GAINESVILLE - With good tenacity and execution, the Clay High Blue Devils wrestling team put out a message of getting back to normalcy with a resounding two weeks of wrestling that had a storming at the Bishop Snyder North Florida Duals last week and this week's Bobcat Duals at Buchholz High School.
"Our young team from last season bought into the off season and we have a few older horses back in the lineup," said Clay coach Hunter Hill, after ushering a five-team swamping at the Bobcat Duals with decisive wins over Palatka, Manatee, Tenoroc, Leesburg and Buchholz Saturday afternoon in Gainesville. "They are looking to prove themselves after last year finishing 21st in state."
Notwithstanding a history of top three finishes in Class 1A, Hill stills sees strongholds like Lake Highland Prep, Wakulla, Cardinal Gibbons and Somerset as targets on the docket.
"I think Class 1A is the most competitive that it has been," said Hill.
At Buchholz, where Hill saw unbeaten streaks from freshman Dominic Martin and sophomore Luke Boree with veterans Cale Hoskinson, Garrett Tyre, Derrek Mosley and Tazz Hampton, the Blue Devils's closest match was a 46-30 win over 3A-Manatee, an eighth place team finisher last year at the state championships. Buchholz, also a strong 3A contender last year, was a 50-21 match for Clay.
In early season rankings, from the Orlando Sentinel after week one, Hampton sits at number four at 106. Hampton was fourth at 106 in 1A last year in his first year as a Blue Devil. Hoskinson, at 152 this year, is ranked fourth and should sit after going unbeaten again at Buchholz. Andrew McGowan, who hasn't wrestled yet for Clay, but was a freshman state qualifier last year at 138, is ranked fourth in 138. Clay's heavy wrestlers were ranked in the top 20; Jordan Bell, 12th in 195 and Joe Grelli, sixth in 220 with newcomer Garrett Tyre getting a pin against Manatee and 285's Derrek Mosley getting a pin on Tenoroc Kavion Gandy, ranked 15th, at Buchholz.
Two top ranked wrestlers from the area are Ridgeview High's Matthew Rodriguez, a state runnerup in Class 2A 106 last year, but now a 1A wrestler in the Panthers new classification, and Fleming Island High's Chad Nix at 195, a third place 3A finisher last year.
Rodriguez went undefeated at the Ridgeview Panther Prowl and also at a tournament on Sat., Dec. 13 in Alabama.
For Fleming Island coach P.J. Cobbert, a bruising battering in South Dade is just part of the big picture for a strong finish.
"We go to the stronghold of Florida wrestling; south Florida, and see what we are made of," said Cobbert, who saw his Golden Eagles, with some youngsters manning slots, take a 42-16 loss to South Dade, the 3A perennial champions for the past decade with Fleming Island second the past three years. "They have to learn to win those one and two point matches. You can wrestle tough all you want, but if you don't win the big matches, you are not going be remembered."
Fleming Island armwrestled with the likes of Hollywood Hills, Miami Southridge (11th in 3A), Osceola High (6th in 3A), Wellington (33rd in 3A), Miami Palmetto (20th in 3A), Miami Columbus (4th in 3A), Miami Beach, Palm Harbor (44th in 3A), Miami Southwest (3rd in 3A) and, in the final match, South Dade (1st in 3A ahead of FIHS), at Saturday's District 16 Duals at South Dade High School. Wellington (41-25), Palm Harbor (40-28) and Miami Southwest (36-27) were all close victories for Cobbert that showed off some work yet to be done.
"Our young guys, Jhoel Robinson, Isaac Padgett, Catfish Williams all got their feet wet against the state's best and all held their own," said Cobbert. "Now, we teach to win."
Ranked for Fleming Island are freshman Jack Pham, 17th at 106; junior Hunter Herrington, 11th at 113; junior Riley Holton, 7th at 126; sophomore Isaac Padgett, 16th at 132; junior Garrett Cole, 11th at 132; senior Tyler Williams, 7th at 138; junior Dalton Baysinger, 11th at 138; senior Gannon Janssen, 2nd at 145; senior Tanner Hill, 6th at 152; senior Luke Chop, 2nd at 160; junior Gavin Smith, 7th at 170; senior Nick Janseen, 8th at 182; senior Jeffrey Lascano, 3rd at 195; senior Chad Nix, 1st at 220, and junior Raul Gonzalez, 9th at 285.
For Ridgeview, at the Swede Umbach Invitational Pools Invitation in Auburn, Rodriguez led a small team of Panthers with eight wins in eight matches with all going by pin.
Also for the Panthers, Gabe Guzman at 145, lost in the championship final in a 3-1 match to take second. Guzman scored three pins in his eight matches.
Others were Blake Pu at 113 (11th at five wins); Shawn Tahir at 132 (11th at four wins); Robby Morris at 132 (1-6); Nicholas Siemonof at 170 (eighth at five wins); Trent Porter at 195 (15th at three wins) and Keegan Powell at 285 (18th at two wins).
At Oakleaf High's Friday Night Wrestling, Yulee won the team title with a win over Bartram Trail with Oakleaf third. Oakleaf lost to Yulee 51-27 in the semifinals to set up the final. Bartram Trail beat Orange Park in the opposite semifinal.
Oakleaf did beat Bartram Trail in pool action as well as West Nassau with a win over Orange Park.
Josh Murrell at 285 was unbeaten with four pins with Marcus McGee at 120 pinning three to also go 5-0.
Orange Park beat Nease and Westside before losing to Bartram Trail. Jacob Moore at 195 pinned four going 5-0 with Cameron Broughton pinning four and teching a fifth.
Top ranked for Class 2A from Orange Park are, in 120, Davon Bailey 8th; Broughton, 5th at 145; Jacob Campbell, 3rd at 170; Jacob Moore, 6th at 182; Julian Moore, 11th at 195 and James McArthur, 15th at 220.