness that had been going around the Manta Rays’ locker room since last week’s regionals, but he battled through to make the medal podium.
“Our guys have been under the weather for this whole last week,” Lemon Bay head coach Mike Schyck said. “He was fighting through some stuff that he wasn’t at his best. If you watch that last match he fought and clawed even though he wasn’t at his best.”
Albert Werden (53-12) failed to finish in the top five after suffering consecutive losses on Saturday. His tournament ended with a 6-2 loss to Lake Highland Prep’s Vincent Menozzi to give him a sixth-place finish at 120 pounds. This marks the second consecutive year that Werden placed in the state tournament for Lemon Bay.
Werden lost his opening match of the tournament, but rallied with three straight victories before being pinned by Saint Stephen’s Episcopal School’s Alan Morano in the fourth round of wrestle backs.
“One of the things coming into this tournament that you don’t want to do is lose early and he lost his first match,” Schyck said of Werden’s performance throughout the tournament. “He came all the way back and did what he does, he’s a competitor and fought and clawed his way back into the top six.”
North Port had both of its wrestlers eliminated in the first day of the tournament. Braydon McLellen lost two out of his three matches and was eliminated by Jared Abramson of Wellington on an 11-2 decision. Schavallis Peterson also was eliminated in the first day of competition after being defeated in both of his matches on Friday.
STATE 2-3A CHAMPIONSHIP
At Silver Spurs Arena
1. Brandon 110.5; 2. Lake Gibson 107; 3. Fort Myers 99.5; 4. Riverdale 80.5; 5. Palm Bay 70.5; 6. Venice 58; 7. Land O’ Lakes 52.5; 8. Belleview 51; 9. Jensen Beach 47.5; 9.; 10. Cypress Lake 45.5; 11. Lincoln 45; 12. Springstead 42; 13. Leon 40; 13. Pasco 40; 15. Charlotte 39.5.
106: 1. Connor Williams (LAGI) d. Anthony Lopez (LIBE) 12-7, 3; 3. Anthony Valverde (SOBR) d. Chase Ayers 12-2, 3; 5. Donovan Cataldi d. Michael Butler 6-0, 3. 195: 1. Matt McQuinn (FOMY) d. Dalton Mills (CHAR) 0:53; 3. Kih’aviyan Nettles d. Dinel Chery 7-2, 3; 5. Henry Segura (LEON) d. Troy Jaffy (OHLE) 2:27.
STATE 1-3A CHAMPIONSHIP
At Silver Spurs Arena
1. Lake Highland Prep 298.5; 2. Clay 129; 3. Cardinal Gibbons 121; 4. Somerset 88; 5. Arnold 75; 6. Florida High 65.5; 7. American Heritage School of Boca/Delray 49; 8. Wakulla 45; 9. Tampa Prep 43; 10. Southeast 39; 11. Key West 35; 12. Citrus Park Christian 29; 13. Yulee 28; 14. Bishop Moore 26; 15. Carrollwood Day School 24; 15. Lemon Bay 24.
120: 1. Lucas Willis (SOMR) d. Christopher Merring (CLAY) 4:40; 3. Alexander Prunoske (CCC) d. Alan Morano (SSE) 7-2, 3; 5. Vincent Menozzi (LHP) d. Albert Werden (LB) 6-2, 3. 285: 1. Jacob Marin (WAKU) d. Josiah McCallum (BK) 2-1,5; 3. Curtis Ruff (LHP) d. Brandon Bodden (MJAK) 5-0, 3; 5. Michael Morales (LB) d. Adam Fox (CAGI) 6-4, 3.