Grapplers grab gold

Hughes, Jackson, Detwiler, Smenda bring home state titles

By Randy Lefko
Posted 3/7/18

KISSIMMEE – An explosive 47 second pin by Fleming Island High’s Briar Jackson set the tone for a gold grab for area wrestlers with four grapplers coming home with the big hardward Saturday at the …

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Grapplers grab gold

Hughes, Jackson, Detwiler, Smenda bring home state titles


KISSIMMEE – An explosive 47 second pin by Fleming Island High’s Briar Jackson set the tone for a gold grab for area wrestlers with four grapplers coming home with the big hardward Saturday at the FHSAA State Wrestling Championships held in Kissimmee’s Silver Spurs Arena.

“I just believe that everytime I step on the mat, I want to be the very best I can be,” said Fleming Island junior Briar Jackson, who blasted Palm Harbor’s Gabriel Naranho (60-5) with one of the fastest finals’ pins of the night; just 48 seconds of mat time. “He beat me earlier in the season, but I saw the chance and took it. I got it on him and he looked down and I cradled him. It was over.”

Fleming Island got three Class 3A gold medals with Jackson, Paul Detwiler and Ryan Smenda all winning decisively while Clay High junior Peyton Hughes won his first gold at 138 in Class 1A. Fleming Island and Clay both finished as runnerups in their respective classes with the Golden Eagles again finishing second to South Dade, 230-140, while Clay took second again to Lake Highland Prep, 333-109.

Jackson, who came off the mat in his final bloodied as he celebrated his victory, praised his teammates with his win.

“We all train hard and focus on being aggressive,” said Jackson, 56-6, who had a pin and two decisions to reach the final. “I was hoping my win got the other guys (Detwiler and Smenda) fired up for their matches.”

It did.

Next up was Fleming Island’s 170 pounder Paul Detwiler, coming in as one of a handful of unbeaten wrestlers in all classes, who rifled through his lineup with three key opponents on the other side of the bracket as his main threats; Hagerty High’s Justin Segarra, whom Detwiler beat in the region 1-3A semifinal, South Dade’s Makaelle Fundora, whom Detwiler beat twice early in the season and Timber Creeks’ Brian Santiago, whom Detwiler beat for the region 1-3A title.

In the final, after Segarra took out Fundora 6-5 in the quarterfinals and Segarra took out Santiago 11-4 in the semifinals, Detwiler smashed Segarra with a pin with 13 seconds left in the first period.

“I kind of felt all along that this would happen, I just didn’t want to say it,” said Detwiler, who finishes at 63-0. “I kind of wanted someone new for the final, but I had a kid in the quarterfinal that was tough to turn and I had to work to beat him 10-3.”

The final gold for Fleming Island was senior 220 pounder Ryan Smenda, who despite a late start of the season due to football region playoffs, stormed through his season unscathed until a clash with Lake Highland Prep’s Ben Goldin in Brandon’s Tony Ippolito Invite. Against Goldin, Smenda executed his now-legendary Spradle pin move as the final buzzer sounded and lost as officials determined the move was finished after the clock stopped.

At the state meet, Smenda was leaving no doubt who was the best 220 in the building with a first round pin of 12 seconds, a second round pin with 41 seconds left in the first period and a first period pin with 31 seconds left.

In his final, against Cypress Bay senior Matthew Toribio (50-2), Smenda slowed his game down to win 9-4 with an attempted Spradle not successful in the first period.

“I knew he really wanted to throw me, so I kept my hips away and just beat him with points,” said Smenda, who heads to play football at Wake Forest next year. “I wanted the pin the first, but he slipped out and I didn’t want to chance it.”

Smenda and Detwiler, together as wrestlers since Lakeside Junior High days, complete an astounding career of wrestling with Smenda having two thirds and now a gold and Detwiler a third last year and this year’s gold.

For Clay’s Hughes, the faces were familiar on his way to gold, but the results favored his long, strong style as Hughes first had to dispatch of Lake Highland Prep’s Noah Castillo, a two-time defending state champion with a one win, one loss mark with Hughes this year. Hughes faced off against Castillo in the semifinal round and had to have a third period flurry to pull out a 12-10 win. Hughes beat Castillo 6-4 at the state duals semifinal clash in January.

“Probably beating Castillo a second time was harder than winning the state title,” said Hughes, 38-2, “He’s so fast and explosive, but I was able to watch him wrestle his quarter and saw some things. We went from 5-5 into the third period to the 12-10 final.”

After dispatching of Castillo, Hughes had to reset his game plan for a more methodical attack from Tampa Prep senior Troy Nation (41-4) who beat Hughes 11-3 at the Clay Rotary Invitational in February.

“He got a head and arm on me and kept turning me at Clay and won so I knew he was strong,” said Hughes, who won the final 5-2. “Nation is a more methodical wrestler and I knew I had to be patient on him. It was tough from the high-flying attack of Castillo to settle into Nation’s approach.”


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