Conch at Battle at the Bay

The Key West High wrestling team, missing several keys matsmen, still fought through a tough Battle at the Bay, hosted by Cypress Bay, on Friday, Jan. 15, and Saturday, Jan. 16, a day after the Region 4-1A Duals, during which the Conchs went 5-6 to help coach Chaz Jimenez claim his 200th career dual victory.

Sure, Key West High wrestling coach Chaz Jimenez would have preferred to finish the Battle at the Bay with a better record than 4-5, but it was enough to reach a milestone for the Conchs coach, who now has 200 wins in his storied career, while also guiding senior 195-pounder Zach Lewicki to his 30th straight win to open the season on Friday and Saturday, Jan. 14-15, at Cypress Bay High.

“I thought we could have been 6-3, we lost matches we shouldn’t have lost and were short-handed, but the guys battled,” said Jimenez. “We had to move around and bump guys around to wrestle certain weights so we could match up the best we could. Any matches any of our key guys lost, that really hurt us, because we wrestled some pretty tough teams, so it was a pretty good experience overall.”

According to Jimenez, the most impressive win of the weekend for Key West came against Miami Palmetto, 37-35, during which James Searcy at 124 pounds and Jason Flynn at 149 pounds scored early pinfalls, before the Conchs closed out the match with victories — from Alexander Marcotte in the 164-pound weight class, Vlad Piari at 174 pounds, Lewicki at 195, Ralph Richie with a 9-7 decision in the 224 class, and heavyweight River Cuntio-Lyda — in five of the six upper weight classes.

Key West also score a second-consecutive dual win against new District 16-4A rival Miami Killian, this time by a convincing 60-24, after losing the first meeting of the season against the Cougars.

“They were missing a lot of guys, but we wanted to continue to leave that doubt in their head and set up the stage for districts, so it was important to win that,” Jimenez said about the victory against Killian. “We wrestled them pretty well.”

On the flip side, the biggest loss for Key West, according to the coach, was a 39-36 defeat to Miramar, during which Jimenez, in hindsight, explained he should have bumped Lewicki to the 220-pound match and not allowed the senior to take the forfeit at 195. Richie would take a tough 6-2 loss in the 220-pound match for the Conchs, and Cutino-Lyda also, surprisingly pinned, to give Mirimar the three-point triumph.

“We should have won that one for sure,” said Jimenez. “River had no business losing that, but had his man on his back and then basically pulled the kid on top of him, and those two matches were the difference since they had every weight filled and we were forfeiting at 106 and 113. Really, I thought we would have won that dual handily, so I was trying to get some other guys more matches.”

The coach also furthered a loss to Heritage, during which Key West just “did not wrestle well in that one,” also should have swung in favor of the Conchs.

“We beat Palmetto and Palmetto beat (Heritage), but we just did match up and it was just a bad dual,” said Jimenez, whose team also wrestled twice during the Region 4-1A Duals on Thursday, Jan 13. “Those two losses stuck in my craw, but the guys battled being short-handed, and it was an experience getting 11 matches in three days.”

During those 11 matches, Lewicki remained unbeaten on the season to improve his record to 30-0 — with 16 pinfalls and his closest decision on the year an 8-point major.

“That’s big,” said Jimenez. “He’s wrestling really well, and I think he’s been head and shoulders above everybody else he’s wrestled. He wrestled the kid from Columbus again this weekend, he beat him at our home tournament, and Zach once again manhandled him, so he’s just getting better. Hopefully, in the final three weeks of the season, we will find someone who will push him, because he needs that before the state tournament begins. But that will be tough to find because he’s wrestling really well right now.”

Lewicki will have just two matches to improve that record this week, during a tri-match on Wednesday, Jan. 19, at Coral Shores also against Florida Christian, and Jimenez expressed that the “light week” — after six weigh-ins in the two-week span — comes at the right time.

“Especially with a lot of the guys recovering from being sick, we needed to not travel this weekend, so the goal (on Wednesday) is to get the younger guys matches and make the older guys still have to make weight,” said Jimenez. “Only having three days of practice the last two weeks, we will also look to get in the room so we can clean up some things, but also get that rest before the final grind of six straight weeks to the state finals.”

Wednesday’s tri-meet at Coral Shores will be the final two duals of the season for Jimenez to move past the historic mark, which came via a 60-6 victory on Saturday versus McArthur, as the regular season closes out with the focus on the individual wrestlers entering the postseason.

“I didn’t know when I got to 100, but this past season, when I did the stats, I realized I was at 189 and sixty-something, so I only needed 11 more wins to get to 200,” said Jimenez. “It’s a pretty cool accomplishment, especially because we only average about 20 duals a year. It shows our consistency in the program and what we have accomplished with the guys, year in and year out.”