December 8, 2023

Mount Dora High Wrestling’s Journey of Growth and Success

4.7 min read| Published On: December 8th, 2023|

By Kyle Coppola

Mount Dora High Wrestling’s Journey of Growth and Success

4.7 min read| Published On: December 8th, 2023|

Mount Dora High School hosted Mount Hope High School from Rhode Island in an exhibition wrestling match. The student body, faculty and parents came out in support and wow was this a fun event!

This match happened because of two lifelong friends who have enjoyed the sport of wrestling together. Just four years ago Mount Dora High School did not even have a boy’s wrestling program. The growth that Mount Dora High School has had is thanks to one man in particular coach David Kemmy.

(Brad Oliver left standing with coach David Kemmy right. Both have developed a lasting friendship due to the sport of wrestling. Oliver was once coached by Kemmy and has developed Mount Hope Rhode Island into a wrestling powerhouse in New England.)

Coach Kemmy grew up in Rhode Island. He was the Assistant Director of Athletics and Head Wrestling Coach at Roger Williams University from 1990 to 2009. He has held a ton of positions during his career including Director of Collegiate Coaching Education and Program Assessment for the National Wrestling Coaches Association.

Coach Kemmy taught countless wrestlers up in the New England area and one of those wrestlers is Brad Oliver who is now the head coach at Mount Hope High School. The two have had a lasting friendship from when Oliver was one of coach Kemmys students. Last year Mount Dora High got a chance to take their athletes up to Rhode Island for a wrestling match against Mount Hope.

(Mount Dora High Principal Marlene Straughan right standing with Mount Hope Rhode Island head wrestling coach Brad Oliver.)

The team got to tour Boston and all sorts of fun places in New England. It was a terrific bonding experience for the young men and coach Kemmy wanted to return the favor to Mount Hope. So, the two decided that Mount Hope would come down to Florida for a pre-season wrestling exhibition hosted at Mount Dora High.

This was not just a chance for both schools to have some fun but it was a chance to show the student body at Mount Dora what wrestling was all about. Principal Marlene Straughan made sure that the event took place late in the school day so that she could introduce her students to the sport of wrestling. For many students they had never seen a wrestling match before and excitement was palpable.

(The student body of Mount Dora High was so excited to watch a wrestling match. For many it was the first time they had ever attended a match. It was so cool watching the students cheer on their fellow student/athlete classmates.)

From the first wrestling match the students were engaged cheering on their fellow classmates. Wrestlers like Colton Fickett and Cannon Summer who is the #13 ranked wrestler in the State of Florida made their presence well known. We had a chance to talk to Principal Straughan who said “It is so great for these kids to showcase their talents and give the student body a chance to see what wrestling is all about. What the team has done in just a few short years is amazing and coach Kemmy has built this program from the ground up. It’s been a joy to be a part of and we are proud of the work being put in to make it a success.”

(An absolutely packed Mount Dora gym as Mount Dora High and Mount Hope would face one another in an exhibition match.)

J’Anna Fickett who is Principal Straughan’s sister said “Most of the wrestlers on Mount Hope are staying with family members of wrestlers. We had the opportunity to do the same when we went to Rhode Island last year. It is a real bonding experience for these kids. Mount Hope is going to Universal Studios on Monday so it’s just an overall good experience for everyone involved.”

Mount Dora Athletic Director Kevin Gifford said “We are so proud of what the wrestling team has become. Not even having a wrestling team until a few years ago and seeing kids have success is what it’s all about.” Mount Dora did have a wrestling club called Triangle Wrestling and they still do have the club. It is used as a feeder program into the High School. But the difference is that now kids have an extra four years of high school to continue wrestling.

(Mount Dora High Athletic Director Kevin Gifford left standing with Mount Dora cross-country and track & field coach Cody Adkinson. Both were encouraged by the positive direction the Mount Dora Wrestling program is taking.)

The sport of wrestling is growing in the state of Florida. In fact, Wrestling along with Beach Volleyball, Flag Football and weightlifting are among the most popular growing sports that high schools have to offer.

The students were so supportive of their fellow classmates. It was so great to see the comradery that Principal Straughan, Ted Dwyer and Kevin Gifford are instilling at the school. Mount Dora High is rich with sports history. It is one of Lake County’s oldest programs but to get a glimpse of what the future can look like for the wrestling program was really enlightening.

(The Mount Dora High Cheerleaders really brought some school spirit to the event! They made it fun and we always appreciate them supporting the teams.)

I actually wish more schools would do exhibition matches like this for the student body. While academics are always important, it is equally important for the students to learn and have moments and memories such as these. This match embodied everything high school should be about. It introduced students to a brand-new sport many have never seen before, they learned how physical wrestling can be, they earned a new found appreciation for their classmates and for the wrestlers they truly appreciated it. You could see it on their faces.

(Many Mount Dora High football players wrestle. The football coaches to support included coach Jasper Strong left, head coach Luke Hutchinson middle and coach Charles Cerney right.)

While wrestling may not appeal to everyone, being at a match is enjoyable. Wrestling is a pure sport. It’s man against man or woman against woman. There is no ball, no stick nothing but the uniform on your back and the person in front of you. It’s takes skill, motivation and determination to achieve goals in wrestling. You have a team but for two straight minutes it is a battle that to pin the other to the mat but that’s the beauty of wrestling. I hope that people can get to a match at some point to appreciate one of the purest sports there is at the high school level.

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About the Author: Kyle Coppola

Kyle Coppola was born in Newton, Massachusetts and received his Bachelor of Fine Arts in Communications from Curry College in 2016. After traveling to Florida on a family vacation, he decided he could not get enough of the warm weather and made the move from snowy Massachusetts to central Florida 8 years ago.

For the last decade Kyle has gained valuable experience in social media content creation, marketing and sales, writing, video production, sports announcing and even broadcasting for local radio stations, such as FM 102.9 in The Villages and FM 91.5 in Massachusetts. Every year he volunteers at The Villages Charter High School as a play-by-play sports announcer for the football games as well as a public address announcer for the basketball games, including the annual Battle at The Villages Tournament.

Outside the office Kyle is a husband and father to two beautiful girls along with their cat. In his spare time he likes to spend time with his family, travel, play golf and swim. He is also a huge sports junkie and even bigger motorsports fan and loves to attend racing events when he can.

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