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."
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 overall record won.
The Bears went undefeated, with Barron finishing second at 5-1.
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.
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."
Lely was expected to place at least third, but finished fourth.
"We didn't show up," said Lely coach Mark Modica.
On Friday night Lely lost to Barron and Naples, then lost its first match on Saturday morning to Palmetto Ridge. It then won three straight finish fourth at 3-3.
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 with a 119-pound crown as a sophomore, then 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 stepping stone. 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.
Three Naples wrestlers 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.
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.
Collier County Athletic Conference wrestling championships: