By SHANNON HEATON
Northeast Florida Matmen
YULEE — Jim Reape has had a lot of successful teams at Clay, and a lot of successful days have followed almost every one of them.
But Reape couldn’t recall — even when Clay put together a state-championship title run — a day like Saturday and a tournament like the 1A-District 3 meet.
“Even the 2004 championship team and the four teams that took second (at states), I don’t think they ever had a day like this,” Reape said. “I really feel like we’re hitting a peak.”
That sentiment followed a day in which the #2 Blue Devils not only qualified all 14 wrestlers for Friday’s 1A-Region 1 meet at Florida High in Tallahassee, but 13 of those wrestlers won district titles.
“It was a great week of practice — we did a little bit of extra conditioning, not a ton, just mental toughness and windsprints,” Reape said. “I think we looked better at finishing takedowns than we have before, we were much better at not letting ourselves get tied up.
“We had a solid night at Flagler Palm Coast (the season-ending dual) and then we got this catapult. Thirteen guys with #1 seeds, that’s a nice setup for us.”
Clay doubled up runnerup Yulee’s point total Saturday. The Hornets qualified 10 wrestlers for regions, while third-place West Nassau (129 points) and fourth-place Baker County (112) both advanced eight.
Raines qualified six wrestlers to regions, finishing fifth with 95 points, while Westside had five qualifiers and 75 points. Bishop Snyder (41 points) bagged the only non-Clay championship, moving two through to regions, as did Fernandina Beach (28 points).
Below follows a summary of the weight classes:
106 — In a three-person bracket, Clay freshman Louie Gagliardo (Matmen #1, statewide 4th) needed just one match to win the district title, winning by fall in the championship match over Yulee’s Gavin Loring, who’d advanced to the final with a technical fall over Baker County’s Sydney Williams. Williams received a bye for third place.
113 — One of the district’s more loaded brackets went to Clay junior Chris Merring (Matmen #3, statewide 2nd), who had a fall in the semis and then majored West Nassau sophomore Jake Blount (Matmen #5, statewide 8th) in the championship match. Blount had a fall in the semis as well. In the third-place match, Raines’ Anthony Haynes, who’d lost by fall to Merring in the semis, came back with two pins, including one over Matmen HM Cole Cushman of Baker County for third place.
120 — Clay freshman Dylan Taylor (Matmen #5, statewide 7th) picked up the district championship with two decisions, the first in the semis and the second in the final over the host Hornets’ Dylan Youmans, who had a fall in the semis to get to the final. Raines’ Joseph Haynes (Matmen #7) came back after losing to Taylor in the semis, earning two falls, including in the third-place match against West Nassau’s Jacob Hulbert.
126 — In the rubber match between Clay senior Dale Browning (Matmen and statewide 2nd) and Raines junior Jaquan English (Matmen #3, statewide 6th), the outcome was a bit less dramatic than the last time when Browning won by fall, as Browning took a victory by decision in the finals after winning by fall in the semis. English also had a fall in the semis. Baker County’s Jordan Johnson won two matches by fall in the consis, pinning Westside’s Malik Hardison for third place.
132 — Clay senior Derek Miller (Matmen #1, statewide 3rd) got his first taste of Florida post-season competition after placing twice in Kentucky each of the last two years, picking up two falls to win the title, the second coming against Yulee’s Blaine Dorsey, who also advanced to finals with a pin. In the consis, Bishop Snyder’s Brenden Bizier (Matmen #9) qualified out with two pins, including a fall of Westside’s Keyvonta Broadwater in the third-place match.
138 — 1A’s top-ranked Julian Summa (Matmen #2) continued the string of Blue Devil title victories, winning by tech fall in the semis and then taking a decision victory over West Nassau’s William Tharpe (Matmen HM) in the final. Tharpe advanced to the championship match with a decision over Yulee’s John Parker, who came back in the consi rounds with two falls, the second one against Baker County’s Robbie Martin for third place.
145 — Clay junior Keath Sawdo (Matmen #2, statewide 6th) dominated the bracket, with a fall in the semis and then a tech fall in the championship match against Westside’s Delmontae Davis (Matmen #7). On the consi side, Baker County’s Earl Starling — who’d lost by fall in the semis to Sawdo — pinned Yulee’s David Dry for third place.
152 — Blue Devil sophomore Connor Green (Matmen #7, statewide 6th) scored maximum points in two matches, but in very different ways, with a fall in the semis and then a forfeit in the final over Fernandina Beach’s Joseph Helm (Matmen HM), who reached the finals with a pin of his own. Third place went to the Hornets’ Grant Stanish, who avenged a first-round loss by fall to Baker County’s Caleb Griffin with a pin over Griffin in the third-place match.
160 — Bishop Snyder’s Azim Hameed (Matmen HM) won the only non-Clay title in the tournament with a decision in the semis and then a victory by disqualification over Westside’s Caleb Gibbs (Matmen #8) in the finals. West Nassau’s Chance Terrell, who lost by decision to Hameed in the semis, came back with a pair of falls on the backside, including a fall over Clay’s Garrett Weseman in the third-place match.
170 — Clay senior Caleb Steinmetz (Matmen #6, statewide 7th) picked the Blue Devils’ winning ways back up, with a fall in the semis and then a victory by decision in the championship match against Matmen HM Daniel Hill of West Nassau, who had a win by decision in the semis to get to the final. Baker County’s Blake Dicks, who lost to Hill in the semis, picked off two falls on the back side, pinning Yulee’s Kris Maxie for third place.
182 — Blue Devil freshman Abbott Taylor (Matmen #10) pulled off one of the weekend’s bigger upsets in taking the title. After winning by fall in the semis, Taylor decisioned unbeaten RJ Adams of Yulee in the championship match. Taylor’s semifinal opponent, John/Owen Evans of West Nassau, had a forfeit and fall in the consolations, pinning Raines’ Dondre Stephens for third.
195 — Clay junior Kaleb Collins (Matmen and statewide #2) dominated the bracket with a pair of falls, pinning honorable mention-listed Jahcoassy Leo of Raines in the championship match. Leo had a fall in the semis as well, pinning West Nassau’s Daniel Boylan, who came back with a forfeit win and pin over Fernandina Beach’s David Sturgis to take third place.
220 — Blue Devil senior Jeremy Beaulieu (Matmen #3, statewide 9th) also pinned his way through the bracket, with a fall in the final over Baker County senior Corey Paine (Matmen #7, statewide 14th). Third place went to Matmen HM Blake Hodges, who’d lost to Paine in the semis by fall but came back with maximum points in the consi rounds, pinning Yulee’s TJ Holten in the place match.
285 — Clay senior Roland Samec (Matmen #4, statewide 9th) pulled together another all-falls day for the Blue Devils, pinning Westside’s Tariq Hookfin (Matmen #9) in the finals. On the consi side, Raines’ Travaris Shanks — who’d lost in the semis to Samec — pinned Yulee’s McKenzie Lewis to take third.