“Palmetto Ridge reloading under new coach”
By Andy Sodergren of the Naples Daily News, Posted: Nov. 30, 2015
A common theme emerged when talking to key members of the Palmetto Ridge High School wrestling team.
This is one hungry squad, out to prove doubters wrong.
Doubters who may think new coach Blaine Ison, 23, is too young.
Naysayers who point out the program lost six seniors from last year’s ninth-place state team.
“Some people are counting us out, saying we have a young team,” Ison said. “But every guy in that room, from the coaches to the wrestlers is working hard, training hard. If we bust our tail every day in that room, we’ll be where we need to be at the end of the year.”
Ison and former coach Laz Rua basically switched roles during the offseason. Rua has an 18-month-old son and couldn’t give the commitment needed from a head coach, so he stepped down from that position, staying on as Ison’s assistant. Ison, who placed fourth as a junior and third as a senior during his wrestling days at Palmetto Ridge, also has the help of former Palmetto Ridge coach Mark Rosenbalm, whose son Ryne is a junior on the team. The elder Rosenbalm is serving as a volunteer assistant for the Bears this year.
“When I came in a freshman, (Rosenbalm) took me under his wing and guided me to where I wanted to be,” Ison said. “And now he’s come back, and he’s guiding me again, showing me what I need to do as a head coach. Same with (Rua). It’s nice to have all the great help. I’m the head guy now, but I’ve got so many great people, pushing me and pushing the kids in the right direction.”
It also helps a first-year coach to have an ace up his sleeve, and Ison has a great one in returning state champion Joey Nadotti.
A senior, Nadotti went 40-4 en route to the 160-pound title last year. And just like his coach, he’s hungry for more.
“It’s harder to stay on top than to get to the top,” Nadotti said. “I’ve got to keep that mindset of staying hungry and working hard. Hard work always pays off, and I plan to work even harder than last year, because everyone wants to knock me down.”
The Bears aren’t a one-man show, despite the relative lack of experience compared to last year’s group.
Sophomore Rocco Pereira went 52-8 as a freshman last year, advancing to the quarterfinals at the state tournament before an injury took him out of action.
Ryne Rosenbalm has missed qualifying for the state tournament by a point in each of the last two seasons. Senior 220-pounder Bruce Estanislao also fell a match short of the state tournament last year. Junior Joey Parmenter went 36-14 at 126 pounds last year, but a growth spurt has him at 170 this year.
Sophomore 152-pounder Noah Rives returns to the team after missing last year with a knee injury. His brother, Zech, graduated last year after finishing fourth at 182 pounds as a senior.
“We’re young, but we have a lot of good talent in the room,” Nadotti said. “We’re going to surprise a lot of people, considering how young we are.”
Nadotti, who was a captain as a junior last year, said he was able to lean on the six seniors to help with his leadership duties.
“We kind of split the work in being captain and leader of the team,” he said. “Now I have to stay on top of it 24-7, not only staying on myself for working hard every day, but making sure all the varsity and JV kids do, too. It’s extra pressure, but it’s all worth it.”
Ison said he’s trying to instill ‘meanness’ on the mat, something he learned from Mark Rosenbalm years ago.
“We’re trying to preach that old school tradition of being mean on the mat,” Ison said. “It doesn’t matter if you win or lose, but we want our opponents to know that when they go up against a Palmetto Ridge wrestler, they’re in for a dogfight from start to finish. That nonstop effort is what we’re trying to instill in these young men.”
“NDN 2014-15 Wrestler of the Year: Joey Nadotti, Palmetto Ridge”
By: NDN-Nicholas Idler, March 29, 2015
NAPLES, Fla. – During the tournament finals match at the Chase Life Invitational earlier this year, Palmetto Ridge wrestler Joey Nadotti went down with a high-ankle sprain. He took a loss for the match and while he lay on the mat in serious pain, he worried the injury might end his season. It didn’t.
Nadotti made his comeback at the district tournament, and wrestled his way to the state tournament in Kissimmee, where he claimed the 160-pound championship. Because of his perseverance during the season, Nadotti is this year’s Naples Daily News Wrestler of the Year.
Palmetto Ridge coach Laz Rua had high expectations for Nadotti this year, and Rua knew the damage to Nadotti’s ankle wouldn’t stop him.
“We believed in Joey and he believed in himself,” Rua said. “He had a very tough injury and he came back and got the job done.”
Although eager to get a shot at the state title when he returned to the mat, Nadotti knew he wasn’t at his best. He was nervous about his ankle and thought it was only 80 to 85 percent healed.
“There was always the fear of reinjuring it,” he said. “I was pretty cautious with it.”
Nadotti beat every competitor he faced in the postseason. He won 11 straight matches and finished with a 40-4 record. He didn’t reach the state title match without a scare, though.
In the second round of the state tournament, Nadotti found himself minutes away from being eliminated. Down 4-0 with two minutes left, Nadotti unleashed a series of quick moves, took down Dilano Taylor and put him in a tilt, earning five points. Nadotti ran out the clock and claimed a 5-4 victory.
He avoided such drama in his next two matches, and eventually won the state final 6-0 over Travon Norman. Even winning by a comfortable margin couldn’t contain Nadotti’s excitement after the match.
“I just did it for my dad and my coaches and everyone who supported me,” Nadotti said. “I was overjoyed.”
Before the referee could raise his hand, Nadotti ran a circle around the mat, then ran toward his coaches and lunged into their arms. He slipped away from the embrace when he saw his father, Joe, and they exchanged a long hug.
A week after states, Nadotti began training for a couple of national tournaments. In May, he’ll compete at the High School National Duals in Virginia Beach, Virginia, and he’ll compete in the Disney Duals in June.
“Palmetto Ridge sends six wrestlers to state tournament”
By: NDN-Chuck Ballaro, March 08, 2015
PUNTA GORDA – A couple unfortunate events led to the Palmetto Ridge High School wrestling team not winning the team regional title Saturday at the Class 2A Region 3 wrestling tournament at Charlotte High School.
A last-second takedown of Rocco Pereira in the 106-pound class, followed by a shocking last-second pin by Charlotte’s Dylan Mooney in the 132-pound final put the nail in the team coffin.
The good news is that Palmetto Ridge captured two regional championships from Zech Rives in 182 and Joey Nadotti in 160, with four others also punching their ticket to the state tournament next week in Kissimmee.
Other area wrestlers also took home regional titles. Barron Collier, which sent only four wrestlers, got a championship from Brenden Eddington in the 120-pound class, while Golden Gate’s Lavanda Warren won in 220.
Host team Charlotte captured its first regional crown since 2000 with 137.5 points, 4.5 more than Palmetto Ridge’s 133. Riverdale, Fort Myers and Lennard rounded out the top five.
Palmetto Ridge coach Laz Rua said his team did well, but could have done better in some matches, which was what really led to the loss.
“Joey did great and Zech Rives was an animal. He’s peaking at the right time and is unstoppable,” Rua said. “The team did fine, we had some matches we should have won, so that made it harder for us to stick. Qualifying six to the tournament is huge.”
A junior, Nadotti got his win and third trip to states in an unfortunate way, when he and Charlotte’s Brody Mansfield accidently butted heads, knocking Mansfield unconscious and giving Nadotti the win by default.
Nadotti, who has had to overcome an ankle sprain and torn ligaments, said he hopes to improve after third-place finishes in states his first two years.
“I went to go in for a shot and we collided heads. It’s not the best way to win, but stuff happens,” Nadotti said. “I want to win states this time, it’s my year.”
Rives’ win was more emphatic, scoring a pin over Storm Schenk of Mitchell in 3:11. This after a fourth in regionals last year.
“I’ve had my mind right all week and practiced hard and deserve to win, “Rives said. “I stuck to my game plan, went out there and battled.”
Most heartbreaking was Pereira’s loss in 106. After tying the match late with an escape, Riverdale’s James Monos rushed him and scored a last-second takedown on the freshman.
Andy Hernandez (145), Andre Sanchez (170), and Kristian Suarez (195) got into the top four to earn state slots for Palmetto Ridge.
Eddington, who placed fourth in states last year, was the high spot for Collier, defeating Jalen Soto of Cypress Lake 7-3 in the 120-pound final.
“It’s been a grind, but it paid off in the end. Soto is a tough freshman who I had to beat in regionals,” Eddington said. “I’m accepting nothing less than a state title.”
Warren won a grinding match over Estero’s Trenton Thrasher, getting an early takedown and holding on for a 2-1 win, becoming one of two Golden Gaters to earn state competition.
“I had to stay in position and not give up points. I’m wrestling smart and staying in good position,’ Warren said. “It’s going to be me and (Fransisco Jaramillo) going to states and that’s good. Two is better than none.”
Estero’s Cody Nesbit (120), Riley Thompson (152), and Thrasher (220) earned state invites, as did Coller’s Acey Woodman.
1. Charlotte 137.5, 2. Palmetto Ridge 133, 3. Riverdale 110.5, 4. Fort Myers 104.5, 5. Lennard 86, 6. Venice 85.5, 7. Estero 84.5, 8. Sarasota 83.5, 9. Palmetto 66, 10. Dixie Hollins 65, 11. Lakewood ranch 59, 12 Barron Collier 52.5, 13. Golden Gate 50, 14. Cypress Lake 49, 15. Mitchell 45, 16. Sebring 32.5, 17. Northeast 31.5, 18. Osceola 28, 19. Ida Baker 25, 20. North Fort Myers 18, 21. Clearwater 17, 22. River Ridge 15, 23. South Fort Myers 13.5, 24. Boca Ciega 13, Naples 13, 26. Island Coast 9, 27. Gulf Coast 8, 28. East Lee 7, Fivay 7, Largo 7, Lehigh 7, 32. Braden River 0, Cape Coral 0, Port charlotte 0, Tarpon Springs 0.
