A HOLD ON HISTORY
KISSIMMEE — Some endings just write themselves.
All Chace Curtis wanted to do was send Columbia head coach Kevin Warner out in style with a state title.
It hadn’t been done at Columbia since Amos Smith won it all in 1975.
That all changed Saturday night.
Curtis, a sophomore, took home the Class 2A state title in the 120-pound weight class with a dominating performance, defeating Venice’s Brent Smallwood by a 6-3 decision. The only points Curtis surrendered came via two stalls and an escape, an escape that actually allowed him to come away with a takedown for points of his own.
“I still can’t believe it,” Curtis said. “It’s awesome. There’s no better feeling.”
Warner announced his retirement earlier this season and hasn’t seen a pupil stand at the highest point at the podium in all his years coaching.
Curtis was determined to make it happen.
“It’s all I wanted to do,” Curtis said.
The Tiger defeated Nelson Elder out of Choctawhatchee by an 11-1 decision in the semifinals, one day after cruising through the first two rounds of the state tournament. Curtis pinned Springstead’s Vinny D’Alessandro in the opening round Friday and later knocked off Viera’s Gavin Johnson in the final eight by an 11-6 decision.
Warner wasn’t surprised in the least to see Curtis standing tall Saturday night.
“Chace came to me last year as a freshman, and I knew he had something special,” Warner said. “He struggled a little bit last year with weight cut, but man did he do a fantasic job this year. He got his weight under control and just lived up to my expectations. I’ve expected this from him now for two years and he did it, and I expect even more out of him his junior and senior years. I couldn’t write a better ending for my coaching career, and I’m grateful for the opportunity.”
Marcus Zeighler finished sixth in the 285-pound weight class for Columbia. “Bear” squeaked through Friday with a 2-1 win over Jordon Ortega out of Belleview in the opening round before edging Dixie Hollins’ Jesse Smith 3-2 in the round of eight.
But the senior’s luck ran out in the semifinals Saturday when he fell 6-0 to Fort Myers’ Mike Delago.
“I was wrestling a really, really good kid. I did all I could do,” Zeighler said. “I left everything on the mat, and that’s all my coach can ask of me, so I’m really not disappointed.”
Delago went on to finish runner-up in the 285 class while Zeighler won the sixth-place match.
“Bear wrestled probably one of the best matches I’ve ever seen him wrestle and just came up a little short,” Warner said. “I’ve been coaching Marcus since the sixth grade, so him getting a medal out of this is phenomenal.”
Zeighler didn’t hang his head as he watched on from the bleachers the rest of the night as Curtis delivered on his goal of a state title.
“I’m very excited for him, I’m excited for my coach, and I’m excited for the school,” Zeighler said. “It’s a big thing for all of us.”
It was certainly a big deal for Warner, who cherishes the victory just as much as Curtis.
“We appreciate the school, the city of Lake City and all they’ve done to help us. We look forward to their support as we move forward and keep trying to build this program. I won’t be a direct part of it, but I’ll be around. I’ll always be around.”