KISSIMMEE - In their first tournament of 2019, the Fleming Island High wrestling team caught a quick glimpse of who might be who in the rugged Class 3A ranks as the Golden Eagles ventured to the Danny Byron Classic Friday and Saturday at Osceola High School in Kissimmee.
"We took on the toughest teams around as our season opener to get an idea as to who really wants to do this," said Fleming Island coach P.J. Cobbert. "I want guys looking in the mirror and asking if they are up for this."
With teams battling on Friday in pool format to determine three classes; Gold, Silver, Bronze for Saturday's championship rounds of individual competition, Fleming Island (second in Class 3A last year) got to see a slew of new faces at traditional powerhouses South Dade (3A champs), Lake Gibson (2A champs) and Camden County (GA 7A champs) who all graduated a ton of talent to the college programs.
"Teams like those and even ours don't worry about graduation because we have 40 guys in the room ready to step up," said Cobbert. "We came back with some bruises, but it'll only battle test us. Heck, we got South Dade this week and the Knockout Christmas tournament after that. There is no break."
Fleming Island, with just two graduates last year; two-time 3A champion Briar Jackson and 182-pounder Anthony Breeden, got to see what a year of thinking about last year was going to bring for 2019-20.
"That tournament is not a tournament that we measure the points," said Cobbert. "Danny Byron offers a tournament that puts everyone in a bracket with state placers."
In team points, Fleming Island would finish third behind Lake Gibson and Camden County and slightly ahead of South Dade.
"We are deep, we just have to navigate our tough schedule," said Cobbert.
Individually, Gannon Janssen was 145 champion, Tanner Hill was 152 champion and Chad Nix was 220 champion. Nix dominate his class with five pins; all first period falls with two 18 seconds slaps.
"Those guys have been to the battle," said Cobbert. "The young guys we brought to state got a little eye-opener, but now they know what it feels like to get pushed around and roughed up."
Also in top three were Raul Gonzalez, second at 285 with a triple overtime win over 1A-Hernando state qualifier Sam Fleming as the best battle of the weekend with Gonzalez also losing a tough 2-1 finals match to Valdosta (6A Georgia champs) heavyweight LB Neloms.
"Raul has taken the next step to being dominant," said Cobbert. "He's tight with Chad Nix and that goes a long way. He battled to big, strong guys and showed some toughness."
Finishing with thirds were Luke Chop at 160 with an 8-3 loss to South Dade's Steven Villabolos, a 3A 152 runnerup for Coral Park last year; Gavin Smith at 170 with a 12-10 win over Camden state qualifier Omega Clark; Nick Janssen at 182 with a 2-1 loss to Camden state runnerup Cody Herrin, and Jeffrey Lascano at 195.
"We're going to adjust our training to address some things we saw," said Cobbert. "Our legs were not tired; our lungs looked tired."
At Ridgeview High's Panther Prowl duals, Tallahassee Chiles was the team winner with Ridgeview High's Matthew Rodriguez earning outstanding wrestler for the lower weights with Orange Park High's Cameron Broughton winning the outstanding wrestler for middle weights. Ray Bolden of Westside High was the heavy weight outstanding wrestler.
The Panthers, fourth in team points, had Rodriguez with five pins in two days and Gabe Guzman at 152 and Nick Siemenoff at 170 with three pins and one loss each.
Orange Park, third in team points, beat Ridgeview 45-29 in a county clash and had Davon Bailey, unbeaten at 120 with five pins, Broughton with three pins and a 7-0 record, Trevion Sermons with three pins and 6-0.
At Bishop Snyder, the North Florida Duals featured Middleburg, Oakleaf, Keystone Heights and Clay high schools in first meet action.
In head to head matches, Oakleaf defeated Keystone Heights 60-12, Clay defeated Middleburg 65-3, Oakleaf beat Bishop Snyder 66-18, Clay beat Rockledge 39-15, Middleburg beat Keystone Heights 34-30, Clay beat Oakleaf 54-15, Middleburg beat West Nassau 36-15, Clay beat Atlantic Coast 84-0 with eight pins, Oakleaf beat First Coast 49-23, West Nassau beat Keystone Heights 37-36 with tiebreaker, Middleburg beat Episcopal 39-36, Keystone Heights beat Snyder 48-30, West Nassau beat Oakleaf 36-30, Clay beat University Christian 74-3, Keystone Heights beat Atlantic Coast 42-30.