THE VILLAGES — Citrus senior Blake Coleman had the opportunity to achieve one of his two big goals for the season Saturday, and he wasn’t going to let the chance slip away.
The Hurricanes and Bishop Moore were locked in a tight team race all day at the District 1A-7 tournament, including three lead changes in the championship matches alone. Citrus trailed the Hornets 164-161 entering the 182-pound championship match, where Coleman faced Jacob Suggs in the fourth and final head-to-head battle in the title matches between the two leading teams.
Coleman wasted little time clinching the team crown for the Hurricanes, as he built a quick 4-0 lead before sending Suggs to his back for the pin in one minute.
"Blake, at the beginning of year, said he had two goals. One for the team and one for him," Citrus coach Joe Estep said. "The one for the team was to win a team title and the one for him is to become a state champion. The fact that he was able to step up, put the team on his back and win when we needed him to against a quality opponent from Bishop Moore, it says a lot about him.
"Getting 12 out of 12 into the regional tournament is an accomplishment. I’m just extremely happy for the team title, which Citrus hasn’t had since 2009."
Citrus finished the day with 171 points, to 164 for the Hornets. Crystal River finished fifth with 56 points.
Coleman was thrilled it came down to him for the team trophy.
"Coach was telling me we needed to win that match, obviously. They weren’t sure point-wise, whether we needed a pin or not. So I just stuck him for the title," he said. "I’ve been around since right after (my coaches) graduated high school, and we haven’t had any kind of team accomplishments at all since then. So it’s something I’ve been looking forward to since I was a little kid."
Joining Coleman on the top of the award stand were Gage Persons at 113 and 152-pounder Logan Simpson.
Persons got the finals off to a great start for the Hurricanes with a third-period pin over his Bishop Moore opponent. But then the Hornets won two straight head-to-head matches and two more Hurricanes lost title bouts, for four losses in a row. That’s when Logan Simpson stepped up with a pin for the gold medal at 152 over Dominic Delgado of Leesburg.
"My coach said we needed the six. For me, making it to states is a big deal and I have to do it my junior year. So I knew I had to win that match and also get team points," Simpson said. "It feels great. We’ve been working for this, just grinding it out."
Estep said of his junior champion, "Logan is extremely coachable and he wants to be challenged every step of the way and it’s showing."
Runner-up finishers for the Hurricanes were Charles Smith — who dropped a heartbreaking 8-7 decision — at 120, Jacob Reynolds at 126, Maxal Simpson at 132 and 145-pounder Jesse Pounders.
"Smith was wrestling lights out. The one thing that led to that loss was his mat awareness. He thought he was up by one point and that comes down on us as coaches," Estep said. "And then Jake, he got stuck in a bar. He needs to improve in his bottom position. He took it with a grain of salt and said ‘I’ll see him next week.’ A lot of maturity out of him."
Also advancing to regionals for the Hurricanes are Manuel Martinez at 106, Aaron Reynolds at 138, Jessiah Cobo at 160, 170-pounder Jase West and Colton McNeely at 220.
Crystal River brought nine wrestlers into districts and at least five of them — possibly three more — will compete at regionals next week.
Blaine Reed at 106 and Tim Grey at 220 collected runner-up finishes for the Pirates.
"There’s no seniors, so we have everybody coming back next year. We’re really young and looking forward to next week in Palm Bay," Crystal River head coach Bruce Stull said. "Really impressed with the young kids. We had a sophomore take second and a freshman take second. I’m pretty happy with the turnout."
Also earning automatic berths to regionals were Angel Merchant at 120, Josh Holland at 126 and 152-pounder Jayden Jobe.
Fifth-place finishers — who could get wild card berths to regionals if their are byes at their weight classes — were Pirates Kaije Youngstrom at 113, Michael Falla at 132 and Mason Cosgrove at 138.
"We’d like to take some kids to Kissimmee (where state is held) this year. But it’s just going to be good experience for the kids. They seem to be getting more and more comfortable with bigger wrestling," Stull said. "Winning breeds winning. They get a taste of the winning, they start caring about losing. Some of the kids haven’t won enough yet to get upset with losing."