“Prep wrestling: Palmetto Ridge claims another district crown”
By: NDN-Joseph Cranney, March 01, 2015
The shirt is white with long sleeves and green-and-black lettering. Most of the members of the Palmetto Ridge High School wrestling team wore it on Saturday afternoon in the noticeably cold Golden Gate gymnasium.
The team was here for the Class 2A-District 12 wrestling tournament. It’s an event the school has dominated the past two years. On Saturday, Palmetto Ridge overcame a good showing from Estero and took first place by more than 60 points. Last year, the Bears won by 99 points.
Eleven of Palmetto Ridge’s 14 wrestlers on Saturday qualified for regionals in the tournament. Nine of them made it to the tournament finals. Six of them won championships.
On the shirt, there was a message of the school’s accomplishments.
“The Tradition Continues,” the shirt reads. Below those words, it lists the six names of Palmetto Ridge’s state qualifiers from last year. Hernandez, Johnson, Curto, Singletary, Jones, Nadotti.
Joey Nadotti (29-4) won his third straight district title on Saturday. At 160 pounds, he pinned Aiden Davis from Gulf Coast in 53 seconds.
“This is the best team” Nadotti has wrestled on at Palmetto Ridge, the junior said. “We don’t have any holes.”
He corrected himself. There is one hole — at 126 pounds — where the Bears are now without Joey Parmenter, who placed third in districts last year. He broke his ankle at practice two weeks ago.
“He would have been a district champion,” Palmetto Ridge coach Laz Rua said about Parmenter.
About his six other district champions this season, Rua said, “We’re collecting the fruits of our labor.”
Joining Nadotti in earning a pin on Saturday was freshman Rocco Pereira. Pereira (48-4) got a fall against Gulf Coast’s Dean Nunziato in less than two minutes.
“He’s the kind of athlete that if he stays in focus, he could win a state championship as a freshman,” Rua said.
1. Palmetto Ridge 213.5, 2. Estero 166.5, 3. Golden Gate 110.5, 4. Barron Collier 88.5, 5. Gulf Coast 80.5, 6. Cypress Lake 64, 7. Naples 54, 8. South Fort Myers 48.5, 9. East Lee County 42, 10. Lehigh 26
“Palmetto Ridge wrestlers win Titan Duals”
With the postseason right around the corner, Palmetto Ridge coach Laz Rua was glad to his team building momentum.
“We’re starting to peak at the right time,” Rua said. “The kids wrestled very well. I was very satisfied with their performance this weekend.”
With one of the Bears’ top wrestlers, Joey Nadotti, out with an ankle injury, Rua counted on younger wrestlers to fill the void. Freshmen Lance Lecuyer and Rocco Pereira were two of five Bears to go undefeated in the tournament. Lecuyer won every match with a pin.
“We had to step it up to win the dual and they did just that,” Rua said.
With the 13-point difference, Jensen Beach proved to be Palmetto Ridge’s biggest challenge. Midway through the championship round though, the Bears’ Zech Reves gave his team a big momentum boost. He had his opponent in his grasp and when the Jensen wrestler attempted a reverse, Reves put him on his back and scored a pin with: 15.3 left in the first round. It was just the result Reves was looking for.
“I just wanted to get the pin quickly for my team so we could pull away more,” Reves said.
Reves, as well as Kristian Suarez and Andy Hernandez also went undefeated in the tournament. Hernandez came back from a back injury just days before the tournament, and Rua was happy to see that he didn’t skip a beat.
“For him to come back after a two-week layoff and to perform the way he did, it’s a good thing. It’s a good sign of his commitment to the team,” Rua said.
Collier County teams took three of the top four spots in the tournament. The third place match was one of the closest matches of the final round, as Lely defeated host team Golden Gate 45-36.
Gulf Coast fell to Island Coast 46-30 in the final round and claimed eighth place, and Naples took 11th place after edging out American Heritage 36-32.
“Palmetto Ridge continues dominance of 2015 CCAC tournament”
By: NDN-Scott Clair, January 31th, 2015
There are two reasons why Palmetto Ridge won its ninth Collier County Athletic Conference wrestling championship in 11 years on Saturday – quality and quantity.
Whereas many schools struggle to fill a full varsity roster in 14 weight classes, the Bears program fields not only a complete varsity lineup, but a full JV team as well. Both are fed by a robust youth program called the Bears Wrestling Club.
And that depth showed on Saturday at Gulf Coast High, host of the CCACs. The Bears were missing two of the best wrestlers in the state in 160-pounder Joey Nadotti and Andy Hernandez at 145 pounds.
Regardless, Palmetto Ridge finished the two-day event with a 6-0 record and five individual champions in Rocco Pereira (106), Hunter Johnson (145), Gabe Torres (152), Zech Rives (182), and Kristian Suarez (195).
“With Joey and Andy out, that hurt us big time,” said Bears coach Laz Rua. “But we’ve got really good depth on both the varsity and JV levels. That’s a luxury we have that most teams don’t. We’ve got quality and quantity.”
With four individual champions — Marcus Martinez (113), Eric Garcia (126), Bobby Caspolich (160), and Tyler Douglas (285) — Lely placed second, losing only to Palmetto Ridge.
Golden Gate, third with a 5-2 record, had the only repeat individual champions in 220-pounder Lavanda Warren and Alex Hernandez (132). In fact, this is the third straight year the Titan seniors have won individual titles.
Frankie Jaramillo (170) and freshman Devin Price (139) also won their weight classes for Golden Gate.
Barron Collier 120-pound senior, Brenden Eddington, won his first county title.
For the Bears, however, Pereira, a freshman, served as a prime example of Palmetto Ridge’s quality and quantity formula. The 106-pounder wrestled for three years in the Bears’ youth program and was able to step up to the varsity level immediately.
“With our youth club, we’re able to replace seniors without missing a beat,” Rua said. “The Bears Wrestling Club is perfect in what it does for the varsity program. We’re able to produce freshman that can at least compete.”
But Pereira isn’t a typical freshman on the mats. Most ninth-graders are happy just to make the team. Pereira, with a 33-3 record, set his goals higher coming into the season.
“I want to win a state title,” Pereira said. “I dedicate myself to this sport. I work very hard and feel confident on the mat.”
Rua feels Pereira can accomplish his goal.
“He has the ability and possibility to do it,” Rua said. “Rocco is a special kid. Most freshmen are not driven as he is. Rocco is mature for his age. He knows he wants to win a state title this year. That’s unusual for a freshman.”
Collier County Athletic Conference wrestling championships
Gulf Coast High School
1. Palmetto Ridge; 2. Lely; 3. Golden Gate; 4. Naples; 5. Barron Collier; 6. Immokalee; 7. Gulf Coast
106 — Rocco Pereira (PR); 113 — Marcus Martinez (L); 120 — Brenden Eddington (BC); 126 — Eric Garcia (L); 132 — Alex Hernandez (GG); 138 — Devin Price (GG); 145 — Hunter Johnson (PR); 152 — Gabe Torres (PR); 160 — Bobby Caspolich (L); 170 — Frankie Jaramillo (GG); 182 — Zech Rives (PR); 195 — Kristian Suarez (L); 220 — Lavanda Warren (GG); 285 — Tyler Douglas (L)
“Prep of the Week: Zech Rives, Palmetto Ridge”
NAPLES, Fla. – Zech Rives is gunning for a state championship and he’s raking in big wins along the way. Currently ranked No. 2 in the state for his weight class, he recently beat last year’s 1A state champion in dominating fashion.
Rives’ latest victory earned his team the title at last weekend’s Chase Life Invitational. That string of accomplishments earned him this week’s Prep of the Week.
Rives wrestles for Palmetto Ridge, but he had a little more to fight for during last weekend’s tournament.
The Chase Life Invitational is named after Chase Hoover, a former Palmetto Ridge wrestler who lost a battle with leukemia in 2011. The back story of the tournament wound up giving Rives extra motivation.
A few days before the tournament, Rives was wearing a shirt with the tournament’s name on it while he was eating in a local restaurant. A woman noticed the shirt, then approached him and asked if he knew Hoover — the woman was Hoover’s mother.
“(She) came up to me and asked me if I knew him. I told her no, but I told her I would win it for him,” Rives said.
A few days and four matches later, he did just that. Hoover’s mother was at the tournament to see Rives make good on his promise.
As if a guarantee wasn’t enough, Rives also wanted to score a win for his best friend and teammate, Joey Nadotti. Earlier in the day, before Rives’ title match, he watched Nadotti suffer an ankle injury during his own match. Instead of deflating Rives though, it did the opposite.
“I was pumped,” Rives said.
He stayed composed through the entire match and scored a win via pin. Palmetto Ridge wrestling coach Laz Rua said Rives was in total control during the entire match. To pull off the win though, Rives had to block out all of the distractions.
“I had to stay focused on my match,” Rives said. “I was upset, but I can’t let that get in the way of doing what I’ve got to do.”
Beating last year’s champ was great. He was happy to win the Chase Life Invitational title for his team too, but his coach knows he’s shooting for something bigger — the 182-pound senior wants to win state.
