Brielle Bibla, her voice hoarse, described her emotions when she watched her sister, Kendall, win her state wrestling championship.
“I was standing up going crazy,” Brielle said. “And then once she put (Katherine Stewart) on her back, I threw a bottle on the concrete floor, and it exploded. I was just going nuts. When I saw her hand get raised, I was just screaming.”
The Bibla sisters yelled some more with their Matanzas teammates when the Pirates clinched the state girls wrestling championship on Saturday, March 4, at the Silver Spurs Arena in Kissimmee.
It is the first team championship in any sport in school history.
“I’m proud to see Matanzas win its first state championship, and I’m very happy it’s in wrestling,” said T.J. Gillin, the Pirates’ boys head wrestling coach, who shares coaching duties for the entire program with girls head coach Mike Fries and assistant Jeremiah Marschka.
Seven Pirate wrestlers won medals in their weight classes as Matanzas defeated runner-up Orlando Freedom 124-107. Freedom High, the 2022 state champ, had been ranked among the top 20 teams in the nation by the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.
“Something like this is going to put Matanzas on the map and put our wrestling program on the map nationally,” Gillin said.
For the second year in a row, the Pirates had an individual state champ as sophomore Kendall Bibla won the 145-pound title with a 15-4 major decision over Bartram Trail’s Stewart.
Christina Borgmann (120 pounds) and Brielle Bibla (130 pounds) placed second. Mariah Mills (110 pounds) placed third for the second year in a row.
Tiana Fries — who won the 110-pound championship last year as a freshman — placed fifth in the 125-pound class, while Ani Brown (235 pounds) placed sixth and Brooklyn Watt (170 pounds) placed seventh.
“Going into the state tournament, you talk to your team about it being a big arena, don’t get nervous, it’s more of a mental game,” Mike Fries said. “But we’ve been everywhere. We’ve seen the top competitors all year. We’ve filled the girls’ tool boxes with every tool they need. They were prepared to beat everybody."
Flagler Palm Coast's Ana Vilar lost to Brielle Bibla in the 130-pound semifinals by an 8-7 decision. Vilar finished in sixth place.
Kendall Bibla had lost to Stewart three times this season in close matches. This time she was ready to flip the script.
“I knew she had something to prove, and I didn’t,” Kendall said of Stewart, who was ranked No. 1 in the state in the 145-pound weight class. “Mentally I just kind of had to tell myself that this is the last chance. This is the last time you're going to wrestle her your sophomore year, so you have to beat her.”
Mike Fries calls Kendall Bibla “Tank,” because “she’s big, strong aggressive and runs over people like a tank.”
But in this match, she was calm and patient, Gillin and Fries said.
“She came out on fire, but she kept good positioning and didn’t force anything,” Fries said. “She waited for her opportunities to score, and she scored big.”
The Bibla sisters attended Tocoi Creek High School in St. Johns County last year. This year, they decided to home-school and wrestle for Matanzas, a 40-minute drive from their home.
Brielle, a state-runner-up last year, was aiming for a title in her final high school season. Instead, she fell to undefeated Aireaana Gavere of Milton by a 6-3 decision in the final to finish second again. Gavere had won multiples state championships in Minnesota before moving to Florida.
“I wasn't disappointed in my performance,” Brielle said. “I left it all out there, and there's nothing more I could have asked for.”
It was a roller coaster of a weekend for the senior, who cheered for her teammates and won the $1,000 Next Level Scholarship, given out by the National Wrestling Hall of Fame to one male wrestler and one female wrestler at the state tournament.
Brielle will wrestle for Presbyterian College in South Carolina next year. She had to write an essay, perform community service hours and provide references to be eligible for the Next Level Scholarship.
“Brielle wrestled a great tourney. Knowing how competitive she is, how she wants to be the best, she took the loss better than I ever saw anyone take it,” Mike Fries said. “She’s ready for the next level.”
Brielle didn’t have much time to dwell on the loss. Three matches later, her sister was on the mat for her final.
“That was the proudest I’ve been of her. Nothing else in the world mattered when she won that. It was just a liberating moment for me to see. I could see that all the work that her and I put in together has really paid off.” — BRIELLE BIBLA on her sister Kendall Bibla
“That was the proudest I’ve been of her. Nothing else in the world mattered when she won that," Brielle said. "It was just a liberating moment for me to see. I could see that all the work that her and I put in together has really paid off.”
Borgmann, who finished eighth at state last year in her first year of wrestling, has a little notebook where she jots down wrestling questions and things needs to learn, Mike Fries said.
“She’s really worked herself to the bone, putting in extra work,” Fries said. “Nina’s a perfect example of why I love this sport.”
Borgmann won a major decision and notched two first-period pins before getting pinned at 5:17 by Lake Nona’s Milana Borrelli in the final.
Mills lost a 4-0 decision to eventual champ I-Cart Galumette of North Miami in the semifinals but came back to win a 13-2 major decision over Apopka’s Shelby Sherman in the consolation final.