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Don't wrestle with decision to attend state finals

Prose and Kohn: Ryan Kohn.

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The first weekend in March is closing in, and with it comes a wave of high school championships competing for attention.

The state basketball tournament will grab many of the prep headlines, but the state wrestling tournament at Silver Spurs Arena in Kissimmee is a huge event as well.

Wrestlers from both Braden River and Lakewood Ranch will be competing, and each school has competitors with a legitimate shot at placing, or even bringing home a title.

The Pirates are bringing two wrestlers to states, Chance Sharbono (45-5) and Brendan Bengtsson (46-3). Sharbono, a senior, wrestles at 138 pounds, and was last year’s third-place finisher at the same weight. Braden River coach Damon Eikenhorst said Sharbono has been relentless all season, both on the mat and in the weight room, and his focus on not leaving high school behind without a state title is apparent.

Sharbono would tell you that what he has done in the regular season means zilch now because once you get to states, he said, all that matters is what you do next.

Sharbono said that losing last year helped him realize that his game was too one-dimensional. He has since opened up and added more offense, which he believes will be the difference now.

He lost 3-1 in the Class 2A Region 3 final to Cypress Lake junior Jalen Soto, himself a contender for the state title, but Eikenhorst said that they learned some things from the match that will carry over into states.

Braden River’s other state wrestler is junior Brendan Bengtsson, a heavyweight at 285 pounds. The heavyweight is also an offensive lineman on the football team, and was named to’s All-State first team for Class 7A this past season. Bengtsson has only been wrestling for two years, but what he lacks in experience he makes up for in work ethic and aggression, Eikenhorst said.

In what Eikenhorst called one of the toughest regions in Florida for heavyweights, Bengtsson made it all the way to the finals, and was primed to face off against Cole Schneider of Riverdale — until he and Eikenhorst decided to forfeit the match. Bengtsson has been battling a “little bug” over the past week and a half, Eikenhorst said, and there was no point in potentially making it worse with a state spot locked up. The hope is that with a week to prepare and rest up, Bengtsson will come back even stronger than he was at regionals.

“We expect him to place at states,” Eikenhorst said. “The only question is how high.”

At Lakewood Ranch, senior 132-pound Hunter Reed is the marquee name. Reed entered the 2015-2016 postseason undefeated at 62-0 before falling ill prior to the state tournament. He was unable to make weight. He’s recovered nicely from the setback, going 38-1 this season, his only loss coming when he attempted to jump up and wrestle at 145 pounds.

Reed said he is entering the state tournament feeling “confidently anxious” after winning the Class 3A Region 2 final. He feels good about the state of his game, he said, and feels he has made strides in many areas recently. He admitted to feeling a bit of pressure to win it all since this is his final chance to do so, but said the stress is almost positive, and is pushing him harder in training and helping him focus on his goals.

He also said that this year is special because he has three teammates with him. Reed said his teammates “help him ease into the tournament and keep a positive mental attitude.”

Those teammates are 138-pounder Ryan Brown (35-4), 195-pounder Chase Sharp (29-2) and 220-pounder Logan Bounds (43-7). Brown finished second in his weight class at regionals, losing by technical fall to undefeated Strawberry Crest junior Cullen Telfer (23-0). Sharp and Bounds both finished third in their respective weight classes. Reed said based on the performances he saw at regionals, he expects multiple Lakewood Ranch wrestlers to place at the the state tournament.


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