Palmetto Ridge wrapped up its eighth Collier County Athletic Conference championship in nine years on Saturday at Golden Gate High School.
However, it was on Friday night, the event's first day, when all the drama took place.
That's when the Bears met Barron Collier, considered Palmetto Ridge's toughest competition for the team title.
The team score was close when the Bears' 145-pounder, Matias Wajner, faced the Cougars' Nate Vajen. With around 45 seconds left in the match and Wajner leading by 10 points, there was a break in the action.
Palmetto Ridge coach Laz Rua took that moment to urge Wajner to go for a pin. Wajner said he'd do it.
When wrestling resumed, Wajner got Vajen in a Bear hold, snapped him down and rolled him for the pin, worth six team points rather than the three awarded for a decision.
"That was pretty sweet," said Wajner, a senior who went on to earn the county title in his weight class. "Vajen was fighting tough but I knew I had to get the pin. Things were pretty tight between the teams.
"Coach asked. I said I was going to do it and I did it."
The Bears went on to a critical 38-27 victory, which propelled them to county bragging rights by finishing the CCACs with a 6-0 record. With all seven of the county's public high schools competing, each team wrestles every other team once. The squad with the best record after all is said and done wins.
Wajner was one of six Bears to earn individual county championships. Pierre Borgela (106), Joey Nadotti (138), Theo Curto (152), Dylan Jones (160) and Cole Wright (195) all won their weight classes and finished undefeated.
Bruce Estanislao (6-0) also went unbeaten for Palmetto Ridge, but competed in two weight classes — 220 and 285 — so did not qualify for an individual weight class title.
"Our wrestling tradition at Palmetto Ridge is a big deal," Rua said. "I was a little stressed this year because we lost so many seniors from last year's team. But the kids pulled it off.
"They had the attitude that we are the champs and you got to take it from us if you want to win the county."
The loss to Palmetto Ridge was the only one the Cougars suffered. They beat a surprising Naples 53-24 in the last team match of the meet.
By winning at 126 pounds, Mike Blasucci accomplished a Barron first by being the first Cougar to win four individual county championships. As a freshman, Blasucci won at 112 pounds, followed by a 119-pound crown as a sophomore., and two at 126.
"It meant something to me," said Blasucci about the four titles. "I heard all week that I could be the first from Barron to do it. It feels good, but it's just a steppingstone. Now I want to get a state title."
Zach Swats (170) also won an individual title for Barron, which was without two of its top wrestlers. Heavyweight Brady Pallante and 120-pounder Tanis Taylor, both defending county champs, were out with illnesses.
In a dual match with Barron in December, Naples High only had eight rosters eligible to take the mat. That made the Golden Eagles' third-place finish and 5-2 record a bit of a surprise.
Three Golden Eagles took home individual honors. Joseph Guelfi (120) and heavyweight Nolan Duerr won their first county championships, while Caleb Wilborn (132) repeated in his weight classification.
"It feels nice," Guelfi said about his team's showing. "We came here to fight. We came out 1,000 percent better than any other meet this season."
Golden Gate coach Ed Munn liked what he saw from two of his young grapplers. Titans sophomores Alex Hernandez (113) and Lavanda Warren (182) won titles.
Claudel Alix was Lely's sole titlist, repeating in the 220-pound division.
"I showed everybody in the county that I improved and am not the same guy," Alix said. "I practiced harder than I ever did this week. It's a privilege to be able to come out here and show my skills."
Collier County Athletic Conference wrestling championships
Golden Gate High School
1. Palmetto Ridge 6-0; 2. Barron Collier 5-1; 3. Naples 4-2; 4. Lely 3-3; 5. Golden Gate 2-4; 6. Gulf Coast 1-5; 7. Immokalee 0-6
106 — Pierre Borgela (PR); 113 — Alex Hernandez (GG); 120 — Joseph Guelfi (NHS); 126 — Mike Blasucci (BC); 132 — Caleb Wilborn (NHS); 138 — Joey Nadotti (PR); 145 — Matias Wajner (PR); 152 — Theo Curto (PR); 160 — Dylan Jones (PR); 170 — Zach Swats (BC); 182 — Lavanda Warren (GG); 195 — Cole Wright (PR); 220 — Claudel Alix (Lely); 285 — Nolan Duerr (NHS)