Although area schools sent more than 50 individuals to the Florida High School Athletic Association State Wrestling Championship, only five Palm Beach County wrestlers remain in contention for a state championship after the first day of competition.
Forest Hills will send two competitors into Saturday’s Class 3A semifinals at Silver Spurs Arena, as both Pablo Asenjo and Jorge Loy advanced with a pair of wins.
Asenjo, who qualified for state by winning the Region 3 championship last week, defeated Giovanni Martinez from Hialeah Gardens by a first period pinfall in the opening round before dispatching Osceola’s Luis Pena, 8-7, in the quarterfinals to run his season record to 27-3.
Asenjo will face South Dade’s Christian Morales (33-4) in the semifinals.
Loy, who also won a region 3 title, continued his fine season. He picked up an injury walkover win over East Bay’s Sebastian Johnson before improving to 48-1 on the season with a 10-5 decision over Evan’s George Schank. He will face Jason DeGroat (43-5) in his Saturday semifinal match.
John I. Leonard will send Johan Albuquerque through to the 220-pound semifinals. Albuquerque (39-4) picked up a first-round forfeit before defeating Lake Mary’s Will Litsey in the quarterfinals, 8-6. He faces a huge obstacle in the semifinals, where he will face South Dade senior Chei Hill (56-0).
The day was not as kind to the county’s other Class 3A participants, as all were sent to the consolation bracket after either the first or second round. Wrestlers who lose on the first day can finish no higher than third overall.
Wellington, which sent seven wrestlers to the tournament, picked up just two wins in the opening round but saw both — Jared Abramson (126) and Tyler Difore (132) — drop matches in the quarterfinals.
Chris Difore (38-7), a regional champion at 106, lost in a 10-4 opening-round upset to Lake Nona’s Christopher Navarro, the No. 4 qualifier out Region 3.
In Class 2A, Olympic Heights’ Michael Butler (24-5) is headed to the semifinals after recording pins of Lincoln’s Mark Monroe and Charlotte’s Donovan Cataldi. Butler will face Liberty’s Anthony Lopez (42-5) in the semifinals.
Butler is the only one of Heights’ seven qualifiers who is still in the winner’s bracket. Teammates Nick Peglow (138) and Troy Jaffey (195) each won their opening matches before losing quarterfinal bouts.
The county’s only remaining wrestler in the Class 1A winner’s bracket is American Heritage’s Frankie Talshahar at 138 pounds. Talshahar (42-1) looked impressive, pinning Bishop Kenny’s Andrew Slade before recording a 15-5 majority decision over Gulf’s Nathan Neapolitan in the quarterfinals. Talshahar faces Arnold’s Richie McClanahan (68-0) in the semifinals.
As expected, defending state champions South Dade (3A), Brandon (2A) and Lake Highland Prep (1A) all took team leads into today’s semifinals; although 26-time state champion Brandon held a scant 9 1/2-point lead over Lake Gibson (53.5 -44).
The highest scoring Palm Beach County teams in each class was Forest Hill in 3A (10th, 23.0), Olympic Heights in 2A (seventh, 25.0) and American Heritage in 1A (ninth, 17.0).
Semifinal action begins at 9:30 am today and the finals at 6:30 p.m.