PANAMA CITY BEACH — Michael Head came into the state finals wearing banned jewelry, but walked out adorning one of the most coveted pieces.
The Lake Wales senior was one of three Polk County lifters to win a state finals medal on Saturday at the FHSAA Class 1A weightlifting state meet at Arnold High School when he finished third in the 154-pound division after lifting 540 pounds – 300 on the bench press and 240 on the clean and jerk. The top six finishers in each of the 10 weight division were awarded medals.
The drama started for Head on his first bench press, when he hit 290 but the officials waved it off because he was wearing ear rings, which is an equipment violation. After much discussion, the officials reversed their decision citing Head should have received a warning. He later hit 300, missed 305 and was awarded a fourth lift because of the reversal, but he did not make it to the bench before the lift clock struck zero.
“If I would have hit my clean and jerks right I could have got second, but I came here to take a medal home and I am,” said Head, who finished seventh the two previous seasons and will attend Central Florida on a cheerleading scholarship.
Reese Lott (I180,180) finished third in the state at 119 with a 360 total. The Fort Meade junior had finished eighth the past two seasons, missing a state medal on both occasions.
“Third time is a charm,” Lott said. “I got what I was going for, 180 and 180. Next year I am going to win it. I haven’t gained weight in three or four years.”
Lake Wales senior Sean Henry (315, 295) finished his prep career with a sixth-place medal in the 219-pound division after posting a 610-pound total lift. He tied for sixth place with Keystone Heights’ Colby Townsend but ultimately won the weigh-in tie-breaker by 1.2 pounds. He weighed in a 214.40.
“One thing I learned through my whole journey is, if you work hard, God will always reward you,” Henry said. “That is basically what it is. You get the fruits of your labor in this sport, nothing is given to you. Nobody has talent that is given to you.”
Williams said Henry is one of the best kids he has ever coached and he loved watching the transition from his first year until now.
“I know he wants to continue to lift after this and I know anything he does, he is going to be great at it,” Williams said.
Also for Lake Wales, which finished 13th in the state with five points behind state champion Citrus (34), Austin Daniels (215, 205) landed in a three-way tie for sixth place in the 129-pound division but lost the weigh-in tie-breaker by fourth-tenths of a pound. Travis Henry Jr. (205, 0) finished 18th at 139. Colton Buttermore (255,240) finished seventh at 154, just missing a state medal by five pounds. Garrett Reynolds (245, 275) finished 10th at 169 with a 520 total.
Lake Wales junior Logan Velsco (285,285) finished 10th at 199 while junior Joel Hadley (300, 250) was 12th, senior Tommy Madden finished (315, 270) was 17th at 238, and senior Lyle Hiers (360, 00) finished 16th in the unlimited division.
Mulberry junior Isaiah Stancil (305, 225) finished 16th in the state at 183. He was making his first state finals appearance and also qualified for state in wrestling.
Lake Wales entered the competition with 11 qualifiers, the most in the program’s history though the Highlanders won six consecutive state championships between 1981-86, the second-best streak in FHSAA history. The Highlanders also have 19 state champions in their history.
There are two Polk County lifters — both from Lake Region — who still hold state current state records champions, Lamar Myles (455,365) with an 830 total lift in the 219-pound division in 2004, and Javon Wilson with a 380-pound clean-and-jerk lift, also at 219, set in 2017.
Union County junior Agelu Nunu (825) won the unlimited state title and broke an 11-year old heavyweight and all-division bench press state record with a 525-pound lift. He first cleared 515 to break both records on his first lift and then followed by breaking his own mark with the 525 effort on his second lift. His third attempt at 535 came up a tad bit short.
“The 510 was to just to break the jitters and get the butterflies out. We knew we could break the state record and then go for broke after that,” Nunu said. “The 525 was just crazy. I honestly didn’t think I was going to hit it until I went down, and my coach (Bryan Griffis) stirred me on.”
Gary Rosario, from Arnold High School, held the overall record with a 510 bench press in 2008 working out of the 238-pound division. Nick Sardoni, from Harmony, held the heavyweight division mark of 500, also set in 2008.
In 2A competition on Friday, Navarre (25) won the state title by one point over perennial powerhouse Spruce Creek (24). Spruce Creek holds the state record with 27 state championship runs as well as holding the consecutive state championship streak with 11 between 1994-2004.
Bill Kemp can be reached at Bill.Kemp@theledger.com; follow him on Twitter @BillKempSports