“The thing that stands out about him the most is that he wants to be a champion,” Rua said.
“Palmetto Ridge wins Chase Life title, but loses Nadotti to injury”
By: NDN-Scott Clair, January 25th, 2015
NAPLES, Fla. – It was a bittersweet Saturday for Palmetto Ridge High School coach Laz Rua and his wrestling team.
The Bears recaptured their own Chase Life Invitational after placing third last year, outdistancing second-place North Port for the team title in the 20-team event. The win served as a measure of vengeance for Palmetto Ridge, which finished second to North Port at the prestigious Captain Archer Memorial Tournament on Dec. 13.
However, the Bears’ victory celebration was muted, as they lost Joey Nadotti, the team captain and ranked No. 1 in the state at 160 pounds in Class 2A, to an apparent ankle injury.
Nadotti was leading North Port’s Dacoda Flenard 2-1 with 15 seconds left in the second period of the 160 final when the two came together then went to the mat. Nadotti, who placed third at the state tournament the past two years, immediately signaled to the referee he was injured.
Nadotti rolled on the mat in agony as trainers and coaches attended to the junior’s right ankle. He was helped off the mat and was unable to continue. Flenard was awarded an injury default victory.
Nadotti, who will have the ankle X-rayed on Sunday according to his father, watched the rest of the tournament from the sidelines with ice bags wrapped around his lower leg and crutches by his side. It is not known how much time, if any, he may miss.
“This kid’s destiny was to win the state title this year,” Rua said of Nadotti. “It’s terrible. He’s worked to hard to get hurt. It’s depressing. I’ll do a lot of praying tonight for his health.”
Moments later though, Bears senior Zech Rives, provided his team and Nadotti, his best friend, an emotional lift. Rives pinned North Port’s Roman Morales at the 4:18 mark of the 182-pound final to seal Palmetto Ridge’s team victory.
“Joey’s my best friend,” said Rives, ranked No. 2 in 2A. “I was worried about him, but I stayed focused on my match. I blocked everything out and didn’t change my game plan.”
Rua concurred about the 25-2 Rives’ focus.
“(Rives) showed me how much he wants to be a champion by keeping his composure,” Rua said. “Every time he steps on the mat he gets better.”
Rives’ title was the second of the tournament for Palmetto Ridge. In the 106-pound final, Bears freshman Rocco Pereira was an absolute buzz saw in cutting down North Port’s Braydon McLellan.
Already leading 5-0 in the second fall, Pereira, described by Rua as a “firecracker” and who came up through the Bears youth wrestling club, pinned McLellan at the 3:42 mark.
“With me, it’s all about motivation — the motivation of hating to lose,” Pereira said. “Also, it’s my family too. All the love and support my parents give me. I hear my mother screaming and I don’t want to lose in front of her.”
Though senior Kristian Suarez lost 13-0 to Spring Hill-Springstead’s Conory Ross in the 195-pound final, he posted the Bears’ biggest win of the day according to Rua.
Trailing North Port’s David Towers by 12 points with less than 20 seconds left in the semifinal match, Suarez cradled his opponent and was able to secure an improbable pin and victory.
Barron Collier junior Brendon Eddington was the only other Collier County athlete to earn an individual title. Eddington, ranked No. 2 in 2A in his weight class, took the 120-pound crown with a 12-4 decision over Springstead’s Quentin Alessandro.
“I’m not at my full potential yet,” said the 25-1 Eddington, who placed fourth at states at 113 last season. “My mindset this year is nothing less than a state title. I’m going to leave it all on the mat.”
Golden Gate senior Lavanda Warren made the 220-pound final, but dropped a 10-6 decision to Kissimmee-Gateway’s Ismael del Toro.
Chase Life Invitational at Palmetto Ridge High School:
Team results (top 10)
1. Palmetto Ridge 230, 2. North Port 204, 3. Springstead 176, 4. Gateway 149, 5. Ft. Myers 134, 6. Barron Collier, 7. St. Thomas Aquinas, 8. Golden Gate, 9. Key West 87, 10. Naples 62.
106: Pereira (PR) p. McLellan (NP) 3:42; 113: Landgraff (Sp) d. Tripke (NP) 9-7; 120: Eddington (BC) d. Alessandro (Sp) 12-4; 126: Rawizer (STA) d. Casasola (KW) 3-2; 132: Aronoff (STA) d. Thomas (FM) 17-6; 138: Ramirez (BJ) d. Loney (Gate) 8-6; 145: Cruz (NP) p. Johnson (PR) 2:25; 152: Vasquez (Gate) p. Torres (PR) 3:01; 160: Flenard (NP) inj. def. Nadotti (PR); 170: Swift (SP) d. Zhalka (FM) 9-3; 182: Rives (PR) p. Morales (NP) 4:18; 195: Ross (Sp) d. Suarez (PR) 13-0; 220: del Toro (Gate) d. Warren (GG) 10-6; 285: Delago (FM) p. Leggett (GlC) 1:33.
“Sport makes adjustment to new country easier for Palmetto Ridge’s Andy Hernandez”
By: NDN-Scott Clair, January 22nd, 2015
Andy Hernandez speaks little English and has few friends, while trying to navigate the new world he finds himself in. Hernandez sometimes dreams of returning to the old world and old friends he left behind in Cuba.
The sophomore at Palmetto Ridge High School arrived with his family in Naples in 2013 from Villa Clara, Cuba.
“As soon as I got here, I wanted to go back,” Hernandez said. “I was excited and scared. I didn’t know English. I missed my friends and family. I felt strange. I asked my parents if I could go home.”
Hernandez is also one of the best wrestlers in the state at 145 pounds. This season he has a 22-1 record and is ranked No. 4 in the state in Class 2A. The few friends Hernandez does have are teammates on the Bears wrestling squad. He says that’s enough for now.
Though currently nursing a back injury that will keep him out of the annual Chase Life Invitational at Palmetto Ridge this weekend, Hernandez dreams of winning a state title. He dreams of going to college on a wrestling scholarship.
Twenty years ago, Laz Rua dreamed, too.
Like Hernandez, Rua, the Palmetto Ridge wrestling coach, arrived in Naples with his family as a 13-year-old from Cuba. He spoke little English and had few friends.
“I can understand the struggles that Andy is going through,” Rua said. “When I first came to the United States from Cuba — what a shocker. I knew zero English. I knew how to say ‘Hello’ and ‘What’s your name?’ Kids came up to me and I couldn’t talk. And middle school kids can be cruel. They probably thought I was dumb. It was tough.”
But, like Hernandez, Rua had wrestling.
Rua dreamed of earning a state title and a college scholarship. Wrestling for Naples High, Rua barely missed out on the state title, finishing second at 119 pounds as a senior in 2001. He did hit a bull’s-eye, however, with the college scholarship, wrestling for William Penn University in Iowa before graduating from Florida Gulf Coast University with a degree in human performance in 2006.
Besides coaching at Palmetto Ridge for the last four years, Rua also is the activities director at the Naples Lakes community. He is married with a daughter and a newborn son. His life is now as full as his teenage dreams once were.
“I can relate to Andy,” Rua said. “I try to help him as much as I can. I want to be a mentor for him, not just in wrestling, but with grades and school. I tell him all the time to give yourself an opportunity to take advantage of your talent. That it can send you to college. That it can give you a life. One of the reasons I tried so hard on the mat and in school was it was my meal ticket to go to college. Same for Andy.”
Hernandez’s father, Hector, started his son wrestling at the age of five. Hernandez went on to win three national youth titles in Cuba as a sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-grader.
As Hernandez’s family prepared to move to Naples, an uncle of Hernandez’s in Collier County contacted Rua about his nephew’s wrestling prowess. The uncle had no idea of Rua’s background. He was just reaching out to the coach where Hernandez was going to be zoned to attend high school.
“It was lucky for (Hernandez) and it was lucky for me,” Rua said.
To see what the kid had, Rua put Hernandez on the mat with one of his Bears wrestlers.
“Andy just destroyed him,” Rua said. “I said, ‘Oh man, we have something special here.’ This kid’s a potential state champ and arrives on my doorstep from out of nowhere.”
As a freshman, Hernandez went on to finish second at the district and regional championships, while also qualifying for the state tournament, where he placed seventh.
The wrestling came easy. English did not.
“At first English was really hard, but now it’s getting easier,” said Hernandez, who is enrolled in the school’s ESOL program. He spoke to the Daily News in Spanish through Ricardo Rives, the father of teammate Zach Rives.
“Wrestling helped me because school was tough. I knew I had wrestling practice to look forward to at the end of the day. Wrestling, and the camaraderie with my teammates, also helped me get over the homesickness for Cuba that I was feeling. Wrestling is a big part of making me feel at home.”
Rua sees Hernandez and sees himself.
“Andy’s a smart kid,” Rua said. “He’s had a hard time with the language, but he’s coming around. English is a hard language to pick up. The main thing for him is to learn the language. Once that happens for Andy, things will open up, as it did for me.
“I see Andy’s potential and I see the same potential I had in myself when I was his age. It’s a lot like looking in the mirror.”
“Prep of the Week: Joey Nadotti, Palmetto Ridge wrestling”
By: NDN-Jill Himmelfarb , December 24 , 2014
NAPLES, Fla. – Palmetto Ridge junior wrestler Joey Nadotti had a major comeback this past weekend at the Cougar Invitational after a disappointment in the Captain Archer Tournament.
