Mater Lakes Academy junior Ethan Vergara didn’t know if he would wrestle again after he suffered a torn meniscus during a match last year.
He needed surgery and rehab. But his perseverance paid off.
The 16-year-old is the Florida High School Athletic Association Class 1A state 285-pound champion, after defeating Somerset Academy junior Matthew Jimenez March 6 in the title bout in Kissimmee.
Ethan got the win in dramatic style.
“Honestly, I couldn’t believe it,” he said. “When the clock was ticking down, I got the pin with one second left on the clock
and I reached my goal that I set since the 8th grade. The pressure is now off my chest.”
It was the rivals 15th match, and Ethan’s record is 13-2 in those meets.
“We knew each other’s styles very well and it was tough going down the wire,” Ethan said. “My knee was OK throughout the season, so I went out there and wrestled hard to get the win. This is a great accomplishment for me and our school.”
The Mater Lakes Academy campus is in Hialeah, at 17300 NW 87th Ave.
Coach Brandon Neifeld said Ethan worked hard during the summer to recover from surgery.
“He lifted weights to gain more upper body strength and worked on strengthening his knee,” Neifeld said.
Ethan has come a long way from a newcomer in the 8th grade to being a state champion; he finished fifth at the state tournament last year.
“I’m glad that he achieved that goal for a high school wrestler,” Neifeld said. “We kind of expected him to win someday.”
Ethan brought home the school’s third state title in wrestling.
Nick Luna won it in the 120-pound weight class in 2019 and Carolyna Bellon captured the state championship in the girls’ division, Neifeld said.
Ethan has a 3.3 GPA, said he’s already begun training for next season and has caught the eye of some college coaches.
“I would like to win it again next year,” Ethan said. “That would be a big accomplishment.”