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Braden River wrestler takes silver medal at state tournament

Pirates senior Gage Wiggins, who wrestles at 165 pounds, finished as a runner-up for the second-straight year.

Braden River High senior wrestler Gage Wiggins (right) tries to pin Mitchell High's Bishop Taylor in the district tournament. Wiggins finished second in Class 2A at 165 pounds at the state tournament on March 2.
Braden River High senior wrestler Gage Wiggins (right) tries to pin Mitchell High's Bishop Taylor in the district tournament. Wiggins finished second in Class 2A at 165 pounds at the state tournament on March 2.
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In the final of their epic three-match trilogy, Tampa Jesuit senior Brandon Cody edged Braden River High senior Gage Wiggins 4-3 with a tiebreaker to win the FHSAA Class 2A championship at 165 pounds.

The March 2 match at Silver Spurs Arena in Kissimmee left Wiggins, who finished 60-2, with his second consecutive state silver medal.

Cody (35-5) and Wiggins proved they were far the best 2A 165-pounders in the state. 

Wiggins cruised to the title match, winning a 9-0 major decision over Lake Wales High's Husam Mustafa (43-6) in the first round before beating Heritage High's Kaleb Gabrielsen (60-3) in the quarterfinals by a 5-3 decision. In the semifinals, Wiggins crushed North Fort Myers High's Julian Gonzales (43-6) with a 12-0 major decision.

For the third consecutive tournament, Wiggins drew Cody in the championship match.

In the District tournament, Wiggins beat Cody 4-2 with a tiebreaker. Cody reversed his fortunes at the Regional tournament with a 1-0 win.

It was Wiggins' aggressive style that helped him get to the state finals for the second-straight year. He said he plans his moves for each opponent he faces, but generally he tries to affect each opponent mentally as much as he does physically. 

"Just keep banging on his head, keep pressuring him," Wiggins said of his overall philosophy. "Eventually, he's going to want to give up. You have to make your opponent tired before you get tired." 

In 2022-2023, Wiggins went 64-5 and reached the 160-pound weight class state championship match before losing to Mariner High's Christopher Minto (54-1), now a freshman at the University of Nebraska. Wiggins said he learned at last year's state tournament to not feel any extra pressure because of the stakes of the state tournament, he said. The practice a wrestler puts in every day prepares them for the big moments, he said, which is why they should wrestle as they always do. Wiggins said wrestlers should aim to go out and have fun, and let the results dictate themselves. 

Braden River High senior wrestler Gage Wiggins finished 60-2 on the season at 165 pounds.
Photo by Ryan Kohn

That is exactly what Wiggins did at this year's state tournament. Wiggins, who began wrestling at 5 years old, said he does not regret a second of the time he put into the sport.

"(Wrestling) weeds people out," Wiggins said. "You either give up and quit quickly or you realize you want to continue (for a long time). I think people should be appreciative of it. You get to wrestle. There are lots of people who either were never physically able to wrestle or do not have the ability anymore."

All the training and the conditioning can take a toll, Wiggins said, but it is all worth the end result when you see the results. In Wiggins' case, he will end his high school career with two silver medals and a consistent record of success. 

Wiggins was one of three East County wrestlers who earned a berth at the state tournament.

The other East County wrestlers participating failed to receive a medal.

Braden River senior Matthew Ireland (48-13) wrestled at 113 pounds and was eliminated in the third round by Lakeland Senior High senior Erick Vargas (57-3), who won via a 10-3 decision. Vargas eventually placed third. 

Lakewood Ranch High senior Evan Bolick (36-12), who wrestles at 215 pounds, was eliminated in the second round of the Class 3A state tournament by Doral Academy senior Joel Carrillo (33-11) in a 4-2 decision. Bolick, who will attend Ave Maria University on a football scholarship, has only been wrestling for two years. Lakewood Ranch Head Coach Pat Ancil said he's proud of the progress Bolick has made during that time — a relatively short amount compared to athletes who have wrestled for eight to 10 years. 

With the area's top three wrestlers being seniors, who could be among the crop to replace them as possible state qualifiers next season?

Lakewood Ranch has a quality wrestlers such as sophomore Aidan Sanders (30-15), who was one match away from state qualification this season at 106 pounds before losing to Steinbrenner High's Angel Rua (43-11). Braden River freshman Logan Pike (31-21) is also a candidate. Pike was two rounds from reaching the state tournament before losing to Manatee High senior Carter Cabrera (38-12).



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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