GREEN COVE SPRINGS - Fleming Island and Clay high schools have annually been the power brokers of wrestling in north Florida with both high schools amassing a truckload of district and region titles …
GREEN COVE SPRINGS - Fleming Island and Clay high schools have annually been the power brokers of wrestling in north Florida with both high schools amassing a truckload of district and region titles with both historically in the top five of their respective Classes 3A and 1A at the state championships.
One major change for 2021 is that Fleming Island will now be competing in the Class 2A ranks with the likes of Lake Gibson, Springstead, Brandon, St. Cloud and Tampa Jesuit while, locally, having to grapple with Orange Park, Middleburg and Ridgeview at the county level. Also in the district 2-2A lineup is annual strongholds from Tallahassee Chile, Columbia Lake City, Tallahassee Lincoln and Tallahassee Leon.
“It’s not like we have never wrestled any of those teams and Class 2A is pretty strong,” said Cobbert, who has a 12 year resume of top five and better finishes in Class 3A behind super power South Dade; 10th last year. “I think Class 3A offers more depth on the teams that are strong and, if Class 2A gets a couple of 3A teams in the ranks, that will happen there as well. It’s all good. We just wrestle whoever is in front of us.”
As far as the switch, Cobbert acknowledge that Fleming Island maybe could have been a 2A wrestling program a while ago.
“Our numbers at the school have always been low and we should have been 2A a few years ago, but whatever, we just go with it,” said Cobbert, who has seven alum wrestlers still in the college ranks wrestling at a high level led by state champion Paul Detwiler, now a nationally-ranked 184-197 pounder for the Coast Guard Academy and Ryan Smenda a starting linebacker at Wake Forest as they get set to play in the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game. State champion Chad Nix, the most recent state champion under Cobbert, is a freshman at Campbell University with T.J Davis at Life University, Xavier Sampsel and Jose Concepcion still on the mat.
Cobbert brings back and powerful room of battlers from last year with the likes of Jhoel Robinson in the upper weights who was a shoe-in for a state medal until illness ended his career, Ethan Hofstetter at unlimited who exploded last year in his first varsity season and made a dent in the big guy ranks and Joshua Sandoval, brother to state grad Jacob Sandoval and another possible medal hopeful.
“What’s fun now is that I have a whole bunch of little brothers out here; guys who had older brothers that wrestled for me; Jhoel had his brother Jaylin, Joshua had Jacob, we had the two Smendas; Austin and Ryan, in years past, we had the two Detwilers also; Paul and David, all four outstanding with Paul and Ryan Smenda state champions, and we have the Chops, Chris now, Luke a couple years ago as a third placer,” said Cobbert. “I think it is part of the process here that the little brothers come in wanting to do a little better than the big brother and that makes everyone better.”
New faces for Cobbert include, first, transfer Jayce Paridon, a former War Eagle Wrestling Club member under Cobbert who wrestled at University Christian last year finishing third at 106 in Class 1A. Paridon finished with a 55-5 record as an eighth grader at UC under coaches Wes Champ and Tyler DeHart, both former Oakleaf High coaches.
“He grew up in the program and is slated to return for his freshman year to shoot for a state title,” said Cobbert. “Jayce and two brothers; Shane and Laird Duhaylungsod, are two incoming freshmen from Green Cove Springs Junior High that are great athletes; both swimmers and wrestlers and very attentive and picking up lots of wrestling with us.”
One key guy missing is Hunter Williams in the upper weights who was lost to a knee injury during football season. Williams, fourth last year at 195, was slated to be a state contender again for Cobbert.
Fleming Island will continue to wrestle the 3A tournaments, but will adjust the schedule to prepare for region tournaments.
“We’ll keep our tough schedule in the Orlando area; Osceola and those tournaments, but wrestle in that Tallahassee area to see our region guys,” said Cobbert.
Fleming Island opens on the road at the Border Wars IX hosted by South Walton High in the Panhandle.
For Clay High, the tradition is cemented in portraits on the walls of the Clay High School wrestle room with their panoramic history of state champions adorning the walls.
“It’s a good thing to keep the tradition going and the kids see what the program has produced over the years,” said Reape, a long-time head coach, a National Hall of Famer, and a retired and returned coach at Clay after long-time assistant Hunter Hill took his family to Tennessee. “The kids here know what is expected when they see the pictures.”
Reape, who wiggled away a win last year over Fleming Island High in the annual Tussle of Muscle, returns a bevy of talent that got through a growing year last year that he is expecting to bring home some state hardware.
“Guys like Dom Martin, Josh Kumpf, Ethan Daniels (he’s hunting somewhere), Luke Boree and Ethan Daniels are all state qualifiers with Garrett Tyre and Luca Finnaca a match or two away, who have battled,” said Reape. “We are a couple of weeks in, our numbers good and we are just working on the fundamentals.”
Reape also had two girls wrestling over the holiday with state champion Madisyn Blackburn rolling with Alexis Buck. The FHSAA has sanctioned girls wrestling for their own season.
Reape goes to Jensen Beach to open the season in a dual meet tournament with a tough batch of teams in the Battle at the Beach.
“There are always a lot of good teams there and we get a good look at how the team handles the grind of multiple matches in two days,” said Reape, who also finished 10th at state in Class 1A with Cale Hoskinson winning a 152 pound state title (now at Notre Dame College (NCAA Div. II). “Plus we get to see lots of different styles.”
Clay returns with the guys Reape mentioned, plus state qualifier Maverick Rainwater and a full strength Tyre, should be a strong contender to get back into the top three in Class 1A.
Not only does Middleburg High have the daunting task of facing Fleming Island is district play, but the Broncos now have a new coach, former Ridgeview High state qualifier Coll Robertson who takes over for Richard Duisenberre, long time head coach who remains as assistant with Robertson. Robertson, who has guided Lake Asbury Junior High five straight county wrestling titles, will maintain his tie to Lake Asbury while mixing in the Middleburg gig.
“Riley Girgis is our only senior, a state qualifier, and Grady Woodard, a freshman state qualifier, as two main guys coming back,” said Robertson. “Dylan Johns and Logan Moore, who just finished a strong cross country season, will be strong candidates to do well.”
Robertson graduated Ridgeview in 2013, attended North Central College in Illinois, returned home, attended University of Florida and their club wrestling team then returned to Clay County to coach.
“I was part of three of the North Florida Junior High titles,” said Robertson. “My job at Lake Asbury was to prepare the guys to wrestle in high school. I think this arrangement lends itself to establishing a base of moves and conditioning that can bring kids in young and prepare them to wrestle in high school.”
Middleburg will open at the North Florida Duals, Sat., Dec. 4, at Bishop Snyder. Oakleaf also listed to compete at Snyder.
Ridgeview will be at the Bobcat Invitational also on Saturday.
Keystone Heights is slated to compete at the Optimist Invitational at Sandalwood High School
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