So much went right for Estero on Saturday night at Golden Gate High during the District 2A-12 wrestling championships.
It may have started with 113-pound Cody Harris claiming his second straight district championship after moving up a weight class, but it continued during Tanner Nesbit’s nip and tuck decision at 126, Riley Thompson’s win at 152 and Trenton Thrasher’s season-making victory at 220 pounds against the third ranked wrestler in the state at the class.
It led to the Wildcats earning their best finish in the district championships since 2002, when they last won the event. Palmetto Ridge, which won by 99 points a year ago, finished with a team-high 213.5 points on the night as it recorded its sixth district title in 10 years.
Estero was second with 166.5 points, while Cypress Lake was sixth with 64, South Fort Myers was eighth with 48.5, East Lee County was ninth with 42 and Lehigh was 10th with 26.
“My opinion is that Estero had a really good showing today,” Palmetto Ridge head coach Laz Rua said. “They wrestled well and yeah, Is the gap closing? Of course.”
Estero, a team of just 13 athletes, qualified all 12 of its grapplers competing in districts for the Region 2A-3 tournament at Charlotte High next week.
That success wasn’t lost on first year coach Nick Venditti, a former Penn State University wrestler who spent his senior year in 2009 under Olympic gold medal winner Cael Sanderson, now a national champion coach with the Nittany Lions.
“Through the course of the season, you always have the ultimate goal at the end of the season and you have short goals,” Venditti said. “They were meeting them. They were getting better every week, every tournament, every dual meet we were wrestling. They are peaking now at the right time.”
In all, 24 wrestlers from Estero, Cypress Lake, South Fort Myers, East Lee County and Lehigh advanced to regions. Cypress Lake, which saw senior Corey Kerkesner earn his second straight district championship at 195 pounds, had four qualify, while South Fort Myers also had four. East Lee County moved three on to regions, while Lehigh had one.
Kerkesner, who moved to 38-0 on the season with the win, hopes to continue the momentum he made at districts. He scored a 24-10 major decision over Palmetto Ridge’s Kristian Suarez.
“I think getting first here puts me into a good spot for regionals,” he said.
Harris, who wrestled at 106 a year ago, scored a 13-7 decision on Barron Collier’s CJ Robles at 113 to set the tone for Estero. Nesbit followed at 126, overtaking higher-seed Joel Rivera of Cypress Lake for a tight 6-3 decision, which he sustained after rushing out to a 4-2 lead in the first period.
Thrasher’s win, however, came at perhaps the best time. In the third period, after Golden Gate’s Lavanda Warren managed to land Thrasher on the mat, the Wildcat reversed position, found Warren’s left leg, then capitalized on his opponent’s mistake with a takedown of his own to claim the 3-1 victory.
“He beat me two or three times already this year and he’s ranked third in the state,” Thrasher said. “I just used heart (to beat him). I knew he was breaking.”
District 2A-12 Individual Championships (By weight class)
106: Rocco Pereira, Palmetto Ridge
113: Cody Harris, Estero
120: Brenden Eddington, Barron Collier
126: Tanner Nesbit, Estero
132: Alex Hernandez, Golden Gate
138: Hunter Johnson, Palmetto Ridge
145: Andy Hernandez, Palmetto Ridge
152: Riley Thompson, Estero
160: Joey Nadotti, Palmetto Ridge
170: Francisco Jaramillo, Golden Gate
182: Zech Rives, Palmetto Ridge
195: Corey Kerkesner, Cypress Lake
220: Trenton Thrasher, Estero
285: Bruce Estanislao, Palmetto Ridge