Local wrestlers soar to state
monica simpson | SUN
Saint Stephen's wrestlers Jake Ross, Jake Manning and
Max Manning took their hard work all the way to the state
championships in Kissimmee, Florida.
Always a standout athlete at the Island community center, Jake Ross, now 17 years old and a junior at Saint Stephen's Episcopal School, shifted gears a year ago from football to wrestling for the Falcons. What was once a new sport to try has become a yet another athletic achievement for Ross.
Ross, who grew up on the Island and attended Anna Maria Elementary School, is joined on the Saint Stephen's wrestling team by Jake Manning, a sophomore, and Max Manning, a junior. The Manning brothers, who moved to the area in 2014 from Pittsburgh, Pa., has the support of their father Patrick Manning, statistician for the team. P. Manning has protected and served the city of Anna Maria for the Manatee County Sheriff's Office since coming to Florida.
The Manning boys and Ross worked their way from last year's building season to success at the state championships in Kissimmee on March 3 and 4.
Last year, the Mannings and teammate Parker Lansberg made it to regionals, but did not qualify for the state tournament. In his first season wrestling, Ross finished at the district level.
At the end of last season, Ross, the team, and coach Bobby Latessa set goals for the future. Over the next several months, Latessa and assistant coach Jeremy Nance worked with the boys developing their wrestling skills, improving their physical abilities, and mentally preparing them for the season ahead. The hard work and dedication paid off.
J. Manning made the school record books by winning the county championship in the 106-pound weight class. In just his second season in the sport, Ross made school history by taking first place at both the district and regional championships. In the 160-pound weight class, Ross had 39 wins, going 8-0 through regionals, pinning all four of his opponents at the district meet.
For the first time in the school's history a wrestler went to the state tournament. Not one, but four, Saint Stephen's athletes went to Kissimmee to compete with the best in the state: Alan Morano, 120-pound weight class; M. Manning, 132-pound weight class; Ross, and Lansberg, 170-pound weight class.
Ross' achievements at states put him in the top eight, with a record of 2-2, losing to the third and fourth ranked 1A wrestlers in Florida.
Latessa, a former Holmes Beach resident, brought his wrestling experience to Saint Stephens to help develop and grow the program. The two-time state champion wrestled for Manatee High School and went on to compete for Harvard.
Keeping it local, Nance grew up on the Island, wrestled for the Hurricanes and works with the city of Bradenton Fire Department. His wife Shawna is a teacher for the Manatee County School District.
The Falcon student-athletes traveled for 14 weekends competing throughout the state while maintaining an average team grade point average of 3.59. The small team of seven wrestlers went up against larger teams with twice as many athletes.
Together, Latessa and Nance took the Saint Stephen's wrestling team to the next level, consistently placing in the top five throughout the year. Ross and the Mannings, along with the rest of their teammates, put in the extra hours on the mat and in the gym with their eyes on the prize.
Next season the goal is not just to qualify for the state championship meet, but to take home the top prize. As seniors, M. Manning, Ross and Lansberg also will work to achieve the gold standard in high school wrestling with 100 career wins.
The wrestling achievements of Ross and the Saint Stephen's team has put the sport on the map at the school and has made the Island proud of accomplishments on and off the mat.