- February 15, 2011
LAKEWOOD RANCH — When Kyle Riley-Hawkins first walked onto the Lakewood Ranch High wrestling mat four years ago, he wasn’t sure what to expect.
The team lacked experience, as well as the necessary commitment level to compete with some of the top wrestling teams in the state. So the thought of actually hosting a wrestling tournament never entered Riley-Hawkins’ and fellow seniors Nick Schilson’s, Damian Simunovic’s and Scott Pfalzgraf’s minds.
But what a difference four years can make.
On Jan. 8, the Mustangs hosted the first Mustang Duals Tournament, which featured eight teams from across the state, including Cape Coral Mariner, Rockledge and Clearwater Central Catholic.
“It was exciting because we got to wrestle in front of our friends and families,” Riley-Hawkins said of the Mustangs hosting their first tournament. “It took a lot of work, but it paid off.
“We’ve definitely improved the past couple of years, and hopefully we’ll continue to improve,” Riley-Hawkins said.
The Mustangs (4-1) finished second behind champion Rockledge, which finished the tournament undefeated.
“We could’ve performed better,” Simunovic said.
“We’re definitely not where we need to be,” Pfalzgraf said. “We need to step it up.”
Lakewood opened the tournament with a 52-23 victory over East Lake. In Round 2, the Mustangs defeated Pasco 61-16. In Round 3, Lakewood defeated Dunnellon 69-6. The Mustangs then went on to defeat Cape Coral Mariner 46-33 before falling to Rockledge 46-33 in the final round.
“I was extremely proud of how we not only competed on the mats, but the sportsmanship we displayed whether we won or lost the match,” coach Pat Ancil said. “I’m pleased with how the entire team is competing; (but) we’ve got to continue to improve because the competition will only get tougher as we begin our road to the state tournament.”
“We’re ready to take it to the next level,” Schilson said.
Riley-Hawkins led the way for the Mustangs, finishing 4-0 in the 189-pound weight class and capturing his 100th career win.
“I was really excited, but you’ve got to keep going,” Riley-Hawkins said of the milestone. “You can’t dwell on it.”
“That’s quite a milestone,” Ancil said. “Not many (wrestlers) get 100 wins. You figure you’ve got to (start) on varsity all four years and average 25 wins a year.”
The idea for the Mustang Duals Tournament originated last year when Ancil contacted Athletic Director Shawn Trent about hosting a tournament. Lakewood had never hosted a tournament; and with a large gym and the support of parents, Ancil thought now would be the perfect time to host a tournament. Trent agreed, and the team began planning its tournament last spring.
Proceeds from last weekend’s tournament will be used to support the wrestling program by helping pay for tournament fees, wrestling camps and travel costs, such as when the team traveled to Georgia for a two-day tournament over the holidays.
As for the Mustang Duals, Ancil said the team would like to make the tournament an annual event. Next year, the team is hoping to turn the tournament into a two-day event by bringing in 12 or 16 teams from all across the state — especially those Lakewood wouldn’t normally see during the season.
“It’s great for the community, friends and parents when they can see their wrestling team compete in five matches in one day,” Ancil said. “In addition, we can use it as a recruiting tool for middle school kids who might have an interest in wrestling in high school.”
“I could see it happening more in the future,” Simunovic said. “We’ve started a tradition.”
Contact Jen Blanco at [email protected].