Quality over quantity was the motto of the Ponte Vedra girls wrestling program this season and they proved that once again with their performances at the 2022 FHSAA State Championships March 3-5 in Kissimmee.
The Sharks sent four competitors to the state competition and the highlight performance came from junior Olivia Richie, who was crowned the state champion in the 140-pound class.
To win the title she defeated Sofia Delgado, who had been Richie’s only loss during the season.
Having finished runner-up at states a year ago, was the driving force the Richie used to get back and this time seal the deal.
“I found my rhythm last year, so I knew going in this year that I was in good position and was determined to do whatever I needed to do to win a state title,” Richie said.
That determination included training four hours a day for five days a week.
“Last year, when she got runner-up at states it sparked a fire in her,” head coach Nadine Fiege said. “She’s the hardest working person I know.”
Her family saw firsthand how much work she put in to get to this point and to achieve the goal she set in the offseason was an emotional moment for everyone close to her.
“Right after I got up from the ground floor of the arena everybody was waiting for me, and it felt like I hugged everyone at once,” Richie said.
Just because Richie has won a state title does not mean wrestling is still not prevalent in her mind, as she plans to focus on competing in national tournaments during the offseason with the hopes of winning one of those as well.
She has big plans for her senior year, as she hopes to not only win a second-straight state title but do it in even more commanding fashion.
“I’ve realized that a lot of the success we have in our individual performances comes from having that close team support,” Richie said.
The Sharks finished second in the team competition with 67 points, just one point ahead of Matanzas in third place. Orlando Freedom topped the team standings with 142.
What makes the Sharks’ team result impressive is that they did it with only four wrestlers qualified for state and outdueled schools with much larger numbers, including one team that had 13 wrestlers taking part in the competition.
Freshman Erin Rizzuto stormed onto the scene in her first year with a third-place finish in the 115-pound class after losing her semifinal match by one-point in overtime. It was the first loss of the season for Rizzuto.
“She definitely has a bright future ahead of her,” Fiege said.
Natalia Choquegonza earned a seventh-place finish in the 125 class and Cynthia Kowitski held her own in the 110-pound class, as they both captured crucial team points in the process.
“We’re looking to build a dynasty,” Fiege said. “This success will only help bring us even more recognition to the program.”
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