The weekend at Captain Archer, Nadotti was predicted to win. The loss was a big disappointment to Nadotti and the Bears Nadotti is maintaining a positive attitude regardless of not getting the win.
“Everyone made a big deal about it, but it’s just another loss,” Nadotti said. “I learned from it and moved on.”
Moved on is exactly what he did at the Cougar Invitational in Tampa on Saturday. With 17 schools in attendance at the tournament, Nadotti was named Most Outstanding Wrestler. Palmetto Ridge came in second place with six champions overall. For his performance, Nadotti has been named Boys Prep of the Week.
“He’s wrestled great,” Palmetto Ridge coach Laz Rua said. “He showed up and was tough. He’s ranked No. 1 in the state in the 160-pound 2A Division.”
During his freshman and sophomore years, Nadotti came in third at the state championships. Being ranked No. 1 in the state now is a huge accomplishment.
“It’s pretty exciting, but it’s also a lot of pressure to meet that expectation in March at states,” Nadotti said.
Nadotti’s father got him involved in wrestling when he was six years old. He joined Palmetto Ridge Little Bears Wrestling Club.
“He was one of the original Little Bears,” Rua said. “He grew up in this program. He’s always been very disciplined and smart. He has strong goals and is a hard worker.”
Nadotti credits his father for pushing him in the sport and instilling strong work ethic in him.
“He always made sure that I was on weight,” Nadotti said. “He never let me miss a practice.”
According to Rua, Nadotti being a hardworking athlete is what has helped him get to this point in his career.
“Wrestling is one of the few sports where talent alone won’t win matches,” Rua said. “He’s one of the hardest-working kids I’ve ever coached. He listens, develops and improves.”
Nadotti is a straight-A student. He said that time management is the key to his success in both academics and wrestling. He’s also one of the team’s captains.
“He’s a leader on the team,” Rua said. “He handles the pressure that comes with that responsibility very well. He’s the kind of kid that we want the younger kids to look up to.”
“2014-15: Chase Singletary moves, but area still has state title contenders”
By: Scott Clair, December 2nd , 2014
There were no local state wrestling champions last year.
This season, there are a number of area grapplers with legitimate shots at bringing home state hardware, such as Palmetto Ridge’s Joey Nadotti, Golden Gate heavyweight Lavanda Warren, Jamel Davis and Acey Woodman of Barron Collier, and Lely’s Tupac Isme.
But Southwest Florida’s best wrestler, Chase Singletary, is no longer in Southwest Florida. Actually, he’s no longer in the state. He’s in Northern New Jersey at Blair Academy
“Like in the ‘Godfather,’ they made him an offer he couldn’t refuse,” said Palmetto Ridge coach Laz Rua, who had Singletary on his squad as a freshman last year.
Blair Academy, an academically rigorous private school with an annual $53,000 tuition for out-of-state students, offered Singletary a full scholarship during the summer.
Blair also has one of the preeminent wrestling programs in the nation, currently ranked No. 1 in the country by FloWrestling.com. The Buccaneers, named the nation’s best program for the past three years by InterMat.com, have produced 23 college All Americans and seven NCAA champions.
“They reached out to us and Chase,” Rua said. “I told Chase he had to take the offer. There’s not many kids that get that kind of opportunity. It was an awesome opportunity.
“Chase has been with us since he was three years old. He deserves it. He’s worked so hard. It’s such a great opportunity for him and his family. For me as a coach, it was hard to let him go, but I was so happy for him. He just had to do it. That school is all business. You’re there to go to class and play sports. That’s it.”
Though Singletary is just a sophomore, the 16-year-old has more than a decade of experience on the mat. He began wrestling at age three with the Bear Club, Palmetto Ridge’s youth program. Singletary was three and was wrestling five year olds — and winning.
The 6-foot-3 Singletary went on to win seven national titles and two Class 1A titles as a seventh- and eighth-grader at 113 and 145 pounds while at Pembroke Pines-Somerset Academy. He also made the Class 1A finals at 106 as a sixth-grader.
Singletary comes from a wrestling family. His father, Casey, was a runner-up at 160 for Barron Collier in 1990. Singletary’s brother, Cody, won a state title at 113 for Palmetto Ridge in 2008.
Last year, Singletary was upset in the 2A semifinals at 160 by Dakota Greene of Brandon. It was Singletary’s only loss of the season.
“It was hard to leave Palmetto Ridge,” Singletary said. “My brother went there. My family is there. I’ve never been out of Florida. But I knew I had to do it.
“Being at Palmetto Ridge and in the wrestling club always benefited me. What they taught me has helped me tremendously up here.”
Singletary, who also played football for the Buccaneers this season, first heard of Blair from Zach Sherman, a wrestler from Plantation who is currently a sophomore at Blair and now a teammate of Singletary’s. But to get into Blair, Singletary had to qualify academically and take the SSAT, an independent school entrance exam.
“At first I didn’t think it was going to happen,” Singletary said. “It seemed like a long shot. You have to get accepted and the acceptance rate is very low. I went on a visit. Took the SSAT. Then they called and told me I got in. I was ecstatic.”
In a preseason tournament in mid-October, Singletary, wrestling at 182, went 5-0. During the season, Blair will travel to national tournaments in Oklahoma, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
“For a young kid from Southwest Florida, that came out of the Bear Club, to get the opportunity to wrestle for the No. 1 team in the country, we take a lot of pride in that,” Rua said. “Chase is putting Palmetto Ridge on the map.”
“Wajner turns the tide as Palmetto Ridge wins 2013 CCAC”
By Scott Clair, Posted January 05, 2013
Palmetto Ridge wrapped up its eighth Collier County Athletic Conference championship in nine years on Saturday at Golden Gate High School.
However, it was on Friday night, the event’s first day, when all the drama took place.
That’s when the Bears met Barron Collier, considered Palmetto Ridge’s toughest competition for the team title.
The team score was close when the Bears’ 145-pounder, Matias Wajner, faced the Cougars’ Nate Vajen. With around 45 seconds left in the match and Wajner leading by 10 points, there was a break in the action.
Palmetto Ridge coach Laz Rua took that moment to urge Wajner to go for a pin. Wajner said he’d do it.
When wrestling resumed, Wajner got Vajen in a Bear hold, snapped him down and rolled him for the pin, worth six team points rather than the three awarded for a decision.
“That was pretty sweet,” said Wajner, a senior who went on to earn the county title in his weight class. “Vajen was fighting tough but I knew I had to get the pin. Things were pretty tight between the teams.
“Coach asked. I said I was going to do it and I did it.”
The Bears went on to a critical 38-27 victory, which propelled them to county bragging rights by finishing the CCACs with a 6-0 record. With all seven of the county’s public high schools competing, each team wrestles every other team once. The squad with the best record after all is said and done wins.
Wajner was one of six Bears to earn individual county championships. Pierre Borgela (106), Joey Nadotti (138), Theo Curto (152), Dylan Jones (160) and Cole Wright (195) all won their weight classes and finished undefeated.
Bruce Estanislao (6-0) also went unbeaten for Palmetto Ridge, but competed in two weight classes — 220 and 285 — so did not qualify for an individual weight class title.
“Our wrestling tradition at Palmetto Ridge is a big deal,” Rua said. “I was a little stressed this year because we lost so many seniors from last year’s team. But the kids pulled it off.
“They had the attitude that we are the champs and you got to take it from us if you want to win the county.”
The loss to Palmetto Ridge was the only one the Cougars suffered. They beat a surprising Naples 53-24 in the last team match of the meet.
By winning at 126 pounds, Mike Blasucci accomplished a Barron first by being the first Cougar to win four individual county championships. As a freshman, Blasucci won at 112 pounds, followed by a 119-pound crown as a sophomore., and two at 126.
“It meant something to me,” said Blasucci about the four titles. “I heard all week that I could be the first from Barron to do it. It feels good, but it’s just a steppingstone. Now I want to get a state title.”
Zach Swats (170) also won an individual title for Barron, which was without two of its top wrestlers. Heavyweight Brady Pallante and 120-pounder Tanis Taylor, both defending county champs, were out with illnesses.
In a dual match with Barron in December, Naples High only had eight rosters eligible to take the mat. That made the Golden Eagles’ third-place finish and 5-2 record a bit of a surprise.
Three Golden Eagles took home individual honors. Joseph Guelfi (120) and heavyweight Nolan Duerr won their first county championships, while Caleb Wilborn (132) repeated in his weight classification.
“It feels nice,” Guelfi said about his team’s showing. “We came here to fight. We came out 1,000 percent better than any other meet this season.”
Golden Gate coach Ed Munn liked what he saw from two of his young grapplers. Titans sophomores Alex Hernandez (113) and Lavanda Warren (182) won titles.
Claudel Alix was Lely’s sole titlist, repeating in the 220-pound division.
“I showed everybody in the county that I improved and am not the same guy,” Alix said. “I practiced harder than I ever did this week. It’s a privilege to be able to come out here and show my skills.”
