The South Dade Buccaneers dominated the Class 3A state wrestling championships on their way to their seventh consecutive state title.
Iowa-bound senior 145-pounder Bretli Reyna captured his fourth straight title while junior 152-pounder Joshua Swan and sophomore 120-pounder Alex Couto also won titles.
Senior 126-pounder Jose Gonzalez, junior 132-pounder Adrian Neco, and senior 160-pounder Steven Villalobos were runners-up while sophomore 106-pounder Adrian Morales and freshman 138-pounder Cordell White placed third, senior 220-pounder Tanaveius Shropshire was fifth, and senior 170-pounder Bryan Valdes finished sixth.
“We performed above and beyond what even I felt we could do,” head coach Victor Balmeceda said. “This was a different year from the rest of them where going into the state tournament and although we may have been favorites, I don’t feel like we were the sure thing because we had kids who weren’t as battled-tested at that level and you don’t know how they’re going to respond.”
South Dade totaled 199 points while second-place Southwest Miami had 108 followed by Fleming Island (107), Osceoloa (97), and Riverdale (96). The Bucs also won their third straight state dual championship in January.
Three other Bucs also won matches in the state tournament in junior 113-pounder JanCarlos Rivera, senior 182-pounder Daniel Espino-Delgado, and senior 195-pounder Alejandro Gonzalez.
“It’s a total team effort and they know that,” Balmeceda said. “That’s what we preach leading up to districts, regionals, and state. We had four or five guys we think might be in the finals, but that will not win the state title as a team. We need guys coming through the back door, we need guys taking third, fifth, and sixth. It’s a total team effort to bring back this championship.”
South Dade has won 15 state championships, 13 with Balmeceda in charge, beginning with its first in 1995 and have eight runners-up finishes during that span. The seven straight, the most in state history, has surpassed the school’s previous best of three from 1999-2001.
“It proves what we’re doing here is highly-successful,” Balmeceda said. “It proves what we’re doing here is more than just having some superstars and polishing them up. We’re taking guys who haven’t wrestled and haven’t had that experience and still turning out state champs and state-place winners. They feed off the previous years’ success and the tradition that we have. They believe in our system, they see our wall-of-fame in our practice room, and they see the trophies and I preach to them they’re doing the same exact thing that these guys who have accomplished so much have done. They’re really buying into it.
“It confirms what we’re doing is a highly-successful recipe for winning state
Reyna capped his impressive career with a 50-3 record as a senior, enduring a dislocated jaw throughout the year. He went 224-8 over his career with titles in the 106, 120, 132, and 145-weight classes to become one of only three four-time winners in Miami-Dade County history.
“It’s been a wild ride,” Reyna said. “There was a lot of ups and downs with the downs being my injury. It was just really a bumpy road that came to an end and I exceeded my goal of being a four-time state champ. It’s been crazy since the start and now to the end I’m still not used to it. I have to let it sink in that I’m done with high school and college is next. It’s a whole different ball game in college.”
Swan won his first state title with a 45-2 record after finishing second last year, going 51-6, and third as a freshman going 58-7.
“He slipped up last week and lost to (state runner-up Sawyer Bartelt) and when you learn from your losses and take a lesson from it sometimes losses are good,” Balmeceda said. “They wake you up, they make you realize you need to re-focus and work a little bit harder and I was glad to see him finally get on top of the podium because he’s a special athlete.”
South Dade went 4-1 in matches decided by one point, including the final two matches by Couto, who went 52-10.
“Wrestling is a wave of momentum and if something is going great, they feed off of it,” Balmeceda said. “It feels like the last seven years they fed off of each other with positive vibes and their success.”