FLEMING ISLAND – Finishing second to 3A-powerhouse South Dade High, the Fleming Island High wrestling team offered plenty of top choices for the Clay Today SUPER 11 wrestling team, led by two-time …
FLEMING ISLAND – Finishing second to 3A-powerhouse South Dade High, the Fleming Island High wrestling team offered plenty of top choices for the Clay Today SUPER 11 wrestling team, led by two-time state champion Briar Jackson.
The Clay Today SUPER 11 wrestling team is chosen by the Clay Today sports team and represents the top 11 wrestlers in Clay County.
Jackson, with his repeat of 2018, showed the heart of a champion by grinding through early season losses then pummeling the latter part of the season with a topper at the state championships.
Tazz Hampton, at 106 for Clay High, rumbled through an erratic regular season then switched on the playoff switch to finish fourth in Class 1A.
Also at 106, Ridgeview High sophomore Matthew Rodriguez crushed his regular season with an unbeaten slate, but got a state final opponent that decided to avoid rather than wrestle nose-to-nose with Rodriguez to win his title. Fortunately, for Rodriguez, he has two more years to earn two more shots at the elusive number one.
From Fleming Island troops, led by coach P.J. Cobbert’s strong conditioning, tactics and energy, 145-pounder Gannon Janssen was a pleasant surprise who came up big with a huge South Dade win.
At 152 and 160, Fleming Island had two stalwarts in Luke Chop and Tanner Hill that pretty consistently were big play performers through most of the season.
At 170, one of the most improved wrestlers county-wide, not only in physical skill level, but in tenacity was Gavin Smith for Fleming Island. Also at 170, for Orange Park, Jacob Campbell was a stealthy kind of force for coach Justin Daniels who just kept winning quietly.
Storm Mercado, from Middleburg, was a grinder who has put in the time to improve and got past some foes with his unrelenting attacking to get to state and get a couple of wins. Mercado, a senior, finished strong for the Broncos.
Two more Fleming Island athletes; Jeff Lascano at 220 and Chad Nix at 195, finish off the SUPER 11 with two very unique and distinct styles. Lascano came in much smaller in sized than many of his opponents and never backed down in his want to throw a double hook pinning throw in the mix and Nix, a third placer at 2A-Jensen Beach last year, was a technically savvy and measured wrestler that barely made mistakes. Lascano was the guy that brought more people to the match to watch his unique attack. Nix was a clinic of precision.
Clay Today SUPER 11 wrestling team
106 Matt Rodriguez, RHS, Soph (54-1Class 2A runnerup)
Sophomore for Panthers under tutelage of his dad, new coach Bart Rodriguez, was key leader of team small in numbers, but big in heart. Rodriguez upped his take from his freshman year as a third place medalist to rifling through his entire season unscathed, 51-0 through region title, only to lose in the Class 2A championship match.
106 Tazz Hampton, CHS, Jr., 36-10
Hampton, who had been erratic at best for his first two years of wrestling, learned how to not panic when matches go south and finished with a strong fourth in Class 1A, a win in the Tussle of Muscle with Fleming Island and a region title.
120 Briar Jackson FIHS, Sr, 57-7, CLass 3A champion.
Jackson personified the ‘grinder’ on a team full of state qualifiers, that, though very young and inexperienced, fed off Jackson’s aura to get to the state meet amidst plenty of questions of readiness.That is what champions do.
145 Gannon Jannsen FIHS, Jr. 41-15
Jannsen was probably the most exciting big-match guy to watch in 2019 with epic battles among his regular season. Janssen twice was upended by Winter Springs foe Joshua Contreras; region quarters, state semifinal, and thus offers plenty of firepower for next year.
152 Luke Chop FIHS, Jr., 55-6
Luke Chop was the muscle man of coach P.J. Cobbert’s crew and along the way picked up some footspeed to be more formidable as a wrestler with overpowering strength rather just a strong guy that wrestles with a state semifinal loss to eventual champ Johnny Lovett (58-0).
160 Tanner Hill FIHS, Jr., 51-7
Hill switched over from a 2A-Nease guy on the Fleming Island team to a guy that assimilated into the second in state Fleming Island way to be a force for the Golden Eagles. Third in Class 3A, Hill negotiated the much more rugged Class 3A transition with Cobbert and now will be an expected top ‘dawg’ in 2020.
170 Gavin Smith FIHS, Soph., 49-17
A good candidate for most improved, most vastly stepping up or most surprising wrestler of the year, Smith turned a freshman year of maybe into a sophomore year of a possible three-time state medalist with his fifth place medal coming after an injury.
170 Jacob Campbell OPHS, Jr., 49-6
Jacob Campbell ran through his regular season with just one loss (44-1) before running through the treacherous district to state run that featured classic rivalry matches with Matanzas’ Qhenteen Robinson who won matches over Campbell for Class 2A fifth and region 1-2A semifinal to title. Both return next year.
220 Jeff Lascano FIHS, Jr., 43-7
Jeff Lascano was the most dangerous guy on the mat only because he perfected one vicious move early; used it effectively, then ran into other guys who knew to avoid it. Learn more moves next year, he’s lethal. Tough kid, hates to lose and loves being the smallest guy at 220.
195 Chad Nix FIHS, Jr., 53-7
Chad Nix was a strong, agile technician that hardly made mistakes. Nix rebounded from a vicious pin in the Class 3A semifinals to pin and win to third place in his move from 2A Jensen Beach to 3A Fleming Island.
138 Storm Mercado MHS, Sr., 36-5
Storm Mercado probably had the least amount of state-level room time among most of the wrestlers that got to the state meet because Middleburg High’s wrestling team lacked depth. Mercado just kept focused on the prize with a district and region title; both over OPHS Cameron Broughton, his most consistent state-level opponent. Mercado made a strong senior season his goal with two wins and two losses at state.