1. Palmetto Ridge 6-0; 2. Barron Collier 5-1; 3. Naples 4-2; 4. Lely 3-3; 5. Golden Gate 2-4; 6. Gulf Coast 1-5; 7. Immokalee 0-6
106 — Pierre Borgela (PR); 113 — Alex Hernandez (GG); 120 — Joseph Guelfi (NHS); 126 — Mike Blasucci (BC); 132 — Caleb Wilborn (NHS); 138 — Joey Nadotti (PR); 145 — Matias Wajner (PR); 152 — Theo Curto (PR); 160 — Dylan Jones (PR); 170 — Zach Swats (BC); 182 — Lavanda Warren (GG); 195 — Cole Wright (PR); 220 — Claudel Alix (Lely); 285 — Nolan Duerr (NHS)
“Palmetto Ridge’s Nadotti win titles at Buzz Hill Invitational “
By Scott Clair, Posted January 05, 2013
Palmetto Ridge’s Joey Nadotti might be just a freshman, but the 138-pound wrestler has more mat experience than most seniors.
Nadotti began competing with the Bear Wrestling Club, run out of Palmetto Ridge, when he was 5 years old.
Now 14, Nadotti has thousands of matches on his resume, many coming in national tournaments.
Nadotti used that experience to buzz saw the competition at the Buzz Hill Invitational at Gulf Coast High School on Saturday. He earned a 14-2 major decision over Doral’s Danny Garcia in the championship match.
“Joey came to wrestle,” said Bears coach Laz Rua, whose team placed fifth overall. “This is a big tournament to win.”
Though the Buzz Hill, one of the toughest meets in the state, was held at the Sharks’ gym, the 33-team event was hosted by Barron Collier. Last year, the venue changed to accommodate the growing tournament, named for the local State Farm agent and former college wrestler who sponsors it.
Lely’s Claudel Alix was the only other Collier County wrestler to earn an individual title. The senior easily defeated Palm Harbor’s Tyler Modlin, 8-2, in the 220-pound classification..
“This tournament was a learning experience for me,” said Alix, who was the meet’s No. 1 seed at 220. “I made a lot of mistakes out there, which I’ll correct in practice.”
Trojans coach Mark Modica liked what he saw from his wrestler.
“Every week Claudel is getting better,” Modica said. “His performance was the result of hard work in practice, and trusting what he does best on the mat.”
Nadotti’s final match was anticlimactic after he defeated Cape Coral’s Bruno Bredicean in overtime in the semifinals.
Bredicean, a senior, beat Nadotti last month at Palmetto Ridge’s Chase Life Invitational in overtime.
Turnabout proved to be fair play on Saturday as Nadotti scored a 2-point takedown in the extra period.
“Like last time, it could have went either way,” Nadotti said. “I pulled it off this time. I went out there ready to go and mentally prepared.”
Rua was impressed with his freshman.
“Bredicean is a senior. He’s about 17 or 18,” Rua said. “Joey just turned 14. For him to impose his will over a mature kid, that’s huge.
“Joey’s capable of doing wonderful things on the mat.”
Barron Collier, which placed seventh, had two wrestlers make the finals. Zach Swats (170) and Brady Pallante (285) each lost close decisions. Swats came into the Buzz Hill undefeated this season. He met St. Petersburg-Dixie Hollins’ Luis Aldana in the finals.
Swats was leading on points 4-3 with less than 20 seconds left in the match. However, the referee cited Swats for fleeing, and awarded Aldana a tying point. In overtime, Aldana scored on a 2-point maneuver to take a 6-4 victory.
“I let the referee take control of the match,” Swats said. “I should not have done that. It came back to bite me. My bad. It’s nobody else’s fault.”
Pallante faced Fort Myers’ Charles Fequierson, who is unbeaten this season, in the 285-pound championship match. In a grueling contest for both wrestlers, Fequierson led 3-0 midway through the third period.
Pallante rallied in the closing seconds, but ran out of gas, and time, losing 3-2.
“Coming into this tournament, I knew it would be me and (Fequierson) in the final,” Pallante said. “Both of us were out there, tired as he’ll. If only I was in better shape.”
It probably won’t be the last time the two will meet. Pallante and Fequierson share the same district and region, so they will most likely see each other in the postseason, which begins in a few weeks.
Fort Lauderdale-St. Thomas Aquinas won the team title, edging Palm Harbor by one point, 229 to 228.
“Brown-Knight propels Palmetto Ridge to Chase Life Invite title”
By Scott Clair, Posted December 15, 2012
After a five-year absence, a wrestling tournament returned to Palmetto Ridge in a big way on Saturday at the Chase Life Invitational. There were many happy faces at the North Naples school, but none happier than the Bears’ 170-pounder, Ashani Brown-Knight.
Brown-Knight, a senior who will turn 18 next Sunday, won his weight class with a 7-5 decision over Ft. Lauderdale-Cardinal Gibbons’ Jeiko DaSilvier in overtime in the finals of the 21-school tournament.
“It was a hard finals match. In training, I concentrate on endurance and my endurance paid off,” said Brown-Knight, a happier-than-normal high school wrestler.
It’s not that he won his division and was awarded the event’s most outstanding wrestler in the middleweight classes which made Brown-Knight so happy. It’s that he’s able wrestling at all.
Brown-Knight was cleared by the FHSAA to wrestle just 10 days ago after initially being ruled ineligible as a fifth-year senior. He enrolled at Palmetto Ridge in 2009 as a sophomore after attending the equivalent of high school in Jamaicafor two years.
“Before the ruling, my spirit was broken,” said Brown-Knight, who was inspired to wrestle by watching the WWE on TV. “I was very concerned that my wrestling days were over. When I heard the news I was so excited and happy.”
Brown-Knight’s victory was one of three individual wins for the Bears, which won the team title, outdistancing second-place Cardinal Gibbons and third-place LemonBay. Palmetto Ridge placed six wrestlers in the finals out of 14 weight classes.
Besides Brown-Knight, junior Theo Curto (152), Dylan Jones (160) claimed individual titles for the Bears. Freshman Joey Nadotti (138), Kristian Suarez (220) and Bruce Estanislao (285) lost in the finals for Palmetto Ridge.
The Chase Life, named after former Bears wrestler Chase Hoover who died from cancer in 2011, was Brown-Kinght’s second tournament back. He placed third at the prestigious Captain Archer in Port Charlotte last week.
Golden Gate, South Fort Myers and GulfCoast were the only other CollierCounty schools to compete. The rest of the teams hailed from the East Coast and the Tampa area. The Wolfpack’s Ramsey Cruz won at 145 pounds. The Titans’ Jalyn Gause (third in 170) was the only other area wrestler to place.
Jamal Morris (132) of Gibbons and Adam Hude (182) were named the most outstanding wrestlers in the light and heavy weight classes.
“We wrestle Southwest Florida teams all the time,” said Bears coach Laz Rua. “We wanted to bring in teams we don’t see, and this way we can see kids we’ll meet in the postseason.”
Bears assistant coach, David Parmenter, who organized the tournament, coached Hoover as a freshman in 2007.
“Chase was a great kid,” Parmenter said. “This tournament gives kids a chance to wrestle in a big time tournament before the postseason.”
The last time Palmetto Ridge hosted a tournament, the Diesel Duals, was in 2007. On Saturday, the school’s gym was filled with spectators
The Bears’ finalists gave the crowd a lot to cheer about, three of the six matches went to overtime.
Curto was trailing 2-1 with seconds remaining in the match. He forced his opponent, Nick Scofield of Lemon Bay into a stall and was awarded a trying point to send the match into the extra session.
Seconds into overtime, Curto scored a 2-point takedown for the 4-2 decision. Jones didn’t require overtime but he needed every second of regulation for his victory.
Trailing 2-1 in the waning seconds, Jones rolled Lemon Bay’s Bobby Caspolich for a 2-point takedown and the win.
“We put ourselves through hell this week in practice,” Curto said. “We worked to hard to lose.”
“Youth club helps keep Palmetto Ridge wrestling strong”
By Scott Clair, Posted December 11, 2012
Palmetto Ridge freshman Joey Nadotti stepped onto the mat at the Foxboro Duals at Lely High School last weekend.
He was wrestling an upperclassman, as he would most of the weekend. It would be one of the first matches on the prep level for the 145-pound freshman. He wasn’t nervous. Less than two minutes after the referee signaled the start of the match, Nadotti pinned his opponent.
Despite his inexperience at the high school level, Nadotti had what his opponent lacked — thousands of matches, many on the national level, under his belt. The kid, as part of the Bear Wrestling Club, has been wrestling since he was 5 years old.
Nadotti would go undefeated in seven matches for the tournament.
The Bears, a perennial wrestling powerhouse with two state titles, lost seven grapplers to graduation from last year’s team. Such an exodus would decimate most schools.
Not Palmetto Ridge.
“We’re not rebuilding,” said Bears head coach Laz Rua. “We’re reloading. This team is young and gifted.”
Thanks to the Bears Wrestling Club, with more than 50 elementary and middle school-aged kids among its participants, Palmetto Ridge basically has its own farm system.
Besides Rua, the organization is run and coached by David Parmenter, who has had two sons wrestle for Palmetto Ridge with two more on the way, and Josh McIntosh. Practices are Monday and Wednesday nights at Palmetto Ridge.
With most schools, underclassmen have little or no mat experience and face a steep learning curve. The Bears, which finished 6-1 at the Foxboros, have an army of hardened wrestling veterans, like Nadotti, waiting in the wings.
“In a four-year high school career, most wrestlers will get in about 150 to 200 matches,” Rua said. “If we can get our little kids 1,000, 2,000 matches before they enter high school, they are so far ahead of the game. As freshmen, they already have the experience of a senior, even more. They already know the basics. They have their own style. We’ve been working with them since they were 5 years old. We work with them for so long, we become a family.”
