FLAGLER PALM COAST – Fleming Island High wrestling coach P.J. Cobbert has been saying his 2019 team is one of the youngest groups he has had in his recent tenure and that they may be ready to go …
FLAGLER PALM COAST – Fleming Island High wrestling coach P.J. Cobbert has been saying his 2019 team is one of the youngest groups he has had in his recent tenure and that they may be ready to go next year.
The youngest of the young group showed up Saturday in the region 1-3A championships and proved Cobbert a bit premature in assessing his troops. Amidst an exodus of seven state meet athletes; three champions, with just three returners from last year’s state lineup; 113 champion Briar Jackson and 138 Tyler Williams, Cobbert has been forthright in predicting the future of this year’s team all season. Senior Anthony Breeden is a region returner who did not make the state team last year.
Now, after 12 state qualifiers stormed the rugged region 1-3A championships at Flagler Palm Coast High on Saturday, the cat is out of the bag.
“We train hard, practice hard and prepare just like everyone else,” said Fleming Island 113 pound fourth-ranked wrestler Ryan Holton, just a sophomore and one of a handful of first year varsity athletes for Cobbert. Holton lost in the region final by a scant 4-2 decision to Lake Howell’s sixth-ranked Angel Giraldo, a senior with a 44-5 record. “I think coach P.J. has put us through a bunch of tougher tournaments than this one with three matches that have South Dade in it and that’s what got us ready for today.”
Holton, who beat Oviedo state qualifier Gabe Rendon, a sophomore at 39-14 in the semifinal, and first year varsity teammates Ryan Hobson, a junior at 126; Dalton Baysinger, a sophomore at 132; Gannon Janssen, a junior transfer from Nease; Luke Chop, a sophomore at 152; Tanner Hill, a junior transfer from Nease at 160; Gavin Smith, a sophomore at 170; Chad Nix, a junior transfer from Jensen Beach at 195, and Jeffrey Lascano, a junior at 220 all took on the tough region 1-3A lineup to push the Golden Eagles to a fourth straight region title with 224.5 points with Winter Springs second at 185 and Hagerty third at 151.5.
“Our strength this year is not that we may not have hammers like last year with Detwiler (Paul Detwiler, 170 state champion), Smenda (Ryan Smenda, 195 state champion) and the other guys is that we have depth with these young guys,” said Cobbert. “They may not have impressive records at this point, but a year or two away and they will all be much more impressive. This year was supposed to be our reload year, but these young kids don’t think that way. They expect to go in and dominate. I think our program and our room is one of the toughest in the state and that’s where they get to prepare against some of the best wrestlers around. We get two or three state champions that return to the area and roll with us. You can’t buy that experience.”
Fleming Island’s start though got a deficit with 106 pounder Hunter Herrington not making weight to put the Golden Eagles’ scorecard without one wrestler before the event started.
After day one, with Fleming Island roaring to 11 of 14 athletes in the semifinals; 285 pounder Raul Gonzales, also a sophomore, faced off against eventual region runnerup Ben Moxley of Lake Mary and lost a 11-0. Gonzalez fought back to the consolation semifinals before losing a tough 1-0 match to Mandarin’s Nick Wilbur. At 145, junior Gannon Janssen faced off against eventual region runnerup Joshua Contreras of Winter Springs, a state qualifier last year at 138, in his second match on Friday and lost 11-6. Janseen fought back, though, through consolation rounds to win the third place match; a 6-4 win over Lake Mary’s Jared Purcell.
“We lost a couple of matches with a bit of laziness in the third period, but we’ll correct that this week,” said Cobbert. “These kids have to understand that they are the ones that other teams cheer when things go wrong. That’s okay for us, but we can use that in our motivation. We’re going to wrestle to not be in situations where a late score does damage.”
With returning state champion Briar Jackson punching his ticket for a repeat impressively with two pins and two tech falls; 15-0, 19-2, the rest of the Golden Eagle lineup followed his lead to put Fleming Island into the mix of a 3A team title for a third straight year. Nix, third in 2A last year, would be Fleming Island’s other region champion with a 2-0 win over Lawrence Smith-Jackson of Buchholz.
Fleming Island’s lineup would rack up points with Baysinger fourth; Williams second; Hill third; Smith third; Breeden second and Lascano third. Breeden survived an overtime battle with Hagerty’s Ethan Lopez, who beat Breeden last year at regions, to advance to the final against Winter Springs’ Jessiah Contreras (50-2). Contreras pinned Breeden.
“Know where your feet are,” said Cobbert. “That’s been our credo lately because only a couple of these guys have been under the big lights of the state meet. It’s one match at a time and worry about what’s going on on your mat. That’s a simple as it gets.”
Rodriguez stayes perfect 55-0
Ridgeview High sophomore Matthew Rodriguez continued his laser-focused attack on his third place finish last year in Class 2A with a pin-filled finish at the region 1-2A championships held Saturday in Tallahassee.
Lincoln won the team title over Matanzas 193.5-185 with Pace third at 125. Orange Park was sixth at 92, Ridgeview 10th at 71 and Middleburg 11th at 62.5.
“I’m much more aware of my surroundings at this level of competition and don’t let the distractions affect my wrestling,’ said Rodriguez, after his district championship match a week ago at Terry Parker High School. “My focus is on finishing from last year. I was young and got caught up in things around me.”
Rodriguez dominated to the tune of pins of 30 seconds, 22 seconds, 27 seconds and with 10 seconds left in his final.
Ridgeview got a second region title with senior 220 pounder Odjuan Whitfield beating Bartram Trail’s Clarke Hamilton for that title and getting his first ticket to the state meet.
Whitfield had two pins and two decisions; 9-6 and 6-4 in the final.
Ridgeview’s third state meet ticket was to third place finisher Gabe Guzman, a junior at 47-12, who lost to eventual region runnerup Mark Munroe of Lincoln 4-2 in the semifinal then worked back with a 9-5 win and a 14-1 major decison for third place. Munroe and Guzman were both state qualifiers last year with both losing their first two matches.
For Orange Park, four wrestlers will head to Lakeland next week led by region runnerup Cameron Broughton, who lost a second championship match to Middleburg’s Storm Mercado with Mercado winning by pin for the 138 title. Mercado defeated Broughton in last week’s district final.
Taking a third place finish to Lakeland for Orange Park is Jacob Moore at 182 with Jacob Campball at 170 and Julian Moore at 195 finishing fourth to advance.
Middleburg’s Storm Mercado is joined on the state list by teammates Chris Burch, fourth at 145 and Bryce Williams, third at 152.
Hampton, Hoskinson get region titles for Clay
Middleburg High transfer Tazz Hampton has been to the big show with his ticket in 2A last year and now the wily 106 pounder at Clay High has a second shot at a title with a region title Saturday for the Blue Devils at the region 1-1A championships held in Tallahassee. Clay finished fourth just a half point behind Suwannee with Wakulla winning handily with 241 points and Florida High at 129. Suwanne scored 124 with Clay at 123.5.
Hampton and teammate Cale Hoskinson were coach Hunter Hill’s two region titleist with Hoskinson, a sophomore, also a state qualifier last year under coach Jim Reape.
Grant Stanish, a senior at 145, Joe Grelli, a junior at 220 and Andrew McGowan, a freshman at 138 both finished fourth to also advance.