PUNTA GORDA — Lely’s Claudel Alix entered the Class 2A-Region 3 wrestling tournament Friday a relative unknown. But the Trojans junior takes the mat Saturday just one win shy of qualifying for next weekend’s state finals.
With a 19-12 record one can understand why those outside the Lely program didn’t expect much from the 220-pounder. But two wins against opponents with a combined record of 67-32 have forced the opposition to take notice.
“We’re proud of him,” Trojans first-year coach Mark Modica said. “But we believe if he continues to do what he’s coached to do he can keep moving forward. He’s got a lot of heart and he’s showing a lot of discipline right now.”
Wrestling resumes at 10 a.m. at Charlotte High with the semifinals, where Alix faces 2A’s second-ranked competitor, Largo senior David Vogeney.
Collier County is responsible for 10 semifinalists with Barron Collier and Palmetto Ridge each with four, and Naples senior 182 Joseph Guelfi rounding out the group.
Cougars coach Jeff Mustari was particularly pleased with his team’s performance Friday. Barron brought just six wrestlers to the regional and five remain in contention; Tanis Taylor (113), Mike Blasucci (126), Tristan Roy (145) and heavyweight Brady Pallante each advanced to the semifinals with Vic Blasucci (120) alive in the wrestlebacks.
“Four in the semifinals is a pretty good day,” Mustari said. “They’re all winnable matches. They’ve just got to show up ready to wrestle tomorrow morning, and beyond.”
Palmetto Ridge coach Lazaro Rua, however, couldn’t echo that sentiment. While the Bears also have four semifinalists — Robert Jiminez (138), Josh Parmenter (145), Anthony Curto (152) and Esteban Rua (170) — and eight total wrestlers still competing, the loss of Theo Curto before the start of competition looms large in the overall competition.
Curto, ranked seventh in 2A, wasn’t expected to make weight and didn’t travel with the team.
“Theo would’ve been that key element to secure the win against Charlotte,” Lazaro Rua said of the Bears’ hopes to place second as the entire field chases Riverdale.
Palmetto Ridge enters Saturday in third place with 51.5 points. Four-time defending champion Riverdale leads with 79, while Charlotte is second with 63.5.
“We’ve still got eight guys wrestling to go to state, and that’s not horrible,” Rua said. “It’s going to be a long day tomorrow, but our guys will be ready.”
Whether competing for a team title, individual title or simply a trip to Lakeland, Mustari said key to success Saturday is starting strong and not relaxing.
“It’s like being a thoroughbred,” Mustari said. “When the gates open you’ve got to be ready to go for 6 hard minutes, and maybe 7.”