It’s that family atmosphere Rua speaks about that was the driving force behind the Chase Life Invitational, which will held Dec. 15 at Palmetto Ridge, the school’s first big-time tournament in five years.
Chase Hoover wrestled for Palmetto Ridge as a freshman in 2007. A year later, he was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. His wrestling team, along with two female classmates, designed T-shirts to sell at a fundraiser to help raise money for the Hoover family’s expenses.
The kids designed a logo for the shirt — Chase Life.
In 2011, Hoover succumbed to the disease.
“Our goal is to live his legacy on for him, and to live every day to the fullest as he did,” Rua said. “The main thing is to honor Chase and the battle he fought. He was a great kid. It will also help make our program stronger. This is a step in the right direction. The whole school is behind it.”
Twenty-one schools, all but three from out of the area, are scheduled to compete.
“We wanted to reach out to outside schools. We wrestle local schools all the time. We wanted to wrestle kids we don’t see often,” Rua said
“2011-2012 NDN All-Area Team: Wrestling (SW-FL)”
Posted April 6, 2012
Wrestler of the Year: Mitch Haan, Gulf Coast
Coach of the year: Mike Guitard, Gulf Coast
Joey Haan, Gulf Coast, 106 pounds
Tanis Taylor, Barron Collier, 113
Carlos Sanchez, Palmetto Ridge, 120
Joseph Guelfi, Naples, 126
Theo Curto, Palmetto Ridge, 132
Robbie Jiminez, Palmetto Ridge, 138
Josh Parmenter, Palmetto Ridge, 145
Anthony Curto, Palmetto Ridge, 152
Jayln Gause, Golden Gate, 160
Esteban Rua, Palmetto Ridge, 170
William Norelia, Golden Gate, 182
Brian Walker, Naples, 195
Claudel Alix, Lely, 220
Mitch Haan, Gulf Coast, heavyweight
Honorable mention: Efrain Andres, South Fort Myers, 113; Alex Hernandez, Golden Gate, 113; Pierre Borgela, Immokalee, 113; Mike Blasucci, Barron Collier, 126; Caleb Wilborn, Naples, 132; Craig Connolly, Gulf Coast, 138; Omar Gutierrez, South Fort Myers, 145; Matt Freed, South Fort Myers, 152; Lavanda Warren, Golden Gate, 170; Aaron Reilly, Naples, 182; Joey Federico, Gulf Coast, 195; Sammy Garcia, Estero, 195; Brady Pallante, Barron Collier, Hwt; Jefty Jerome, Golden Gate, Hwt.
“Palmetto Ridge rules roost at 2012 CCACs”
Posted January 14, 2012
Palmetto Ridge was out to prove a point this weekend at the Collier County Athletic Conference wrestling meet — that the Bears still rules the mats around here.
The rest of Collier County got the message loud and clear. Palmetto Ridge earned two easy victories Saturday to finish 6-0 at the two-day event at Immokalee High School. It’s the Bears’ sixth conference championship in seven seasons.
“We wanted to keep the tradition going,” senior 160-pounder Anthony Curto said. “It’s all about (conference). We wanted to make a statement.”
The Bears had an easy time with the six other county public schools. The only team that pushed Palmetto Ridge was Barron Collier, which put up a respectable fight in the Bears’ 45-27 win.
At the CCAC meet, teams wrestle a dual meets against each of the other six schools. Aside from Barron, Palmetto Ridge won the rest of its matchups by 47 points or more.
“This team refuses to lose,” said senior Carlos Sanchez, who went 6-0 at 120 pounds. “I feel fortunate to be a team captain and be part of it. We keep fighting and just hate losing.”
Six Bears finished undefeated and made the All-CCAC team, including Curto who is coming off a torn ACL last season. Theo Curto (138), Robbie Jiminez (145), Josh Parmenter (152) and Esteban Rua (170) also were unbeaten.
Barron Collier finished second in the team standings with a 5-1 record. Three teams finished tied with 3-3 marks, but Gulf Coast took third place on a tiebreaker (penalty points), followed by Golden Gate and Lely. Naples (1-5) was sixth, and Immokalee (0-6) was seventh.
Palmetto Ridge has won seven straight conference championships on the mat, but the Bears had to forfeit their title last year when a wrestler was ruled ineligible after the season. Barron Collier was then awarded the championship.
The disappointment of having to give up last year’s CCAC trophy made the Bears want to win this year even more.
“It definitely was a good motivator,” said Laz Rua, in his second year as Palmetto Ridge’s head coach. “Everybody knew we were the real champions (last year), but on paper we were not. We wanted to prove we were champions last year and this year.”
After losing to the Bears, Barron Collier won its other five matches comfortably. Tanis Taylor (113), Mike Blasucci (126) and Brady Pallante (heavyweight) finished 6-0 and made the all-county team.
Taylor won his second straight conference championship, while Blasucci won his third. In three years on varsity, Blasucci, a junior, has not lost a match at the CCAC meet.
“I wrestle well under pressure,” Blasucci said. “As a team, we wrestled pretty solid all throughout the weights. We’re solidifying the lineup and starting to jell.”
Naples’ Caleb Wilborn (132) and Brian Walker (195) went undefeated at the CCAC. Gulf Coast’s Joey Hahn (106) and Golden Gate’s William Norelia (182) also were 6-0 and made the all-conference team.
2012 All-CCAC team
106 — Joey Hahn, Gulf Coast
113 — Tanis Taylor, Barron Collier
120 — Carlos Sanchez, Palmetto Ridge
126 — Mike Blasucci, Barron Collier
132 — Caleb Wilborn, Naples
138 — Theo Curto, Palmetto Ridge
145 — Robbie Jiminez, Palmetto Ridge
152 — Josh Parmenter, Palmetto Ridge
160 — Anthony Curto, Palmetto Ridge
170 — Esteban Rua, Palmetto Ridge
182 — William Norelia, Golden Gate
195 — Brian Walker, Naples
220 — Alex Claudel, Lely
HWT — Brady Pallante, Barron Collier
Honorable mention: Zach Swatts (Barron Collier), Cole Wright (Palmetto Ridge), Joey Federico (Gulf Coast), Sam Brock (Naples), Pierre Borgela (Immokalee), Jayln Gause (Golden Gate)
“Prep of the Week: Esteban Rua, Palmetto Ridge wrestling”
Posted January 9, 2012 at 7:30 p.m.
Palmetto Ridge wrestler Esteban Rua has all the physical tools to make it to the state finals. He also has an older brother to help push him over the top.
Esteban’s older brother, Laz, is the head coach of the Bears, and is one of Esteban’s biggest supporters. It came as no surprise to the elder Rua that Esteban was able to dominate his title match at the Buzz Hill State Farm Invitational held at Gulf Coast High on Saturday.
“He had an awesome weekend. He owned it,” Laz said. “He’s one of the hardest workers in the gym. He has put his time in at practice and he has put his time in the weight room. It is all a result of that preparation.”
“My brother pushes me to be my best. He pushes me in practice. He pushes me the hardest because he knows my potential,” the younger Rua said. “I love having my brother as a coach. He is an inspiration.”
Esteban earns Prep of the Week honors after winning the 170-pound title at the Buzz Hill with a 6-3 decision over South Dade’s Daniel Saintil, thanks to a pair of takedowns in the final minute of the match. Saintil was the second-ranked wrestler in the state in Class 3A at the time. Rua was the only local grappler to finish first at the tournament.
“It was definitely a major point in my career. (Saintil) was a good wrestler and not many people gave me a shot at beating him,” Esteban said. “I just did what I was capable of and after the second takedown he was done.”
“Esteban kept the pressure on him the entire time and was able to take as many shots as he could,” coach Rua said of the title match. “We wanted to make his opponent wrestle (Esteban’s) kind of game and it worked.”
The Ruas now have their sights set on a state championship.
“We’ve been talking about it since he was 10 years old,” Laz said. “When I was his age, I missed the title by one point, and since then he promised that he would win one for the both of us. I’m a firm believer he will win a state title.”
“Rua delivers title for Palmetto Ridge at Buzz Hill”
By ERIC McKINNEY, Daily News Correspondent
Posted January 7, 2012 at 9:13 p.m.
Four Collier County wrestlers reached the championship finals of the Buzz Hill State Farm Invitational on Saturday but only Esteban Rua delivered a title.
The Palmetto Ridge senior scored an impressive 6-3 decision against South Dade senior Daniel Saintil, who is Class 3A’s second-ranked 170-pounder.
“He controlled the whole match,” Bears coach Laz Rua said. “He was mean, he kept the pressure on and he wrestled the whole six minutes. That’s how you beat those guys.”
The match was tied 2-all until Rua scored a takedown with 48 seconds left. Saintil managed a quick escape only to yield another takedown with 27 seconds left.
“That does boost my confidence,” Rua said. “I feel like I broke the kids … the last 20 seconds he just laid on the mat.”
Palmetto Ridge senior Carlos Sanchez (120) and junior Cole Wright (195) were not as fortunate as Rua. Each lost their respective championship final to a South Dade wrestler and settled for second place.
Barron Collier sophomore Tanis Taylor suffered a similar fate in the 113 finals. Taylor lost a 13-1 major decision to Somerset Academy’s Chase Singletary.
“Tanis being in the finals was nice,” Cougars coach Jeff Mustari said. “I wish he would’ve wrestled a little better, but as long as he learns from this it’s OK.”
