Conchs head coach Chaz Jimenez stands between Ailee Briggs (left) and Shannon Briggs at the FHSAA 1A state championships. Both athletes earned runner-up medals. CONTRIBUTED

The wrestling dynasty established by Key West over the past two decades intensified this past weekend when head coach Chaz Jimenez and six Conch grapplers traveled to Kissimmee for the FHSAA 1A state championship meet at Silver Spurs Arena on March 2-4. 

Ralph Riche brought home a fifth-place medal, pinning his opponent in his final match to earn a spot on the podium. The junior wrestler known for his quiet determination and strong work ethic has all it takes to be a repeat placer next season. 

Florida State University commit Andre Otto captured a third-place medal, pinning his final two opponents in typical Otto style – fast and relentless. Otto improved from his seventh-place finish last season, ending his wrestling career on a high note. 

The Lady Conchs made big waves in their first year of team competition, taking down athletes across south Florida. Senior Shannon Briggs made the most of her single season with Key West, capturing a second-place medal in her weight class. Heading into the tournament, Briggs was seeded 11th in her weight class and battled her way to the final matchup of her high school career. 

As stellar as her performance was, the senior will have to share bragging rights with sister Ailee, a freshman, who also captured a second-place medal. Ailee was seeded seventh for her weight class in the event, winning three straight matches to earn her spot in the finals. Briggs lost her final match to last year’s runner-up and the top-seeded wrestler in her class in a 6-3 decision. She is already preparing for ’24, saying, “My plans for the off season are to go to as many high level competitions as possible throughout the east coast so that come the next states, I am ready to take the gold.”

Tracy McDonald fled to the Keys from the frozen mountains of Pennsylvania hours after graduating from college and never looked back. She is a second generation coach and educator, and has taught in the public school system for over 25 years. She and her husband met at a beginning teacher meeting in 1997 and have three children born and raised in Monroe County. In her free time, McDonald loves flea markets, historical fiction and long runs in the heat.