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Five East County wrestlers stand out as state tournament contenders

Braden River High senior wrestler Gage Wiggins is 54-0 at 165 pounds as of Feb. 18.
Braden River High senior wrestler Gage Wiggins is 54-0 at 165 pounds as of Feb. 18.
Photo by Ryan Kohn
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Little in sports is more intense than high school wrestling's postseason. 

After spending all winter getting as physically and mentally tough as possible, and refining their technique in 30-50 or more matches, the top wrestlers enter the most grueling part of their schedule, where a loss could mean their season is over. 

Some wrestlers are done already as the postseason head into its regional tournament stage. Both Lakewood Ranch and Braden River high schools have wrestlers still alive. The Mustangs are headed into the Florida High School Athletic Association Class 3A event Feb. 23-24 at Osceola High, while the Pirates are headed to the Class 2A event Feb. 23-24 at Charlotte High. 

If they survive the next step, they will be headed to the state tournament, held Feb. 29-March 2 at Silver Spurs Arena in Kissimmee. 

Here's a look at five wrestlers who have shown they have what it takes to reach the state tournament podium. 

Gage Wiggins, Braden River High senior

Of all the 2024 area contenders, Gage Wiggins has the clearest path to the state medal stand. 

After finishing 64-5 with a state runner-up finish in Class 2A last season in the 160-pound class, Wiggins is competing at 165 pounds after an adjustment in the FHSAA's weight classes. Wiggins is 54-0 after Braden River's district meet, held Feb. 17 at Tampa Jesuit High. The 54th win did not come easy: Wiggins beat Tampa Jesuit senior Brandon Cody (27-5) 4-2 in overtime to capture the district crown. 

Unlike many wrestlers who start the sport in high school to stay in shape for other sports, Wiggins has been hitting the mat since he was 5 years old. His father, Dave Wiggins, was a high school wrestler who wanted to instill that experience in his son. The sport has taught Wiggins a lot over the years, he said, including how to be mentally tough. The biggest lesson learned was that Wiggins does not like to lose. Wrestling has been his biggest passion since fourth grade. 

Wiggins' 2023 state finals loss to Mariner High's Christopher Minto (54-1), who now is a freshman wrestler at the University of Nebraska, has stuck in Wiggins' mind. Wiggins said he's doing everything he can to make sure this season ends with him on top. 

"You cannot treat those (pressure-filled) matches any differently," Wiggins said. "I don't hear the crowds anymore. I tune them out. I just go out there and try to break the dude I'm wrestling. I want to make him not want to wrestle me anymore." 

Matthew Ireland, Braden River High

Another veteran wrestler, Pirates senior Matthew Ireland (44-10) finished as a runner-up at the team's district meet in the 113-pound class, losing to Tampa Jesuit junior Malachi Ortiz (30-6) by major decision, 15-2. But that performance is not indicative of Ireland's best. 

In 2023, wrestling at 106 pounds, Ireland reached the state tournament and won his first-round match over Miramar High's Dominic Charles (43-13) by fall in 3:34 before dropping two straight matches and getting eliminated. 

Ireland's flexibility and tooughness gives him an advantage over others of similar ability. He came to the sport as a freshman in high school after spending his childhood years in gymnastics. It was not the physicality of wrestling that initially gave him trouble, Ireland said, but the rhythm of it. He struggled to move his hands and his feet in concert, which landed him in bad positions and made it hard to recover. Ireland said he has made strides in that area this season. 

He will need to continue to make strides if he expects a second consecutive state bid.

Will Moran, Lakewood Ranch High
Senior Will Moran (right) wrestles at 285 pounds for Lakewood Ranch High and won his district tournament. Here, he takes down Sumner High's William Hoyte.
Image courtesy of Danny Miller

Will Moran, a senior who wrestles in the 285-pound class, captured his weight class crown at the Mustangs FHSAA Class 3A district tournament Feb. 16 at Hillsborough Riverview High. Moran (22-8) defeated Plant City High senior William Beren (2-1) by fall in 3:00. 

Last season, Moran reached the regional stage of the postseason but lost his first two matches at regionals and was eliminated. His final record was 20-19. He's improved in the interim. Lakewood Ranch Head Coach Pat Ancil said Moran's confidence is higher this year after a good showing at an Ohio State University wrestling camp over the summer. 

"(Moran) is focused and is wresting without thinking, which allows him to move more fluidly," Ancil said. 

For Moran — who spent the holiday season packing on pounds to get stronger — an appearance at the state tournament is a possibility. 

Logan Borcsane, Lakewood Ranch High

Mustangs senior Logan Borcsane (30-4) finished second in the 113-pound division of his district tournament, losing to Bloomingdale Senior High sophomore Leonardo Perdomo (37-12) via a 6-4 decision. It was a tough loss, but Borcsane has the ability to rebound in the regional tournament. 

Borcsane, who began wrestling as a junior, has come a long way in two years of the sport. A quick study, Borcsane has developed a good sweep single-leg takedown and has spent 2023-2024 working on his conditioning. In January, Ancil said there was no reason Borcsane should not finish the state tournament on the podium. He will get a shot at redemption at the regional tournament, with eyes on the bigger prize. 

Aiden Sanders, Lakewood Ranch High

Aiden Sanders, a 106-pound sophomore, has impressed his coaches and the wrestling community in a breakout season. Sanders (27-13) finished second in his weight class at the district tournament, losing to Sumner High junior Brendon Clark (37-4) by fall at 2:46 in the finals. 

While another year of experience might be required before Sanders becomes a bona fide title contender, he's shown the necessary potential. Kabra Wrestling ranked Sanders as the No. 19 wrestler at 106 pounds in Florida as of Jan. 23. 



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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