In the last wrestling match of the night on Friday at North Fort Myers, Riverdale junior heavyweight Cole Schneider capped off the District 2A-11 championships with a signature win.
For just the second time in his career, Schneider said, he defeated Fort Myers senior Mike Delago.
But as fate would have it, he added, it came for the second consecutive season in the district finals, and it followed an earlier loss over a month ago to Delago at the Captain Archer tournament.
The motivation was very clear.
“I had to come back harder, faster and stronger,” said Schneider, who overcame a leg injury midway through the season. “I had to go through a little adversity.”
Schneider, the defending Class 2A state champion at heavyweight, raced out to an early lead, then captured his last two points on a circle reversal around Delago with 1:22 left to claim a 4-3 win, capping off a highly successful tournament for the Raiders, who claimed nine individual titles and won the overall team competition with a total of 272 points.
“You have two of the best wrestlers in the state going at it,” Riverdale head coach Kris Hayward said. “And in those little scramblers, the point goes to whoever comes out on top. The fact that he was out there and he was competing, that he wasn’t afraid to try stuff and go for that win, that’s huge. That’s a statement of our team. That’s how we wrestle.”
Riverdale was represented in the finals in every match but one, claiming its 12th straight district championship. Fort Myers was second overall with 144 points, while Mariner came in third at 120 points.
James Monos (106), Jalen Santiago (113), Coleby Barnes (120), Daniel Williamson (138), Nelson Ortiz (152), Trendon Dunn (160), Jared Galan (170), Jesse Pryor (220) and Schneider all claimed victories for the Raiders.
“It’s a long year, so it’s a real statement of us being determined and staying the course because it is a long year,” Hayward said. “Now we have everybody healthy and everyone down to weight. It’s really going to peak at the right time.”
At 145 pounds, Mariner senior Keaton Koselke, who remains undefeated with a record of 42-0, narrowly escaped Riverdale’s Hunter Weeks in the final moments, using a point given by Weeks over the last 30 seconds to take a 5-4 win.
The Tritons also saw freshman Christian Minto claim his first district title at 126 pounds in an impressive second period pin of Riverdale’s Trey Floyd, moving his overall record to 41-2.
Fort Myers senior Colten Thomas, just a few weeks recovered from a knee injury that sidelined him most of the season, dominated at 132 pounds with a 15-0 technical fall of Riverdale’s Jarrett Chandler. The Green Wave’s Najee Jacob also won by pin at 195 pounds in the second period over Mariner’s Cesar Yamamoto.
But perhaps the most exciting match took place at 182 pounds. Just weeks ago, Ida Baker senior Nick Richards had fallen to Riverdale’s Gage Schield by pin at the Lee County Athletic Association championships.
However, he scored the match’s first five points in the tussle Friday and sustained his lead throughout, despite mounting pressure from Schield, whose last ditch efforts to throw Richards in the final moments proved to be fruitless.
“I don’t want to say the match would turn out differently if I didn’t get it,” Richards said. “But it would have been a lot harder. I think when he was tired, I just found a reason to keep going to get the win.”
It marked Richards’ second straight district championship — he won at 160 pounds a season ago — and moved his overall record to 24-4.
1. Riverdale 272; 2. Fort Myers 144; 3. Mariner 120; 4. Island Coast 89.5; 5. Ida Baker 87; 6. Lehigh 79; 7. North Fort Myers 62; 8. Cape Coral 31.5
106: James Monos (R) majority dec. Chris DePaola (CC), 17-4; 113: Jalen Santiago (R) d. Peter Joseph (NFM), fall 2:54; 120: Coleby Barnes (R) d. Christian Navarro (FM), 3-0; 126: Christian Minto (M) d. Trey Floyd (R) fall, 4:30; 132: Colten Thomas (FM) tech. fall Jarrett Chandler (R), 5:17, 15-0; 138: Daniel Williamson (R) d. Hadley Vadyak (FM), 8-4; 145: Keaton Koselke (M) d. Hunter Weeks (R), 5-4; 152: Nelson Ortiz (R) tech. fall Tyler VanGraafieland (IC), 5:43, 18-3; 160: Trendon Dunn (R) d. Jeremiah Miller (L), 5-0; 170: Jared Galan (R) d. Christian Marzullo (IB), 10-3; 182: Nick Richards (IB) d. Gage Schield (R), 13-12; 195: Najee Jacob (FM) d. Cesar Yamamoto (R), fall 3:00; Jesse Pryor (R) d. Justin Cordones (M) fall 2:41; 285; Cole Schneider (R) d. Mike Delago (FM), 4-3.