WRESTLING: Curtis falls shy of state title, captures third
Chace Curtis wasn't going down without a fight. After dropping his semifinal, Curtis battled back in the consolation final to claim third place at state final Saturday in Kissimmee.
Curtis' strong performance, along with Daniel Mann's overtime finish, helped the Tigers cap off their season on a high note – finishing 18th out of 84 state teams.
Curtis, who captured the school's first state in 41 years in 2016, wasn't able to get another gold. But the senior has no qualms – walking away with the bronze medal.
"Honestly, I'm just glad to be back on the podium this year," said Curtis, who was hampered by a back injury last season. "Because last year I kinda choked a little bit. I knew this year I had to at least get on the podium."
He did just that, defeating Francisco St. Surin of Palmetto Ridge (7-2) for third.
"He did an excellent job," Columbia coach Pete Whittington said. "His semifinal match probably should've been the finals match, but it's just the way the bracket worked out. He ended up having to battle his way back from third but he looked great the entire weekend."
Curtis opened the state finals on fire, cruising through his first two quarterfinal matches to reach the semifinals. The Limestone College commit met his match, though, against reigning state champ Chris Rivera out of Fort Myers. Both wrestlers went back and forth during the clash before Rivera defeated Curtis 4-0.
Despite losing to nationally-ranked Rivera, Curtis bounced back to win his next two matches, finishing 4-1 on the weekend.
"I'm just glad to be back on the podium," Curtis said. "I'm looking forward to wrestling in college now."
Curtis finishes his career as one of the best ever to take the mat for Columbia.
"He's a state champion in 2016 and third place in 2018. That's a great high school career," Whittington said.
Curtis (126) wasn't the only Tiger who put in work this weekend. He was joined at state by Mann (132), Matt Ross (138) and Zion James (182). Mann advanced to the semifinals, but fell short during the 'blood round'. He still finished 8th in his class.
"Overall I'm proud of the entire team," said Whittington. "Everybody we brought here won at least one match, and that's a tremendous accomplishment for our team… We did fantastic. I'm super proud of these boys."
After a promising winter campaign, the Tigers now look ahead to next season with plenty of wresters slated to return to the program. But for now, Columbia must say farewell to its three standout seniors (James, Mann and Curtis), who carried the squad all season. The young Tigers will have big shoes to fill.
"I'm really encouraged about where our team is going to be next year," Whittington added. "We're graduating three excellent wrestlers. We're going to miss Zion. We're going to miss Daniel. We're going to miss Chace. But we got some boys coming up from middle school who will fill in a couple weight classes. And we have enough returners from this year, who were able to hold their own wherever we went. So I am really encouraged where we're going to be next year."