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Eagles roll to Duals Finals

By Randy Lefko Sports Editor
Posted 1/18/23

FLEMING ISLAND - Fleming Island High wrestling left no doubt as to the best team in Clay County with a suffocating first-place outing at their Region Duals round one and two matchups against Oakleaf …

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Eagles roll to Duals Finals


FLEMING ISLAND - Fleming Island High wrestling left no doubt as to the best team in Clay County with a suffocating first-place outing at their Region Duals round one and two matchups against Oakleaf and Middleburg.

Fleming Island took no rest from their duals action on Thursday with a team title at the Billy Saylor Invitational at Suwannee High School on Saturday, against with overwhelming results.

In Team Duals state rankings per Kabra Wrestling, Fleming Island is second to Lake Gibson with Brandon third wiht Middleburg 13th, Clay 17th and Oakleaf 18th, all in Class 2A.

“We are deep all the way across our lineup almost to the same level as the 2017 team with three state champions on it,” said Fleming Island coach P.J. Cobbert. “Because we train and condition hard in our own room day after day gives us the mental confidence to take on two matches at the region duals then an invitational at Suwannee High two days later. It’s all preparation for next week (Duals region finals and Final Four).”

Fleming Island travels to Osceola High School for the region 1-2A final and a spot into the Class 2A Final Four with a Friday match against Tallahassee Lincoln. Lincoln barely survived their region rounds with a 35-34 win over Fort Walton Beach and a 39-30 win over Gulf Breeze.

Fleming Island lost in the state semifinal last year to Tampa Jesuit 34-28 with Lake Gibson, the two time defending duals champion and champion of 2018 and 2019,the eventual champion over Jesuit 36-30. Jesuit was duals champion in 2020.

Fleming Island lost in the Class 3A state semifinal to Riverdale in 2021 and the 3A semifinal to South Dade in 2020.

From the first match, which had Fleming Island facing Oakleaf, a 78-0 disruption over the Knights, Fleming Island coach P.J. Cobbert noted that is dictate to the team was to get in, get out and get to the next round. Fleming Island pinned in all but one matches with Jayce Paridon the fastest at 38 seconds over Christopher McKeel at 126. Cooper Beck, at 132, fought off Oakleaf’s Sebastian Bonachea to win a 9-2 match.

“We train with a ‘Reps and Rest’ mentality where we train hard, but then remember to rest and recover to maintain the intensity when we need to turn it on,” said Cobberty.

Fleming Island, with some new faces in their initial varsity lineup, took short work to a game Middleburg High team with a 62-9 win to get to Osceola High School next week.

Middleburg coach Coll Robertson, who got a first-ever win over Clay for the renewed Bronco program, got better results on the scoreboard as far as pins away against Fleming Island, but nonetheless, fell decisively.

“I know they are the best in the county, but I like that our team is okay battling them,” said Robertson, who got the Broncos their first-ever district duals title last week. “We will learn a bit about ourselves from tonight’s outcome because Fleming Island is one of the strongest programs and in a place we want to be. I told our guys to just wrestle hard and don’t make it easy.”

For Robertson, wins came to Wyatt Leduc at 132 who bested Cooper Beck 4-1 and Joseph Forte at 138 who beat Dylan Beck via a third period pin.

For Fleming Island, Matthew Kotler (152), Ronan Bozeman (170), Joshua Sandoval (182), Walter Poe (195), Jordan Mukaddam (106), Matthew Newman (113), Jayce Paridson (126) all pinned to win.

Middleburg won 45-33 over Clay with pins from Leduc over Vontae Burke at 132, Forte over Drew Loveland at 138, Logan Moore over David Lopez at 145, Aiden Thornton over Tayshawn Tate at 160, Keensdee Roseme over Hunter Roden at 170 and Porter Loveland over Aaron Stacy at 195.

Clay got pins from DJ Williams over Daniel Raines at 152 and Dominic Martin over Brad Darnold at 182.

At the Billy Saylor Invitational on Saturday, Cobbert got six wins in six matches with wins of 66-9 over South Walton, 72-6 over Union County, 72-0 over Columbia, 66-6 over Fernandina Beach, 84-0 over West (forfeits), 53-15 over Suwannee, 57-12 over Ft. Myers and 66-6 over Raines.

Also on the weekend, Lincoln earned a tournament win at the Trojan Invitational ahead of Manatee and Clay as well as wins over Nease and Leon.

Clay got wins over Manatee B, Leon and Nease while losing to Manatee A in their first match and the final match against Lincoln.

Middleburg traveled to St. Cloud and took on 3A super power South Dade in the Milton Winter Memorial tournament and finished with a fifth place spot. South Dade, a numerous times Class 3A defending team champion, won by over 100 points over Harmony. Middleburg’s Logan Moore at 145 finished as a runnerup in his weight class.

Also, St. Johns Country Day School eighth grade wrestler Matthew Braddock has won a decision to compete as a district 1A-District 4 individual wrestler. St. Johns athletic director Traci Livingston appealed to the FHSAA and noted that other wrestlers prior to Braddock have been able to wrestle as individuals. The FHSAA voted 5-0 in favor of Braddock wrestling as a member of the St. Johns Country Day School’s district 4-1A team.

“I think it is awesome that the FHSAA that others have done this and they allowed to compete as a team,” said St. Johns coach Rocky Bantag. “I think the FHSAA saw that Matthew has been a competitive wrestler with good results; a win at Wolfson High this weekend with wins over Creekside and Wolfson wrestlers, and that he can now compete for a state title at 106.”

Bantag also noted the Braddock has been invited to wrestle in the annual Clay Rotary Invitational at Clay High School on Feb. 3-4.