FLEMING ISLAND – Monday was day one of official wrestling practice and the Fleming Island High team was in nearly full force in the weightroom and on the track at 8 a.m. as coach P.J. Cobbert settles in for another state run.
“We have a lot of young pups out here,” said Cobbert, who grabbed his second consecutive runnerup spot behind 3A power South Dade last year off the punch of three state champions; Briar Jackson, Paul Detwiler and Ryan Smenda with Detwiler and Smenda both graduated. “We have enough guys here who have been in our grind that we should be as good or better. Guys just have to step up.”
With newcomers to the Fleming Island wrestling room including Nease High brothers Tanner and Brady Hill; Jensen Beach state placer Chad Nix and, most notably, Clay High state champion Peyton Hughes, Jackson, the lone state champ returner for Cobbert sees the early practice as a start point to finding out who can handle Cobbert’s rugged practices. One absence is Lou Gagliardo, a third place state finisher last year at 106, who returned to his home state of New Jersey.
“I know what it’s like; Nix comes from a good wrestling background and Peyton is a state champion,” said Jackson, who was state champion at 113 pounds last year with an explosive first period pin. “What we need to have is the young guys, bubble kids, to step up and be counted. We’ll weed out some over the first couple of weeks, but then we’ll get to the core of the program for this year. They just have to believe in the system.”
Nix, a junior, comes in from Jensen Beach where he finished third in Class 2A at 195 with a 70-10 record while the Hill brothers; both juniors, saw Tanner Hill, the district 4-2A champion and third at region 1-2A, make the Class 2A state meet at 152 while brother Brady competed as a 145 pounder.
“I wanted to come to Fleming Island to see if I could further my wrestling career to the next level,” said Nix, who had just one loss at the AAU Scholastic Duals championships in Kissimmee. “This is a tough place to train, but I can tell quickly that coach P.J. gets results. He pushes hard, but, in the end, he’s very supportive.”
Two guys that Cobbert will expect a jump in production will be juniors Tyler Williams, fourth at regions at 138, and Luke Chop, a region qualifier at 152, both accomplished survivors of the Cobbert gauntlet as youngsters, but both now expected to be leaders in and out of the room.
“Tyler does the job on the mat and in the room with little noise,” said Cobbert. “Luke has come with new energy to get further in the season. I think he worked on his feet getting faster.”
Two other Nease transfers are twin brothers Gannon and Nick Janssen, both juniors, with Gannon the district 4-2A runnerup at 132, and Nick, a third in district 4-2A at 170.
Fleming Island opens season action with a trip to Osceola High School for the Who’s #1 Duals tournament featuring state powers South Dade and Osceola with a preseason tournament at Buchholz on Thurs., Nov. 29 before opening the season at the Danny Byron Invitational at Osceola High School on Dec. 7-8.