GREEN COVE SPRINGS - With both teams finishing up their state duals runs with losses in the final weekend of competition; Clay losing to Wakulla in the Class 1A region final and Fleming Island losing to South Dade in the Class 3A semifinal, the prelude to the Wed., Feb. 12 Tussle of Muscle at Clay High School looks to be a matchup of who will be best prepared to earn bragging honors for the rest of the year.
Fleming Island has dominated the last four years of the Tussle of Muscle with dominant wins at home and on the road at Clay High School, plus a first-time win for Fleming Island High coach P.J. Cobbert in 2016 after a 24-24 time was awarded to Fleming Island off criteria. Cobbert is a four-time state champion from Clay High School.
2020: Cobbert returns everyone but two-time state champion Briar Jackson and Anthony Breeden at 182. Fleming Island has put their numbers up in tournaments with Lake Highland Prep, South Dade and the best programs in Florida.
Clay coach Hunter Hill has nearly everyone back after last year's smarting by the Golden Eagles. Clay has tournament wins in Valdosta, GA, at the Bishop Snyder Invite and a second place to Wakulla at the 3A-strong Manatee Invite.
106: Clay's Tazz Hampton, 4th in 1A, been absent much of season. Fleming Island has forfeited at 106 most of season.
113: Hunter Herrington FIHS, Dalton Huckleberry CHS..Another newcomer for Clay. Tazz Hampton may be here for second go at Herrington.
120: Ryan Hobson FIHS, Luke Davis CHS...Could be a rough match from both sides. Hobson is longer and likes to stretch out his opponents. Davis is rugged insider and long time veteran looking to finish senior year with flurry.
126: Riley Holton FIHS, Abdiert Escobar CHS...Could be best match of the night. Escobar with a little more nasty.
132: Josh Kumpf CHS, Isaac Padgett FIHS. Two fairly new faces to varsity on both sides. Padgett with a bit more in holster.
138: Tyler Williams FIHS, Luke Boree CHS. Williams more experienced; larger array of weapons; Boree a tough cowboy with grit.
145: Gannon Janssen FIHS, Dominic Martin CHS..Janssen has faced the best weight class in all Florida so far. That's a big advantage. Martin, with an upset or even a three period finish, can be a pivotal launch for Clay as strength of Fleming Island lineup comes next.
152: Tanner Hill FIHS, Cale Hoskinson CHS..Super Bowl matchup. Both highly intelligent, energetic and motivated. Could go either way.
160: Luke Chop FIHS, Luca Fiannca CHS. Chop is a statue of strength on his feet. Likes to tear up shoulders on the ground. Fiannca rides the energy and decibels of the crowds and the gym will be packed and loud.
170: Gavin Smith FIHS, Isaiah Clifford CHS..Smith is smooth and moves stealthily to pin moves. Clifford is fighter that survives.
182: Nickolas Janssen FIHS, Jordan Bell CHS. Janssen returns to mat after some minor injuries and has looked as tough as ever. Bell is seasoned veteran and steady in front of his opponents.
195: Jeffrey Lascano FIHS, Joe Grelli CHS. Lascano has improved his game to much more than his underhooks and throws, thought he still likes them. Grelli is strong and good on his feet. Three periods goes to Grelli. Early out if Lascano gets in tight.
220: Chad Nix, FIHS, Garrett Tyre CHS. Nix has been nearly unstoppable all season with major invitational wins all season including a rash of 30 second pins. If Tyre, long-legged, can avoid the Nix's frontal assault, he may survive.
285: Derrek Mosely CHS, Raul Gonzalez FIHS. Gonzales is smallish 285. Mosley is massive and strong. Whether Gonzalez outpoints Mosley is key. If Mosley grabs, holds and falls, it will be over ugly.
2019: Seven pins put Golden Eagles over Blue Devils
FLEMING ISLAND - Celebrating just two seniors on their annual senior night, the Fleming Island High wrestling team showed a little of the future with a resounding 54-13 win over Clay High in the annual Tussle of Muscle wrestling dual match Wed., Feb. 12 at Fleming Island High School.
"Our two seniors won as they should have, but the young guys on this team did not quite get the tradition of this match," said Fleming Island coach P.J. Cobbert in 2019, who got seven pins, one major decision and one tech fall for the night. "Clay always comes to the fight. Our experienced guys did their jobs. We have had a few tough weekends in the last couple of weekend tournaments and they got battle tested for anything. They showed out tonight."
