KISSIMMEE - Fleming Island High senior Briar Jackson has been pointing toward the state championship since winning his first title just about a year ago and the premonition blossomed on Saturday with a dominating performance a weight class up as the surly battler won his second Class 3A title; this time at 120, with a 10-2 decision over a guy that already beaten Jackson once.
"We knew we had tough matches in the quarters and had to get out of it," said Jackson, who defeated Columbus High of Miami's Charles Huffman, the 120 runnerup last year, in overtime 5-4. "We both had to beat two good kids to get there."
Jackson, (57-7) scored two pins and an overtime win over South Dade's Adrian Neco to get to Osceola's Jaekus Hines (36-6) in the final. Hines, who beat Jackson 6-2 at the Danny Byron Invitational in December, was runnerup at 106 last year to South Dade's Luis Peraza. Hines defeated Southwest Miami's Sebastian Melguizo (57-5) in his round one match by pin.
"P.J. wanted me to keep him on his feet because we wanted to wear him out," said Jackson. "At 10-1, I cut him and started thinking it was going to happen."
Jackson, seeded second this year as well as last year when he won the 113 title, was okay with the apparent snub of those who do the seeding.
"It gives me that little chip on my shoulder," said Jackson. "I use it to motivate. I have a great coach who knows what it takes to get repeat titles and we were all in from the start. I had the loss to Hines and one to the Southwest Miami guy (Melguizo) and I knew I had to focus in training on staying positive and not letting the losses bother me. I was very confident coming in."
With the exodus of two Fleming Island champions; Paul Detwiler and Ryan Smenda and a handful of seniors last year, Jackson took over the role as top dog in the Fleming Island room and thought his young brethren stepped up throughout the season.
"I tried to be a leader to the young guys because we had a lot of first time varsity guys and them coming into 3A is very tough," said Jackson. "They may have got lost in the big lights at the state meet, but that happens. They will respond next year and be ready for it.
Jackson was part of just two finalists for Clay County wrestlers as the rugged event took its toll early with Ridgeview sophomore Matthew Rodriguez the second finalist. Rodriguez (54-1) ending his unbeaten season record with a 2-1 loss in the Class 2A 106 pound final to Tampa Jesuit freshman Kai Owen (55-4). "Matt was on top of him and was very close to turning him but kid yelled and the ref stopped it and reset them at referees position," said Ridgeview coach Bart Rodriguez. "That was a lost opportunity. At the last seconds, Matt tood up and did a roll, ended up partially on top, grabbed kids knee which was a very questionable no call for a reversal, but also maybe a split second too late and kid won 2-1."
Rodriguez commented that Owens was negating son Matt's wrestling abilities on the mat by holding on to Matthew throughout the match.
"Matt was the aggressor & threw him in a head & arm early but went out of bounds," said Bart Rodriguez. "Sometimes in matches you do what you have to do to win and thatís what happened. Donít get me wrong, the other kid is a very good wrestler and thatís why they were both in the finals."
Rodriguez, third last year at 106, pinned twice and won a 10-4 decision in the semifinal to get to the final. Rodriguez beat two stellar early round foes in Brandon's Tyson Lane (61-6) with a pin and defending 2A champion Lake Gibson's Jesse Gehr (34-9) in a 10-4 semifinal win.
Despite the solo title by Jackson, Fleming Island High coach P.J. Cobbert still got enough points from his Golden Eagles to finish second for a third straight year to team champion South Dade 197.5-96 with Southwest Miami third at 89, Columbus fourth at 86. Winter Springs, Hagerty and Osceola all scored in the 80s; 84, 83, 83 to keep the top six all within striking distance of Fleming Island's runnerup spot.
Fleming Island got strong third place finishes from Luke Chop at 152 and Chad Nix, region 1-3A champion at 195; fifth place from Gavin Smith at 170 and sixth place from Gannon Janssen at 145, all returning next year for Cobbert. Janssen was injured in his semifinal against Winter Springs Joshua Contreras, but still advanced to the fifth/sixth match.
Chop faced off and lost to unbeaten Johnny Lovett (58-0) in that semifinal. Nix lost to unbeaten Anthony Burburija of Countryside (55-0). Both Lovett and Burburija won their respective titles.
Smith, a sophomore, lost in the 170 semifinal to eventual runnerup Jake Finken (42-5) of Newsome High who lost to South Dade defending champion Todd Perry in the final.
Fleming Island traveled to Kissimmee with 12 athletes and got points from Riley Holton at 113 (1-2); Ryan Hobson at 126 (0-2); Dalton Baysinger at 132 (1-2); Tyler Williams at 138 (1-2); Tanner Hill at 160 (1-2); Anthony Breeden at 182 (1-2) and Jeffrey Lascano at 220 (1-2). All return except Breeden and Jackson.
"Class 3A is the toughest class in Florida and to get our 12 guys here was strong," said Jackson. "The state meet is where anything can happen and it is very intense. I'm super proud of the young guys and they will all come back stronger next year."
In Class 1A, Clay High's Tazz Hampton, the region 1-1A champion, finished up one of his strongest seasons; Hampton was a state qualifier last year in 2A with Middleburg High, as the wily attacker finished fourth at 106 for first year coach Hunter Hill. Hampton, a junior, faced off against runnerup Ethan Mojena (45-9), an eighth grader, in that semifinal and lost an 11-3 decision. Hampton came back and pinned in the consolation semifinal before losing to Lake Highland Prep freshman Danny Nini in the consolation final for fourth place.
Lake Highland Prep dominated the team scores with 269 points with American Heritage a distance second with 116.5. Clay finished 21st with 22 points.
For Clay, Cale Hoskinson, region 1-1A champion at 132, finished at 2-2; Andrew McGowan, at 138, finished 0-2; Grant Stanish, at 145, finished 0-2 and Joe Grelli, at 220, finished 0-2.
In Class 2A, after Rodriguez' runnerup finish, Orange Park secured two medalists with Jacob Campbell and Jacob Moore both finishing sixth in their weight classes; 170 and 195. Moore was beat for sixth place by Terry Parker's Landon Dains, the region 1-2A champion. Campbell (49-6) lost by pin to a familiar foe in Matanzas' Quenteen Robinson who beat Campbell 8-7 in the region 1-2A semifinal before winning the region title. Campbell got to the semifinal but was pinned by Brandon's Broc Spurliing (62-6), the runnerup to Lake Gibson's Miguel Hernandez. Moore lost 15-0 in his quarterfinal match to eventual champion Jesse Martinez (38-1) of Riverdale.
Lake Gibson defended their Class 2A team title with a repeat with 189.5 points with Tampa Jesuit runnerup at 164 and Charlotte third at 152.5. Orange Park finished 16th with 27 points with Ridgeview 19th with 22. Middleburg finished 48th.
Also for Orange Park, Cameron Broughton, at 138, finished 1-2 and Julian Moore, at 195, finished at 1-2.
For Ridgeview, Gabe Guzman, at 113, finished 0-2 and Odjuan Whitfield, region champion at 220, finished 0-2.
For Middleburg, Storm Mercado, the region 1-2A champion at 138, finished 2-2, Chris Burch, at 145, finished 0-2 and Bryce Williams, at 152, finished 1-2.