Only two other Barron grapplers placed in their respective top six with senior Stephen Decker (152) taking sixth and sophomore heavyweight Brady Pallante placing fourth. The Cougars finished 12th with 93 points.
Palmetto Ridge led Collier County teams with 137.5 points and a sixth-place finish and five placers. Seniors Robbie Jimenez (138) and Josh Parmenter (145) each finished fifth.
“I am satisfied with that,” Laz Rua said. “We’re probably going to take fifth and we were missing the Curto brothers (Theo and Anthony), who are big point-getters. … Our cardio and our strength are where they need to be. We need to work on our technique a little bit, and there’s time to do that.”
South Dade won the Buzz Hill team trophy with 271 points. Durant placed second with 179 points and Charlotte was third at 167.
Gulf Coast, Naples and Immokalee combined to net five more placers for Collier County. The Sharks matched Barron with three with Joe Federico (195) third, Mitch Haan (heavyweight) fifth and Craig Connolly (138) sixth. Brian Walker (195) placed fifth for Naples, while Pierre Borgela (113) finished sixth for the Indians.
Sanchez earns Prep of the Week honors after he went undefeated in the 126-pound weight class to help the Bears claim their second straight Foxboro title. Sanchez was given the outstanding wrestler award for the tournament for the 106-132 weight division.
“I feel like I wrestled good at the tournament,” Sanchez said. “I just hope I can continue like that through districts and regionals and eventually states.”
“He had a great weekend,” Palmetto Ridge head coach Laz Rua said. “He stayed aggressive and he even had an impressive pin against a tough opponent.”
Sanchez even asked to wrestle above his weight class so that he could face a specific opponent in Boca Ciega’s Josh Ruso.
“At the Southside Duals last year, he said that he could beat me,” Sanchez said. “I had to prove him wrong so I asked Coach if I could move up to 132 (pounds).”
“That shows what kind of competitor he is,” Rua said. “Not a lot of kids would actively seek out the best opponent. It just shows how driven he is to succeed.”
Sanchez attributes that success to his preparation and a competitive nature.
“I try keep myself motivated to be the best. Whether it is on the track or in the weight room, everything I do I try to be first,” Sanchez said.
“Bottom line is that the kid is a workhorse,” Rua added. “His goal is to be a state champion and he does everything he needs to do to achieve that. If he plays his cards right and stays healthy, there is no reason why he won’t be a state champ.”
But when it comes to area supremacy, don’t expect anyone to agree on who sits atop the podium.
Palmetto Ridge, Barron Collier and Lely each are responsible for a team title with the Bears last to do so in 2007. They finished runner-up in 2008 and won all 10 of their individual titles from 2006 to 2009, perhaps explaining why Palmetto Ridge tops the list of public opinion these days.
Bears coach Lazaro Rua said it’s all about dedication, insisting his team puts in the most mat time year round and consistently travels the state for the best competition.
“My philosophy is simple, you have to wrestle the best to be the best, and there’s plenty of great wrestling outside of Southwest Florida,” Rua said. “It would be a mistake for us to stay in Southwest Florida and not see the talent the rest of the state has to offer. … We want to prepare for what’s coming once we get to the postseason. We try to find where the best wrestlers are and go after them.”
Palmetto Ridge’s schedule certainly reinforces that claim. The Bears will compete in the Wildcat Invitational (Royal Palm Beach), Captain Archer Memorial (Punta Gorda), Southside Duals (Boca Ciega), Zac Jarzynka Memorial (Oviedo), Bill Bidwell Memorial (Englewood) and the Buzz Hill Invitational hosted by Barron at Gulf Coast.
While certainly impressive, it’s not enough for the outright title of best in Collier County.
Lely’s claim is strengthened by the most recent individual champion — Wismit Moinius in 2010. But that title ended a seven-year drought as the Trojans have struggled significantly in recent years.
Mark Modica takes over at Lely after building South Fort Myers into a strong program and perennial contender. But it likely will take a few years before Modica has the Trojans on a similar level as Palmetto Ridge.
Naples and its eight individual state titles certainly deserve mention. But the fact Aaron Earls was the last Golden Eagles champion in 1999 doesn’t help. Gulf Coast also has a pair of individual titles, but lacks the overall body of work.
That leaves Barron Collier, which boasts a county-best 12 individual champions to go with its 1994 team title. With Ben Carter last topping the podium at Lakeland in 2009, the Cougars clearly have a relevant claim.
Barron also stepped up its schedule this year to not only rival but top that of Palmetto Ridge. The Cougars will see the Bears at the Wildcat Invitational, Captain Archer and Buzz Hill, but also compete in the Battle at the Beach (Jensen Beach), Bulldog Brawl (St. Cloud) and Tony Ippolito Invitational (Brandon).
“I don’t particularly care for going into the state tournament with one or two losses, unless they’re just completely dominant,” Barron coach Jeff Mustari said. “With the schedule we’ve got this year I think you’re going to see five, six or seven losses, which is good, nothing wrong with that. Hopefully what it does is it’ll teach us in tight-match situations how to find the win.”
While Mustari insists his Cougars program is on par with Palmetto Ridge, he understands Barron must beat the Bears before it can rightfully stake its claim. Palmetto Ridge beat Barron in both their head-to-head duals last season.
This season also brings a slight wrinkle into the wrestling equation for all teams as high school wrestling saw its first wholesale weight class changes in 23 years. With an overall upward shift teams must adjust to new weights in 10 of the 14 classes.
The changes start at the bottom with 103 bumping to 106. Only 145, 152, 160 and 285 (heavyweight) remain from last season. Along with 106, wrestlers now can compete at new classes 113, 120, 126, 132, 138, 170, 182, 195 and 220.
The last time the weight classes saw a similar overhaul was 1988, when the lowest weight class changed from 98 to 103. In 2002 the number of classes jumped from 13 to 14 with the addition of 215 and in 2006 the heavyweight class grew from 275 to the current 285.
Don’t expect the changes to affect the one winner-take-all dual between Palmetto and Barron on this season’s schedule — the Collier County Athletic Conference tournament on Jan. 13-14 at Immokalee.
“I like having the competition, that crosstown rival that drives you to work hard and be the best team in the area,” Cougars sophomore Tanis Taylor said. “I think it’s going to be another close match … it’s going to be another war.”
While Taylor and his Barron counterparts take the politically correct approach to the rivalry, Rua clearly takes offense to any claim that Palmetto Ridge might not be Collier’s best.
“Everybody makes this hype about Barron Collier,” Rua said. “Basically, they’re following our footsteps. They know what we do works and it has been working. I salute that. I respect that. … They’re a great team but, in my opinion they’re still not at our level.”
Rua said seeing Barron step up its commitment only increases the Bears’ drive, and that he hopes more Collier teams follow suit.
“We welcome the challenges,” he said. “The more teams that are willing to put in the time and put in the work that Palmetto Ridge has put in, the better wrestling will be in our area.”
“For dedicated area wrestlers, there is no off season”
By Scott Clair
Posted on June 1, 2011
The high school wrestling season runs from November through February.
But for earnest practitioners of the sport, wrestling is a year-round endeavor.
Beginning on June 23, two local wrestling clubs will take their grapplers to the Disney Duals, a national meet, at Disney’s Wide World of Sports Complex in Lake Buena Vista.
The Cougar Wrestling Club and the Bears Wrestling Club, which are filled with athletes from Barron Collier and Palmetto Ridge high schools, will have nearly 30 wrestlers combined competing at the Disney competition.
Jeff Mustari and Laz Rua, head coaches of the Cougars and Bears, respectively, see their clubs and summer meets as critical to the success of their programs.
“Like every other sports program, you have to wrestle year round if you want to be successful at it,” said Mustari, who has been an area coach for 20 years and wrestled at Lely High School. “Nine, 10 months out of the year, our kids are on the mat, trying to get better. If you want to be good at it, not only do you have to do it during the regular season, but during the off season too. If you want to compete for state title, you have to do it all year.”
Rua, entering his second year at the Bears helm, agrees. He tells his athletes that if they are serious about the sport, they need to compete in at least 100 matches during the off season.
“Every successful program wrestles all year,” said Rua, who currently has his club at the Florida Pride Wrestling Camp in Lakeland. “Wrestling is one of those sports the more you do it, the better you get at it. That’s true for any sport but it really applies to wrestling.
“The season is only four months. That’s a very small time frame to learn all the techniques and moves. I use the wrestling season to get kids in great shape and prepare for the state tournament. But I teach most of my techniques during club time. Kids who come into the club season, do better in the high school season.”
The coaches know of what they speak. Barron Collier and Palmetto Ridge, year in and year out, have the best area programs, winning every Collier County Athletic Conference Championship between them, and numerous state title holders.
The Disney Duals will prepare both clubs for the high school state tournament.
“It opens their eyes up to a different level of competition,” said Mustari, who wrestled at Michigan State. “You gain valuable experience at an intense, big meet like that. It lets the kids know how hard they need to work.”
Tanis Taylor, who will be a sophomore in the fall, qualified for states for Barron Collier at 103 pounds as a freshman. He will compete at the Disney’s for the Cougar Wrestling Club.
“The most important thing about wrestling is if you aren’t dedicated all year, you set yourself up for failure,” Taylor said. “The summer program really helps because it gives you the time to develop your skills and when the season comes, you’re better prepared.”
But that preparation comes at a social cost for many of the teen wrestlers.
