Over the weekend, the Lakewood Ranch High School wrestling team showcased one of its best teams in school history at the 2A District 10 tournament.
The Mustangs advanced 10 wrestlers to the regional tournament that will take place Saturday, in Punta Gorda.
Of the 10 wrestlers to move on, sophomore standout Hunter Reed, 113 pounds, was the lone first-place finisher. He’s lost only one match all season and placed second in the state tournament last season.
Head wrestling coach Pat Ancil and assistant coach Kraig Reed, who is Hunter Reed’s father, said the team expects more first-place finishes.
“There are a couple of kids who probably got a fire lit under them,” Reed said. “I’m anxious to see how they do at regionals. Hunter went into the region last year and took fourth. It lit a fire under him, and he finished second at state.”
Reed also said the kids have to ask themselves if they’re happy with the result, and if not make a plan to change it.
Although there are still two big tournaments left — the regional and state tournaments — Ancil took a moment to reflect on one of Lakewood Ranch’s most successful teams in school history.
Last season, the Mustangs sent eight wrestlers onto the regional tournament, and this year that number grew to 10.
Of the eight wrestlers who qualified for regionals last season, five qualified for state, and two placed at state.
The Mustangs returned three wrestlers who competed in the state tournament last season — Hunter Reed, Dylan Cameron and Jared Dipsiner — and both Kraig Reed and Ancil hope the experience last year will make a difference.
“Can Hunter (be a state champion)? Absolutely,” Ancil said. “He’s got the tools, intelligence, knowledge, conditioning and desire. There are four to five others who could get in the top six at state. We, as coaches, have to prepare them as best we can. We can’t go out and wrestle for them, so it’s got to be on them. They have the tools; they have to take ownership.”
Both coaches leave no doubt about their high expectations for wrestlers.
“When I come into that room, my expectations are high,” Kraig Reed said. “They’re high for every practice. I’m demanding in every phase. It’s not my time. It’s about these kids and their journey, and I want to make sure when they go out there they are ready for it.”
Off the mat
While Lakewood Ranch has seen success on the mat this year, the team has also been successful off the mat.
Last season, the team ranked second in the state for GPA with a collective 3.35.
“Not only do we have good athletes and good wrestlers, we have very good students,” Ancil said. “It sure makes it a pleasure to coach when you have great kids. “It makes it a lot more fun (to coach). You don’t have all the drama of kids becoming ineligible because of grades.”
Several athletes spend time after school either being tutored or tutoring. Sometimes wrestlers are late to practice as a result, but Ancil said that’s better than players being pulled off the team because of grades.
“You don’t want them missing too much practice, but it’s a good problem to have,” he said. “The kids learn very quickly.”
Ancil also attributed a lot of the team’s success last year and this year to assistant coach Kraig Reed.
“Coach Reed is a phenomenal assistant,” Ancil said. “He’s a great technician and does a marvelous job teaching the kids. He’s certainly brought a lot of additional positives to the team.”
Both coaches said it’s been rewarding to coach students in Lakewood Ranch’s program.
“The exciting thing is that for the last five years, we’ve had at least one wrestler go on to wrestle in college at the next level,” Ancil said. “Those are the things as coaches that really excite you — that a kid has the passion and skill to take it and run with it.”