Though Fleming Island won overwhelmingly, it was Clay who threw the first salvo with 106 pounder Tazz Hampton, a state qualifier last year for Middleburg High School, taking down Hunter Herrington 8-6 in a tough opening match to stall out the Fleming Island shut out attempt.
2018: Eagles win third Tussle
GREEN COVE SPRINGS – An ominous start to the Tussle of Muscle wrestling dual match between Clay and Fleming Island high school’s was in the very first match with Clay senior Connor Green securing his first win in the annual event staged at Clay High School on Thurs., Feb. 8.
Green, a recipient of two of the quickest pins in Tussle of Muscle history, roared out of the gate in the first match of the night, at 160 pounds against Fleming Island’s Trace Insalaco, and went right to work to not repeat history with a first period ferocity that excited the hometown crowd, but, nonetheless, scored just two points. Insalaco, awarded technical violation points via the throws, ended the first stanza at 2-2.
Insalaco continued his savvy wrestling to go up 6-2 with Green punching up a reversal to end the second stanza at 6-4.
As the Clay strong crowd anticipated a rebuttal in the third period, Green, injured last year and sixth in Class 1A two years ago, delivered with an escape and final throw to win 9-8.
A lightning-fast Spradle pin by Fleming Island’s Ryan Smenda over Joseph Grelli at 220 that put the score at 12-9 Fleming Island as the rivalry continued to heat up and live up to its history.
The turnaround in scoring started at 285 with Fleming Island’s Jose Concepcion outlasting Clay’s Ryan Rivers for a 2-1 win followed by a 15-0 tech fall from Lou Gagliardo at 106 over Justin Byler, a 9-1 major win by Briar Jackson over Daniel Porter at 113, a forfeit to Albie Snedaker at 120; an 8-2 win by Jacob Sandoval over Cale Hoskinson at 126, a forfeit to Jaquan English at 132 and a final come-from-behind thriller from Tyler Williams over Clay’s Grant Stanish at 138. Williams fell behind 5-2 in the second period, then grabbed an escape with a minute left in the third period before taking Stanish down as the buzzer sounded; forcing overtime. In the overtime, Williams hit the first takedown for the 7-5 win.
With the match locked up for Fleming Island, Clay veterans Peyton Hughes and Dylan Taylor both won the final two matches; Hughes, an 8-3 win over Vince Hauser and Taylor, a 5-2 win over Luke Chop.
2017: Tussle of Muscle blowout goes to Fleming Island
FLEMING ISLAND – A knockout blow from a returning wrestler that took a two-year hiatus erupted the Fleming Island and Clay high school wrestling world to fuel a Tussle of Muscle win, 42-12, for the Fleming Island High wrestling team in Wednesday’s annual event bent on showing off the best wrestling in Clay County and, arguably north Florida. The win, Fleming Island’s second in two years, did not come with an excruciating final tally of takedowns, first points and escapes as did last year’s Tussle that was decided on an eighth critera tiebreaker.
“Ben (160-pounder Ben Sann, a senior for Fleming Island) is a hammer that had some injuries over the past couple of years but he has always had Fleming Island wrestling in his blood,” said Fleming Island coach P.J. Cobbert. “He had some issues coming back with his endurance and stamina, but he has worked his butt off. We knew what he could do. I don’t think Clay knew what he could do.”
What Sann did was annihilate Clay High’s Justin Merring, a top 160-pounder in the Class 1A ranks with a number three ranking in Class 1A, with a lighting fast pin of 26 seconds that started an avalanche of Golden Eagle wins en route to the lopsided victory.
Ironically, that 160 pound weight class has been the home of lightning fast pins over the past two years with Anthony Petrelli, in 2015, and Gabe Lear, in 2016, both executing 30 second pancakes for Fleming Island in the Tussle of Muscle matchups.
2016: P.J. finally gets the "W"
Criteria win in annual Tussle of Muscle
GREEN COVE SPRINGS - In an evening full of surprises and drama including fast pins and excruciatingly tight scoring, the Fleming Island High wrestling team wrested away the team title from the Clay High Blue Devils in a criteria win that came about after a 24-24 match score Thursday night at Clay High School. Fleming Island double-downed over the weekend with a four-point win at the Flagler Rotary Invitational on Saturday with a hard-fought team title over 3A region powers Winter Springs and Flagler Palm Coast High School.
