Lake Gibson didn't let the opponent's top-position escapes determine the outcome of the Class 2A, District 6 Duals on Thursday night. Instead, the Braves needed to work that much harder to utilize takedowns and ultimately take first place once more.
That determination led to a 69-9 win over Auburndale in the first-place match, which cemented the fifth year in a row the program hoisted the championship trophy.
Auburndale finished as the district runner-up for the second year in a row. Lakeland ended the day in third place, while Lake Wales was fourth. Kathleen High School didn't attend the event.
"We got a really good group of guys that come in and work hard day in and day out," Lake Gibson head wrestling coach Danny Walker said. I think Auburndale is doing the same thing now. They're on that trend of working hard day in and day out, so they're a much improved team (than) what they were last year. So we knew that we had to bring our best game, because obviously, like I said, they're a young and upcoming team. If we sit there and take it lightly against them, they're going to give us a hard time. ... We weren't going to take any chances like that and we wanted to come through and do the best we could."
The best from Lake Gibson (17-0) was early and often, which led to taking down Lakeland High School 78-6 and shutting out Lake Wales 86-0.
Blowout wins paved the way for the first-place match. Lake Gibson's Alex Walker (132) in the match faced Auburndale's Victor Turner, executing his single-leg takedown before getting on top, which led to a pin.
While Walker went 3-0, he said he has much to improve.
"I got a lot to work on (heading) to regionals and states, but mainly (it's) conditioning, and I have to work on a lot of technique," Walker said. "It's great. We all work hard. We all work for the same goal: state champs."
Danny Walker said he expected to win districts.
"It feels good, but I'm not going to lie, it's sort of what we expect," he said. "It's what we expect year in and year out. It's sort of just where we've gotten. Anything short of that, we don't want to say it's unsuccessful, but it would be a big letdown. ... Everything has a turnover. Eventually that time will come. But for the time being, we like being the top of the crop."
The Braves will gear up for regionals 5 p.m. next Thursday at Lake Gibson.
Haworth leads Auburndale
The Bloodhounds (15-7) beat Lakeland 48-36 and shut out Lake Wales 84-0 en route to their second-place finish.
"I thought all my wrestlers came out and wrestled hard," Auburndale coach Antonio Thomas said. "I was really excited about going up against Lakeland, because we haven't seen them all year, and it was a good dual. They got some good wrestlers over there. It was an exciting feeling going up against them. Lake Gibson, they are who they are. And you just got to keep working so at some point you can compete on their level. But overall we had a good day."
Nick Haworth (182) came up big for the Bloodhounds. Haworth won by decision over Lake Gibson's Connor Hackett in the first-place match. He utilized his double underhook and a whizzer before putting pressure on Hackett's back. Haworth finished the day 3-0, including two pins.
"I think my stamina is good," he said. "I just got to perfect everything that I need to perfect, and just go from there. I need to get better at shots, just the small technique that isn't perfected yet — just work on that and that's pretty much it."
Heavyweight Nate Gabriel in the first-place match executed double underhooks and used his weight to bring home the victory.
"I feel like I'm at a great place," he said. "I feel like I can get better as well."
The Bloodhounds are primed for the Eagle Duals on Saturday, while regionals are next Thursday at Lake Gibson.
Lake Wales competes for 1st time in two years
It's been two years since Lake Wales has had a wrestling program.
Husam Mustafa (138), who went 1-2 on the day, was the Highlanders' top wrestler.
"Husam Mustafa, he came in and he was ready to go," Lake Wales coach Curtis Gibson said. "The consistency of move transition, that really helped him, and transitioning those moves was basically his advantage with Lakeland. Mustafa did that by listening, being conditioned, and most of all, having heart."
Gibson said there was a reason why he wanted to coach at the school.
"I came to Lake Wales High School wrestling team because of the potential in growth, and wanted to share my knowledge with the kids who want to learn the basics of wrestling," he said. "Believe it or not, basics will take you to states. ... I feel optimistic about our program at Lakes Wales High School and excited to see it grow."
The school's varsity team will next compete in a Lake Wales duals Jan. 20.
This article originally appeared on The Ledger: Lake Gibson wins fifth wrestling duals district championship