Girls wrestling program ends first official year at states


photo by Karson Cuozzo

Senior Jada Llamido is about to start her third place match. Llamido won this match, and took third at the state tournament.

For the first time in FHSAA history, girls wrestling became sanctioned this year. While this may not seem like a big deal to some, it is for girl wrestlers all over Florida, as they get to fight for their spot in the state tournament like the boys do every year.

Last year, everyone who wrestled had a chance to compete at “states,” but they did not actually earn their spot. Any girl wrestlers who could compete at their own state tournament were able to within the unregulated process. 

“It’s heartwarming to see how much women’s wrestling has grown since I was in grade school,” senior Jada Llamido said. “These next coming years the program is going to grow more, and the sport will gain more respect throughout the world.” 

This year that all changed, as the varsity girls wrestling team competed at conference, districts, regions and the state championship tournament. 

Senior Jada Llamido, senior Megan Kaplan and junior Megan Dathe made it through all of the stages to qualify for states. 

“I was excited for the girls. We finally got to compete on the same stage as the boys,” Kaplan said.

The team’s journey to states started Feb. 5 at conference. They all performed well, Llamido (140 weight class) and Kaplan (125 weight class) both took first, and Dathe (145 weight class) took second. 

“I thought the girls did a good job at conference, but there were still improvements to be made,” boys head coach Scotty Diaz said. 

Coming off of a high success, the team moved into districts with high confidence on Feb. 8. The top performers were Llamido and Kaplan, both taking first in their weight classes, with Dathe taking second. 

“The girls exceeded my expectations for sure at districts as we walked away with two champs, a runner up and a third place finish. That gave us our very first regional qualifiers in school history,” girls head coach Paul Cuozzo said.

Following districts, every girl on the team qualified for regionals at Bay Haven High School in Panama City on Feb. 19. 

Llamido, along with her other wins, took first place at regionals. Her semifinal match was against Olivia Richie from Ponte Vedra High School, which was one of her hardest matches at regionals. Llamido and Richie have history with seeing each other in the finals and semifinals matches, but Llamido has always beaten her. Kaplan took third, and Dathe took fourth at regionals which qualified them for states. 

“Overall, they did great. Llamido was our first ever regional champ, Kalan finished third in one of the toughest weight classes and Dathe rounded us out with a fourth place finish. We lost one but moved three to states, which was still a huge accomplishment for our program,” Cuozzo said.

The moment the girls have been working for finally came: states. The state tournament was held at the Silver Spurs Arena March 3-5.

“Staying focused and trying not to make the state tournament seem too big was my main focus for the girls,” Diaz said.  “It was a big moment for girls wrestling, but it’s still just one match at a time.”

Competition at the state tournament was difficult. Kaplan and Dathe both competed, but fell short of making it to the final day. 

“Personally I feel like I did alright, but could have done better. I am proud of myself. This was only my second season wrestling and I made it to the second day at the state tournament,” Kaplan said. 

Llamido took third place at the state tournament after losing 3-2 in the semifinals.

“I was very nervous going to states because on the first day I woke up very sick. I was worried that I wasn’t going to be able to wrestle as well,” Llamido said. 

Over the past three years of Llamido wrestling, she has only collected two losses. Last year, Llamido went undefeated and won the state title. Her sophomore year, Llamido lost in the state finals, which resulted in her placing second. Llamido wrestled overseas her freshman year in Germany and took first place, as well as taking first place in Colorado her eighth grade year. 

Llamido went through a lot of struggles this season with injuries but she still pushed through.

“It’s very hard not to have your body feel 100% because you can’t wrestle your hardest or the injury just gets worse because you can’t take a break,” Llamido said. 

The team broke barriers and persevered through tough situations on and off the mat, and their coaches could not be prouder. 

“This was an emotional season as we’re losing two seniors that were amazing mentors and team leaders, ”Cuozzo said. He hopes the team can “just keep moving in the right direction and continue building the program as we have been.”