FLEMING ISLAND - Fleming Island High wrestling coach P.J. Cobbert, the architect of three consecutive second place finishes in Class 3A, suggested that his 2019-2020 boys will be a year more seasoned and summer more ready to take another stab at perennial powerhouse South Dade High School.
"Last year, we took a whole bunch of young pups to the state tournament with hopes of getting a few surprises, but the nerves caught up with some of them," said Cobbert. "This year, we have a big team of returners, some new faces and some upcoming young guys that have been in this room; the Warehouse as Cobbert calls his Magnolia Point headquarters."
Fleming Island's three consecutive runnerup finishes have come with scores of 240.5-106.5 in 2017, 230.0-140.0 in 2018 and 197.5-96.0 in 2019.
"They (South Dade) are the gold standard, but we'll keep working to close that score," said Cobbert. "We had a great summer and a great trip to Michigan to toughen up some guys."
Fleming Island stays in region 1, district 1-3A with the likes of Creekside (42nd in 2A), Bartram Trail (23rd in 2A)and Nease (50th in 2A) from 2A last year with Atlantic Coast, Mandarin, Oakleaf and Sandalwood returning from 3A. Buchholz and Fletcher, former district foes, are now in district 2-3A with Flagler Palm Coast for Buchholz and district 3-2A for Fletcher.
On the floor for Cobbert for returners are Chad Nix, third at 195 last year who was a medalist in Michigan and Luke Chop, third at 152 last year, with two-time champion Briar Jackson now at Life University. Nix and Chop are both seniors. Cobbert's lone graduate is Anthony Breeden, a state qualifier at 182.
"Those two guys will be the leaders in the room," said Cobbert. "Luke is like Paul Detwiler (170 state champion in 2018), just a strong guy out there that is tough to move. Chad is wrestling to avenge his third place from last year with a bit more intensity."
On the mat with Cobbert and returners from last year were Hunter Herrington, who was a state qualifier at 106 last year, but did not make weight; Riley Holton, a junior state qualifier at 113 last year; Ryan Hobson, a senior state qualifier at 126 last year; Dalton Baysinger, a junior state qualifier at 132 last year; Gannon Janssen, a senior state qualifier at 145 last year; Tanner Hill, a senior state qualifier at 160 last year; Gavin Smith, a junior fifth place state medalist at 170 last year, and Jeffrey Lascano, a senior state qualifier at 220 last year.
Holes to be filled will come from graduated Anthony Breeden, a state qualifier at 182 and heavyweight Raul Gonzales, a junior who lost in the region consolations last year. Not at practice, but still a viable part of the Cobbert machine, may be senior Tyler Williams, who lost in the region final before going 1-2 at the state meet at 138.