“It’s a great day to be a Hurricane.”
That was the one big takeaway for Citrus boys weightlifting coach Chop Alexander as he exited the Belleview High School gym on Saturday — as a Region 6 champion.
Going in, Alexander was asked how close he thought his ’Canes were to winning the team’s second straight regional title so Citrus could perhaps have a banner prepared that read “Regional Champions.”
“I said I don’t know, but I got the money to spend and so if we win we had something to celebrate with,”
With 58 points total — 29 points ahead of the runner-up — and three lifters earning automatic bids to the State Championship, there was plenty to celebrate.
“The kids had fun,” Alexander said. “This was my first year back doing this. If you would have told me at the beginning of the year that we’d be regional champions, I would have said you’re crazy.”
Overall, 14 Hurricane lifters competed. They weren’t the only guys representing Citrus County though. Finishing ninth overall, Crystal River will send a lifter to the State Championship for a second consecutive year to make for four county athletes total.
At the 154 weight class for the Pirates, following his third-place finish at the county meet and runner-up performance at districts, junior Logan Wardlow will make the trip to DeLand High School in April after his 445-pound total Saturday.
How did he make the jump in his total after the district meet on March 6? Well, his two weeks off didn’t include rest and relaxation.
“It was a lot of benches, a lot of heavy front squats and clean and jerks,” Wardlow said. “I got personal records on all my lifts and went up 15 pounds from the last meet. We had two weeks off, and I’ve just been grinding and it paid off
“I didn’t expect to place in any meets. I thought I was going to get whooped. I’m excited, and we’ll see how (state) goes.”
Pirates coach Tony Lewis, in his second year, had three lifters total compete. With an automatic bid from Wardlow, another Pirate could be in the mix as well.
“I thought the kids we had here did well,” Lewis said. “Obviously Logan had personal bests to propel him to victory — he’s been working really hard in the weight room. Caleb (Bray) did really well — he had a personal best in bench — so he’s in that pool. Trevor (Bechtel) was seeded ninth and finished seventh, so I’m just really proud of all the kids. They worked really hard.”
Joining Wardlow in representing the county at the big 1A meet will be, as of now, three Hurricanes. Justice Walker at 183 followed up his first-place showing at districts with a 550-pound total to become a regional champion. The senior beat out the competition by 50 or more pounds.
“He’s so mentally strong, but I know he never really had this pressure before,” Alexander said. “It’s great to see him overcome that fear. Everyone gets that fear and he was just able to suppress it and do his best. With 14 teams you’re competing against, you never know what the competition is going to be like. He came in and did exactly what he said he was going to do.”
Joining him will be his sophomore teammate at the unlimited class, South Sumter transfer Christian Solomon. Follow him in any meet throughout the year this season and he may have been easy to miss. Solomon won’t be found chanting, cheering or getting hyped up — but he can always be found winning and Saturday was no different. A 610-pound total put him 50 pounds ahead of the runner-up and sent Solomon to another champion title after taking the county and district meet with ease.
“He’s very low-key, but he works hard,” Alexander said. “Whenever I’m in the weight room, I scan it just to see if people are doing stuff when they think I’m not looking and he’s always working. That’s why he’s always progressing. The sky is the limit for that kid. This year, I think he’ll make a mark at state, but the after that, he’ll be a stud if he keeps it up.”
Perhaps the most impressive performance of the day, however, was from another Citrus senior. Last season a junior Chris Adamson was the lone state representative at the state meet. Adamson swept up meets at the county, district and regional level.
This season, Adamson scratched out at the county meet that ended in an infamous tie with Lecanto for first place. He then took runner up at the district meet — struggling with the flu the entire time. Saturday, with a 545 total, Adamson earner back his champion status for his state bid.
“It’s a huge redemption,” Adamson said. I got district champ last year, then I was a runner-up. At districts, I actually had a virus. So then for those two weeks off, I could not lift. I came in today having not lifted for two weeks. I lowered my weight to weigh lower than the guy who was ahead of me so I could tie him to win. That was my strategy. I’ve seen what he got at clean and jerk and knew I had to beat him by 30 pounds, so I had to get 260 on clean and jerk — I barely got it, but I did.
“I was pretty nervous because at districts I was sick and felt horrible — I felt great today.”
Adamson’s performance, going in cold turkey and having everything go according to plan, just added to the many factors that made it a “great day” for Citrus.
