Larry Blustein

Nothing Staged On These Wrestling Mats

Larry Blustein
March 11, 2019 - 12:40 pm

Having been to just about every state wrestling tournament since the 1960’s, when the sport in south Florida was just getting started, this event always has its surprises.

While the popularity of wrestling never caught on down in south Florida – like it has in the Midwest and Northeast – make no mistake, we are loaded with athletes.

In a year when powerhouse South Dade and head coach Vic Balmeceda won for the sixth straight time and 14th overall in 3A, and Southridge, Southwest Miami, Somerset Academy, Cardinal Gibbons and Mater Lakes turned heads both days, just watching these amazing athletes perform is something that adds to what many across the country already know about the Sunshine State.

This past weekend at Silver Spurs Arena in Kissimmee, while basketball was winding down its boys’ state championships in Lakeland, baseball, softball, flag football and track going on all over Florida along with several football related events, state wrestling was NOT a priority.

You love wrestling or you don’t. There is no in between. It’s a sport that has plenty of teammates, but none can help you when you are on the mat – in a one-on-one situation.

Even though the NCAA national championships are a prime weekend spotlight – it took years to get to that point. Having major high school tournaments can showcase the best the sport has nationally and then pick up more fans. That really should be in the talking stages.

The sport of wrestling many not have those household names – but millions know who Dan Gable is. Millions more know who unbeaten Cael Sanderson is. The sport may be on the “dark side of the moon” – but at least there have been those rare moments of exposure.

High school wrestling fans are unique, passionate, loyal and understand that there are many, many sacrifices being made – just like in anything you do.


Ah, South Dade.

They are the Yankees. They are the Patriots. Respect and admiration from every corner of the nation, and while the Bucs of today relish and reap all these state titles, Balmeceda and those close to the program pay their highest respect for what the late Mike McCoy meant to this program. He set the table for this tremendous program.


As the seconds ticked off the clock last Saturday night in the 160 pound weight class, all eyes were on Brevin Balmeceda.

A three time state champion, who – without a doubt – established himself as the No. 1 wrestler of all time in south Florida – and top three in Florida’s impressive history.

What this Oklahoma State University bound standout did in his final match against once (64-1) beaten sophomore Ty Lukens of Bradenton Manatee, was win 7-0 and salute the South Dade High fans and thank them for their support.

When the weekend was over and all his high school numbers were in, Brevin Balmeceda was 331-18 with four state titles and another appearance where he came up just short.

His 61st win of his senior season put an end to a career that is indeed once in a generation.

Two other South Dade wrestlers repeated as state champions. Bretli Reyna (132) defeated Joseph Gonzalez of Oviedo Hagerty 3-2 in overtime for his second straight title - while Todd Perry easily handled Jake Finken of (Tampa) Newsome 13-8 in the 170s final.

Tyler Orta, who has worked extremely hard the past few years, was the other South Dade champion, edging Steve Chopek of Clearwater Countryside to win the 126 pound title.

Southwest Miami’s Julian Hernandez defeated Joshua Contreras of Winter Springs to win the 3A 145 pound title.

The Eagles also received a title when Adrian Vidaud won an overtime thriller against Marco Bragado of Port St. Lucie Treasure Coast.

Southridge’s Johnny Lovett was also someone who had a state title to defending, and he did. The 152-pounder finished 52-0 with a convincing win over Coral Park’s Steven Villalobos.

Coach Brandon Neifeld’s Mater Lakes program made quite a splash at the state championships – with Nicholas Luna (120) beating Vincenzo Napolitana of Delray American Heritage to win the school’s first ever state championship.

Somerset Academy sophomore Skyler Caban (113) won his first state title when his opponent was injured and Caban (60-5) leading 6-3.


Okay, we have a few football prospects to throw into the wrestling mix for 2020.

A pair of 3A heavyweights to watch – Tyreak Sapp (2021) from St. Thomas Aquinas and Isaac Joseph (2020) from St. Thomas Aquinas, who finished sixth this year.

Both are outstanding football prospects.

Catch the South Florida High School Sports Radio Show each Monday night (8-9) on WQAM (560AM - For the past 11 years, the players and coaches who are making the headlines, join the program. You will learn a lot about football recruiting!