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East County wrestlers prepare for FHSAA state tournament

Both Braden River High and Lakewood Ranch High will send wrestlers to the state tournament.

Braden River High junior Jessey Colas, works for a pin against Clearwater Central Catholic's Carson Schiavello. Colas won the Pirates' Class 2A regional meet at 160 pounds. Courtesy photo.
Braden River High junior Jessey Colas, works for a pin against Clearwater Central Catholic's Carson Schiavello. Colas won the Pirates' Class 2A regional meet at 160 pounds. Courtesy photo.
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Braden River High junior wrestler Jessey Colas said it takes a specific mentality to be a state champion.

Kill or be killed.

Perhaps that is a overdramatic, but Colas said every time he takes the mat, he is willing to do whatever it takes to win. If the opponent is stronger or has better technique, so be it, because even the best wrestlers can lose.

So far, his mentality is paying off. The 160-pounder won his Florida High School Athletic Association Class 2A regional Feb. 19, earning a 9-6 decision over Charlotte High's James Baltutis in the finals. Colas leads a roster of four Pirates going to the state tournament, though he is the only Pirate who won his regional. Grady Murphy (106 pounds) finished third and Zavier Pennington (120 pounds) and Dylan Howard (145 pounds) finished fourth. 

It is Colas, who is 60-10 this season, who is the Pirates' best chance at a medal at the state tournament, which will be held March 3-5 at Silver Spurs Arena in Kissimmee. Colas started wrestling as a freshman after playing on the school's junior varsity football team and not finding much playing time. Pirates wrestling Coach Cezar Sharbono approached Colas after the season and asked him if he wanted to try wrestling instead. 

"The thing that got me to try it was Coach (Sharbono) telling me it didn't matter if I was good at first or not, I would still get a chance to wrestle at events and get better," Colas said. "Basically, whatever time I put into it was what I would get out of it. To me, that meant I could be a state champion if I keep my head on straight and keep working."

So that's what Colas did. The summer before his sophomore season, Colas attended numerous prospect camps to learn and get better, including one at South Dade High that had NCAA Division I prospects and coaches in attendance. Colas said the coaches at the camp kept telling participants that wrestling was a sport of taking chances. Colas responded to that by being aggressive when he wrestled better athletes, leaving caution behind and taking risks. Colas said the experience changed his perspective on the sport. It was the first time he realized he could compete at an elite level. 

That season, Colas failed to advance past the Class 2A regional round, but gain motivation to do better as a junior.

Next weekend, Colas gets to live out his dream of wrestling at the state tournament. 

"I'm not scared of anybody," Colas said. "I just go out and wrestle. If you wrestle scared you're not going to win. I believe I can be a state champion. I will have to step out of my comfort zone to do it. I will have to push through being tired because nobody cares that you're tired. Everyone is tired (in the finals). I'm going to wrestle the best and see what happens."

Colas said the biggest competitor in his weight class is Lake Gibson High senior Brendon Abdon (49-2) and Brandon High senior Frank Diaz (41-4). Colas has not faced Diaz this season but lost to Abdon, who beat him with double-leg takedowns.

Besides Braden River High. Lakewood Ranch also will be sending two wrestlers to the state meet. The Mustangs won their first Florida High School Athletic Association Class 3A district title and then had 10 wrestlers who qualified for the school's regional tournament. Senior Ranson Coons (182 pounds, 49-3) and sophomore Wyatt Loynd (126 pounds, 34-11), won district titles but only Coons and sophomore Nate "Oklahoma" Smith (285 pounds, 38-9) reached the state tournament as  both wrestlers finished fourth in the regional. 

Mustangs Coach Pat Ancil was happy with the team's district and regional performances because the strength of the competition. 

"The exciting thing is we only have three seniors," Ancil said. "That means seven regional qualifiers are coming back next year. The future of the program looks promising. Our region is tough. Palmetto Ridge High got bumped to our region from 2A and they finished second in 2A last year and won the 3A dual state championship earlier this year. That's another layer of good competition on top of great programs like Palm Harbor High, Osceola High and North Port. People are calling it the region of doom. So it was great to get a few kids through that to states." 

The difficulty of the region is why the Mustangs' wrestlers have a realistic shot to earn a medal at the state tournament despite their fourth-place finish at the regional. Coons lost to North Port junior Dominic Joyce (42-2) — the favorite to win the state title — by fall in the third round of the regional, but rebounded to beat Osceola senior Bryan Gari (26-19) by fall in the consolation round to qualify for the state tournament. 



Ryan Kohn

Ryan Kohn is the sports editor for Sarasota and East County and a Missouri School of Journalism graduate. He was born and raised in Olney, Maryland. His biggest inspirations are Wright Thompson and Alex Ovechkin. His strongest belief is that mint chip ice cream is unbeatable.

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