WELLINGTON, FL--September 26, 2017---Florida Circuit Zone 3 continues to make history in theNational Youth Tournament Series (NYTS) Championship.
For the fourth time in five years since the inception of the tournament in 2013, Zone 3 won the coveted Cecil Smith Cup after defeating Zone 4 in the Sept. 3 final at Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club in Carpinteria, Calif.
In front of a good local crowd and worldwide USPA Polo Network audience, the Zone 3 team, coached by Tom Goodspeed and comprised of returning national champions Justin Daniels and Nico Escobar and new members Mackenzie Weisz and Lucas Escobar defeated Zone 4 (Tenzin Tognini, Liam Lott, Will Green, Brennan Wells) with an impressive 11-6.5 victory.
"It was super fun playing with super nice teammates," said Weisz, at 14, one of the youngest players in the tournament. "Our team had chemistry because we have all played together or against each other. It was a tough tournament but we pulled through.
"There is a lot of polo in Florida and that makes it good for everybody," Weisz said. "There is a lot of good talent at our level and I think everybody brings out the best in each other. We have some really strong players."
Lucas Escobar was awarded the Matthew Cohen Most Valuable Player. Cohen, a former NYTS All-Star, had his life cut short at age 15 from complications with his lifelong battle with diabetes. He competed in several tournaments in Wellington, where he grew up, and played with and against the national champion players.
Best Playing Pony honors went to Napa, played by Weisz and owned by Leigh Breechen.
Liam Lott of Zone 4 was given the Horsemanship Award and Sloan Stefanakis was voted the Sportsmanship Award.
Nico Escobar was coming off his tournament victory in the 16-goal Gulfstream Pacific Coast Open with Farmers & Merchants Bank.
"It was great to win, especially with my brother and Mackenzie who has been a friend of mine since I could walk," Nico Escobar said. "For us three and Justin to play together is a dream come true.
For two games, Nico Escobar led scoring with seven goals, including 3-for-3 at the penalty line and won nine throw-ins; Lucas Escobar scored five goals and won two throw-ins; Weisz scored three goals and Daniels scored two goals and won three throw-ins.
In the semifinals, Zone 3 earned a hardfought 6-4 victory over Zone 1 (Jake Klentner, Conrad Kissling, Sloan Stefanakis, Harrison Azzaro). In the other semifinal, Zone 4 edged Zone 2 (Mich Ward, Jack McLean, Harry Caldwell, Carlos Font), 5.5-5.
The Escobar brothers worked well together rallying the come-from-behind semifinal victory, each scoring a goal in the final chukker.
"The first chukker was difficult for me because I'm used to going forward, but I just started staying back and defending," Nico Escobar said. "It was a tough game. They were a tough team."
The 2016 national champion Zone 3 team featured Benji Daniels, Justin Daniels, MVP Nico Escobar and Matias Gonzalez.
Melissa Ganzi, Florida Circuit Governor and President of Grand Champions Polo Club, which hosts several youth tournaments, has watched the Zone 3 players grow up playing in Wellington. She is also Secretary of the Polo Training Foundation, which has nurtured hundreds of young players, several of which are now playing professionally.
"This win was especially meaningful to me," Ganzi said. "I have known these kids their whole lives. They all started playing polo as toddlers in the PTF, a charitable organization that is near and dear to me. It's wonderful to see Wellington's youth shine."
Each year the nation's top youth players compete in the USPA's NYTS. It is the first national outdoor tournament series for youth players that provides an opportunity for players who do not exceed 19 years of age to compete against their peers.
Five months of qualifying tournaments around the nation, including Aspen Valley Polo Club and Santa Clara Polo Club, were held to determine the final teams representing four zones in the national championship.
The NYTS All-Stars are named for their exceptional horsemanship, sportsmanship and skill, both on and off the field.
Grand Champions Polo Club, which has hosted NYTS qualifiers, and its staff are now in the midst of preparing for its 11th fall season which begins Friday with the Tackeria Open.
During fall, winter and spring seasons, Grand Champions Polo Club hosts polo tournaments ranging from six to 26-goal in addition to special events at its eleven well-manicured fields.
Grand Champions Polo Cup attracted a record 72 teams during its winter season that featured the $100,000 World Cup, $50,000 National 12-Goal, 20-Goal Sterling Cup and 20-Goal Molina Cup, and another 18 teams during the spring season.
The fall season will be live-streamed on Wellington-based ChukkerTV, leaders in polo broadcasting with cutting-edge technology.
Grand Champions Polo Club caters to men, women and youth polo players at all levels. Its' expert staff can customize a complete playing experience including horses, pros and certified umpires in addition to lessons and practice sessions as part of its' Polo On Demand program, the only polo club in the U.S. to offer the unique program.