“It gets hard sometimes to cancel plans and tell my friends I can’t hang out,” Taylor said. “Besides family and school, wrestling is the most important thing to me.”
But competing in the summer also has its payoffs.
“Mat time is essential,” Rua said. “That makes a big difference. Come the high school season, you can tell which kids put in the time during the summer and which didn’t.
“If you really want to be successful at the high school level, you have do it all year.”
“2010-2011 NDN All Area Teams: Wrestling”
Posted on Aril 1, 2011
WRESTLER OF THE YEAR:
William Norelia, Golden Gate
COACH OF THE YEAR:
Lazaro Rua, Palmetto Ridge
Tanis Taylor, Barron Collier
Vic Blasucci, Barron Collier
Mario Vega, South Fort Myers
Harold Sawal, Barron Collier
Theo Curto, Palmetto Ridge
Joseph Guelfi, Naples
Sean McClimans, Palmetto Ridge
D.J. Macyke, Barron Collier
Alejandro Wajner, Palmetto Ridge
Anthony Curto, Palmetto Ridge
Esteban Rua, Palmetto Ridge
Sammy Garcia, Estero
Anthony DeBonis, South Fort Myers
Misael Bahena, Naples
Carlos Sanchez, Palmetto Ridge; Austin Vajen, Barron Collier; Kevin Opalensky, Estero; Guillermo Moreno, Lely; Elmer Francisco, Palmetto Ridge; Skyler Sadez, Barron Collier; Stephen Decker, Barron Collier; Juan Losada, Gulf Coast; Cesar Delarosa, Naples; Matt Freed, South Fort Myers; Saye Vasquez, Golden Gate; Mitch Haan, Gulf Coast; Cole Wright, Palmetto Ridge; Mohammad Farah, Estero; Broderick Roberts, South Fort Myer
“Prep Wrestling: Palmetto Ridge Holds Off Barron to claim Collier County title”
By SCOTT CLAIR
January 15, 2011 at 5:29 p.m.
To cross sports metaphors, Barron Collier needed a grand slam, or at least a triple, going into its last individual match against Palmetto Ridge to claim the Collier County Athletic Conference Wrestling Championship on Saturday at Lely High School.
Instead it got a single, and the Bears, prevailing 34-33, earned their seventh-straight county title.
“People were saying we’re not as good as we used to be,” Palmetto Ridge captain Sean McClimons said. “Today, we showed them we are.”
It was McClimons’ key victory over Barron’s Austin Vajen at 130 pounds that provided the margin of victory and allowed teammate Josh Parmenter to tie up the Cougars at 135 pounds in the next match to earn the team title.
“This victory was important,” said Bears first-year coach Laz Rua, who shares duties with Mario Ashley. “We didn’t want to lose the streak. It came down to Sean and Josh.”
Going into their sixth-round team dual match, both schools were undefeated, having won their previous five matches. After 12 weight classes were contested, Palmetto Ridge led the Cougars 31-30, with the 130 and 135-pounders to go.
“I knew it would be a challenge against Barron,” Rua said. “Their coaches do a great job. I knew it would be close. This is how wrestling is supposed to be.”
With nearly all the competitors and coaches from the county’s seven public high schools gathered around the mat, Vajen and McClimons, the area’s two best 130-pounders, squared off.
McClimmons, a state qualifier last year, decisioned Vajen 4-3 in a technical match to give Palmetto Ridge a 34-30 edge.
“I didn’t know how important the match was,” McClimons said. “I thought we were ahead comfortably. Our match went back and forth. In my mind, I’ll never lose to Vajen. I got to know I’m the bigger dog.”
The two wrestled earlier this season with the same outcome, McClimons winning a one-point decision.
In trailing by four points, Barron needed at least a majority decision from David Macyke at 135 in the final match against Parmenter to even the score and go to a tiebreaker.
In dual match wrestling, a team is awarded three points for a decision, four points for a majority decision (a margin between 8 and 14 points), five for a technical fall (15 point difference), and six points for a pin.
With that in mind, Rua instructed Parmenter to go out and execute the wrestling equivalent of basketball’s four-corner offense — stall and frustrate.
Parmenter did just that, dropping a 5-3 decision but not allowing Macyke to mount any sustained offensive attack to get a pin.
“We always go in with a mentality to win,” Rua said about the last match. “But sometimes when the going gets tough, you have to go into survival mode and simply stay in good position.”
The Bears finished the competition with a 6-0 record. Barron and Gulf Coast followed at 5-1 and 4-2.
For Barron coach Jeff Mustari, the second-place finish was little consolation.
“Our kid needed a majority. He got a decision. That was the difference,” Mustari said. “This is the closest we’ve come. Guess we’ve got to wait another year.”
Of the 14 weight classes, Barron and Palmetto Ridge placed 10 wrestlers among the all-county team. For the Bears, Carlos Sanchez (119) McClimons, Alejandro Wajner (140), Esteban Rua (152) and Joseph Townsend (160) received honors.
Tanis Taylor (103) Vic Blasucci (112), Mike Blasucci (119) Harold Sawal (125), Macyke, and Stephen Decker (145) earned all-county.
Mitch Haan of Gulf Coast was the 215-pound all-county representative. Naples’ Misael Bahena (heavyweight), and two Golden Gate wrestlers Saye Vasquez (171) and William Noriela (189) topped off the all-county team.
“Palmetto Ridge hopes to keep its wrestling streak going at CCAC championships”
By SCOTT CLAIR
January 12, 2011 at 10:55 a.m.
For the most part, high school wrestling is all about the postseason.
Wrestlers use the regular season to work on moves and find their ideal weights to best advance from districts to regionals and, hopefully, the state tournament.
Winning a regular-season tournament is nice, but any competition before February lacks the prestige of playoff competition.
But for Palmetto Ridge, the Collier County Athletic Conference (CCAC) wrestling championships on Friday and Saturday at Lely High means everything.
The Bears have every team county title since 2005, and under first-year coach Laz Rua, Palmetto Ridge is determined to keep the streak going.
“For me, it’s very important,” said Rua, who replaced Steve Hart in October after Hart was fired by the school. “It’s a tradition at the school to win county. We want to keep that tradition alive. It’s something we’re aiming for.”
So the first thing Rua brought up in practice on Tuesday was this weekend’s tournament. He let them know how important winning was for him and the school.
“I hope it’s important to you guys, too,” was how Rua said he concluded his pep talk. “Their determination really showed in practice. They’ve been working their tails off. I don’t know about other teams, but Palmetto Ridge wrestling is going to bring it.”
The CCAC will continue to follow last year’s new dual format. Rather than go with an individual tournament format as in years past, coaches elected to use a dual-match set up, with each of the seven area public high school teams wrestling one another.
That means there are no championship matches, and the team championship will be determined by the school with the best record. The best individual performances in each of the 14 weight classes will be designated All-Conference rather than champions.
The format differs from Rua’s prep wrestling days when he starred for Naples High in the mid 1990s. There, Rua was a two-time state placer, finishing sixth as a junior and second the following year at 119 pounds.
From Naples, Rua moved on to compete for William Penn University, a private college in Iowa. Rua returned in 2004 to serve as an assistant coach at Naples, where he stayed until the beginning of last season.
It was also at Naples where Rua met Mario Ashley, currently the Bears assistant head coach along with Rua.
Rua joined Palmetto Ridge at the start of the 2009/10 season as an assistant under Hart, who was also in his first year at the school. Hart replaced Mark Rosenbalm, under whom the Bears won the 1A state title in 2007, after Rosenbalm became the athletic director at Barron Collier.
According to Rua, the idea was he would serve as an assistant for three or four years until Hart retired before assuming head coaching duties.
“That was the plan,” Rua said. “Then the plan changed.”
Hart was relieved of his duties and Rua and Ashley were asked to assume the helm on an interim basis.
Though it came sooner than expected, Rua said he’s ready to lead a program.
“I put in my time,” he said. “I was an assistant for seven years. I wasn’t expecting it. I was willing to take a back seat, but regardless, I felt I was ready.
“Having Mario is the greatest thing. He makes the job a lot easier. This program has such great support from the school, the coaches and parents. I couldn’t get it done without them.”
At the CCAC competition, the Bears will be led by senior 130-pounder Sean McClimans, a state qualifier last year. Along with McClimans for Palmetto Ridge will be Esteban Rua, Laz’s brother, at 152 pounds, and junior Carlos Sanchez at 119 pounds.
Rua said he is also expecting big things from 125-pound freshman Theo Curto.
“If this kid continues to work hard, he’s going to be amazing,” Rua said of Curto. “He could be Palmetto Ridge’s next two-time state champion.”
But for the purposes of this weekend and continuing the school’s string of six-straight titles, Rua would be happy if Curto became a first-time county champion.
“Prep wrestling: Palmetto Ridge’s Sanchez, Rua place at prestigious Oviedo tournament”
By Naples Daily News staff report
December 29, 2010 at 10:03 p.m.
The Palmetto Ridge wrestling team finished the Zac Jarzynka Memorial tournament in Oviedo on Wednesday with two wrestler placing.
Esteban Rua finished in fourth place in the 152 pound weight class, and Carlos Sanchez finished in sixth place at 119. Most of the other wrestlers on the team finished a match or two short from placing in the top six in their weight divisions.
“They wrestled great,” Bears coach Laz Rua said. “It’s one of the toughest tournaments in the state and we try to wrestle the best guys in the state so we’re ready for the playoffs.”