“I thought that was clutch,” Alexander said. “He had the flu, and I really thought he should have won districts, but I like when guys have something to work towards. Even (Austin Quandt), he took second, and now him and those other guys in second have some incentive to work harder.”
At 199, Quandt found himself in a very similar position to his district performance — going tit for tat with Dominique Walker of Central High School. Though Quandt got the best of Walker by 5 pounds to become a district champ, it was Walker who came out on top for the narrow regional win this time. At 219 for Citrus, and another senior, Destin Cali was also coming off a first-place district showing with a 575 total. On Saturday, Cali took second place with a 570 — losing out by five pounds.
But the season isn’t over yet. For the state meet at DeLand High School on April 7-8, the regional champion for each weight class are the only ones who get an automatic big. The rest of the placers in each class are thrown into a wild-card pool of which only the next best 12 from each class get selected.
“Now they know this is serious. You’re not going to get by off of just grunting,” Alexander said of those waiting to see if they qualify for the state meet. “These other guys out there are putting in just as much work, if not more. So they really have to turn up and be serious. They’re seniors, they have basically six more lifts and they’re done. There’s no more. This is it. The pressure is on. Hopefully they can step up and do the things they need to do to leave their mark.”
Class 1A-Region 6 Championship
At Belleview High School, March 25
1. Citrus, 58; 2. Gulf, 29; 3. Hernando, 24; 4. Zephyrhills, 23; 5. South Sumter, 18; 6. Central, 15; 7. River Ridge, 15; 8. Fivay, 11; 9. Crystal River, 9; 10. Nature Coast, 9; 11. Anclote, 7; 12. Weeki Wachee, 1.
119: 1. John First, ZH, 355; 2. Antrevis Hardy, GUL, 355; 3. Kenten Emerson, ZH, 325; 4. Sean Bedford, CIT, 295; 5. Wyatt Murong, GUL, 270; 6. Roger Wolcott, RR, 255.
129: 1. Alex Smith, ANC, 445; 2. Kyle Ervin, CIT, 365; 3. Aleksander Martin, ZH, 360; 4. Jordan Evans, FIV, 355; 5. Justin Clark, ZH, 265.
139: 1. John Lennox, FIV, 400; 2. Brunson Tafelski, HER, 380; 3. Boston Tafelski, HER, 375; 4. Dylan Fruh, CIT, 360; 5. Darrion Davis, CEN, 360; 6. Austin Miller, CIT, 345.
154: 1. Logan Wardlow, CR, 445; 2. Justin Driver, CIT, 440; 3. Wyatt Shaw, SS, 430; 4. Dylan Hitchner, ZH, 425; 5. Dazriel Acosta, CIT, 425; 6. Tyler Greer, WW, 420.
169: 1. Chris Adamson, CIT, 545; 2. Jalon Taylor, SS, 545; 3. Dylan Sherman, GUL, 520; 4. Robert Russell, CEN, 520; 5. Caleb Bray, CR, 510; 6. Cody Russell, CIT, 470.
183: 1. Justice Walker, CIT 550; 2. Noah Guido, RR, 500; 3. Kevin Powell, GUL, 495; 4. Dakota West, CIT, 495; 5. RJ Harrington, CEN, 465; 6. Austin Vellucci, RR, 460.
199: 1. Dominique Walker, CEN, 580; 2. Austin Quandt, CIT, 580; 3. Dalton O’toole, RR, 510; 4. Brad Nash, GUL, 500; 5. Jacob Butts, HER, 485; 6. Joey Mancuso, FIV, 465.
219: 1. Colin Pagels, HER, 575; 2. Destin Cali, CIT, 570; 3. Skyler Skipper, SS, 530; 4. Caleb Keeling, ZH, 525; 5. Seth Moore, RR, 525; 6. Matthew Miranda, GUL, 520.
238: 1. Romeo Taylor, GUL, 580; 2. Augustus Carwell, NCT, 545; 3. Will Remley, CIT, 540; 4. Luther Miller, HER, 440; 5. Gabe Angeles, RR, 425; 6. Kelvonte Roberts, CEN, 305.
HWT: 1. Christian Solomon, CIT, 610; 2. Brandon Clark, SS, 560; 3. Wellman Logan, NCT, 530; 4. Mario Pena, GUL, 530; 5. Max Prindle, HER, 520; 6. Raymond Loeffler, HER, 520.