"It's a great rivalry and does a lot for the sport right here in Clay County," said Fleming Island coach P.J. Cobbert. "We kind of throw out the team records and just get it on in this one. I've been looking forward for a while for a win in this match. The win at Flagler was icing on the cake."
With Clay powering to a 6-21 early lead with wins in the lower weights starting with freshman Lou Gagliardi at 106 over Fleming Island's Albie Snedaker, Clay looked to be running away with the match early.
Clay High coach Jim Reape watched as his early lead slowly got chopped down with methodical precision as Fleming Island got a win at 126 from Tracy Davis over Dale Browning, both state qualifiers. Fleming Island then lost two rematches between Clay's Derek Miller and Xaiver Sampsel at 132 and Julian Summa over Fleming Island sophomore Paul Detwiler at 138. Sampsel and Detwiler both won the first matches with Miller and Summa at the Westside Kiwanis Invite earlier in the season.
At 152, Fleming Island got an emotional return to the lineup in senior David Detwiler, who has been prepping for his U.S. Naval Academy appointment, but not wrestling since last year's state meet. Detwiler, a three-time state qualifier, stepped on to the mat to an emotional outburst by Fleming Island fans to take on Clay's Keith Sawdo, a Middleburg High transfer with a state meet visit last year for the Broncos.
Detwiler entered the mat against Sawdo and showed off the same grittiness of his three years with the two stalemating at 0-0 after the first period. Detwiler then fought his way out for an escape point as the Fleming Island bench erupted.
"I did not know what my mat stamina was going to be," said Detwiler.
In the third, Sawdo was able to get away from Detwiler to tie the score at 1-1 as time ran out with Detwiler nearly punching up a takedown in the final seconds only to have it ruled out of bounds.
In the overtime period, Sawdo, starting on the bottom of the referee's position, quickly escaped for the winning point.
"David will always be one of the guys Fleming Island will remember for his courage at the least," said Cobbert. "I think he did okay out there and it gave us a push."
With the score 24-21 before the final match with Clay senior Roland Samec and Fleming Island junior Brandyne Mackey, who was giving up nearly 75 pounds to Samec set to go at 285.
Mackey twice had position on Samec early in the match but seemed unable to budge the near-300 pound giant for points. Mackey's quickness got a second period escape point, but Samec used his bulk to score the match 5-1 to tie the team scores at 24-24.
2015: Clay wins "Tussle of Muscle"
Quick pins: Petrelli, Breindel highlight CHS vs. FIHS
FLEMING ISLAND - In a seemingly eye for an eye rebuttal, Clay High senior Adam Breindel answered Fleming Island High's Anthony Petrelli's lightning-fast 11-second pin at 145 pounds with his own 36-second pin at 152 to fuel a Blue Devil surge that wound up a 34-27 wrestling dual match win for Clay Wednesday night at Fleming Island High School.
"What's funny about tonight with all the rivalry and craziness is that this is the first time I have ever won in this matchup with Fleming Island," said Breindel, the Class 1A defending champion at 145 pounds. "Last year, I lost by pin (to Fleming Island's John Martorano) and I really wanted to get a win here before I finished at Clay."
Prior to Breindel's fast work of Fleming Island freshman Franco Bello, who stayed off his shoulders three times with a neck bridge while Breindel methodically repositioned himself for the impending mat slap, Petrelli made quick work at 145 of Clay freshman Connor Green who attempted a double leg takedown but got caught in one of Petrelli's favorite pinning combinations, a front head lock, cement mixer, elevator, for the win that exploded the standing room only crowd.
Breindel methodically reversed the spectator enthusiasm less than a minute later.
"It is what it is when these two teams get together," said Clay coach Jim Reape. "It's just a dual meet and really has no affect on districts or states, but it is a great rivalry and the boys responded on both sides."
Ironically, for Clay, it was 182 pounder Jonathan Whiting, the hero of last year's 30-29 Blue Devil win with a pin in the final match of the contest, who trumped Fleming Island's Matt Williamson with a 8-0 score for a four point win and a 16-15 Clay lead that held to the end of the night.