- March 2, 2016
It was not the dream finish Lakewood Ranch High senior wrestler Ranson Coons wanted, but considering the circumstances, it was satisfying.
The Mustangs' 182-pounder earned a third-place medal at the Florida High School Athletic Association State Wrestling Championships, held March 3-5 at Silver Spurs Arena in Kissimmee.
Coons (54-4) entered the state tournament with an injury to his sternoclavicular joint, or SC joint, in his left shoulder. Coons suffered the injury in a district match against Newsome High junior Peyton Turner Feb. 18. He was cleared by doctors to compete, but it was up to Coons how much pain he could tolerate.
He qualified for the state tournament but did default his final match at the regional because of the pain. That default gave Coons the No. 4 spot in his region and put him on the same side of the state bracket as the top-two title contenders, North Port High junior Dominic Joyce (50-2) and Mandarin High senior Tony Carter (34-2).
Wrestling in Class 3A, Coons was competing even though it was tough for him to lift his left arm above his shoulder. Coons said the injury weakened all aspects of his game, especially defensive maneuvers. To overcome that, he initially tried to be more aggressive, but that didn't work.
His first opponent was Carter, who took advantage of Coons' haste and used it against him to eke out a 7-6 decision. The loss was a blow to both Coons' title hopes and his mental state — but he never thought about letting his injury dictate his fate in the rest of the tournament.
"It was a terrible feeling," Coons said. "It is always tough to lose but especially in the state tournament. But I had to make the best of it. I thought, 'Yeah, I'm wrestling injured, but it's my last time (at states). I have nothing to lose. Let's keep going.'"
So he did. Coons beat Cooper City High senior Bengaly Kone (33-10) with a third-round pin, then eked by Buchholz High senior Kason Nichols (20-5) with a 6-5 decision. He scored a 10-6 decision over Wellington High senior Juan Quintero (30-7) in his next match.
Then it was time for the consolation semifinals, where Coons faced a familiar foe — Carter. Coons was determined to not let Carter beat him twice in one tournament and said he made adjustments from their first match, this time staying patient.
"I knew he was going to go for a double or a single leg takedown every time," Coons said. "I worked on staying lower and waited for the perfect moment to counter them."
That moment came 1:26 into the third round when Coons executed a takedown of his own and then pinned Carter for the win. It was on to the consolation finals, where another familiar name awaited Coons. This time it was Peyton Turner (48-11), the Newsome senior who injured Coons' shoulder. Coons used his remaining strength and crushed Turner, 18-2.
A few hours later, when Coons received his bronze medal, he took a moment and reflected on what he had done.
"I'm happy with how I'm leaving things," Coons said. "I obviously wanted a gold medal. If I hadn't injury defaulted my last regional match, I would have been on the other side of the state bracket. Maybe I would have been able to reach the finals. But I'm glad my high school career ended with a win, and by technical fall in a third-place match. That's one big positive.
"This weekend was probably my favorite moment in my career. It was great to get my medal and see my coaches and everyone else happy for me. Coach (Pat) Ancil had been my mentor since my freshman year. He convinced me to come back to wrestling after five years off. He's helped me progress. To feel the emotion of my last match with him and everyone, that was cool."
Ancil said Coons will rank among the best wrestlers in the history of the program alongside two-time state medalist Hunter Reed and two-time state fourth place finisher Dylan Cameron. Ancil said athletes can get lost in the "what if" game, so he's encouraged Coons not to do that. Instead, he wants Coons to be thankful for what he was able to accomplish.
"Few wrestlers get to end their careers with a win," Ancil said. "And the last match was unquestionably the best match he ever wrestled. It was mind-boggling. He gutted out every match at the tournament. I mean, you could see him wincing. It shows what kind of character he has that he was able to win five matches in a row like that."