Northeast/Northwest Florida Matmen staff report
TALLAHASSEE — When two teams battle to a photo finish in a large tournament, particularly when both are elite, it’s not always a surprise.
For six teams to engage in a kind of battle royale like that, though, is difficult to conceive.
That was the story of the 2A-Region 1 tournament this past weekend at Chiles, where the leaders started shifting almost as each weight class’s group of matches were complete Saturday.
However, when it was all done, a new champion was crowned at the end of the day Saturday evening, as District 3 champ Middleburg took down six-time defending region champion (and seven-time District 2 champ) Lincoln, 111.5-108.5, to win the title by a slim margin indeed.
“It’s a classic sum being greater than the parts (situation),” Middleburg coach Rick Wetherill said via email on Sunday. “Every wrestler contributed their individual best. I’m especially proud, as I see Middleburg as a true organic team from the ground roots.”
Wetherill wasn’t sure if this was the Broncos’ first region title in school history.
All four district champions were in the mix, and had either team faltered further at any point down the stretch, a host of squads from both sides of the state were poised to assume control, as Matanzas (District 4 champ) was third with 105 points, Ed White fourth at 102, Creekside fifth at 101 and Tate (District 1 champ) sixth.
Even the teams in the 7-8-9 slots weren’t all that far out of the picture, as Leon had 92 points for 7th, Orange Park 91 for 8th and Pace 82 for 9th, with Bartram Trail closing out the top 10 at 67.
“The region has seen a leveling effect, with more teams being more competitive,” Wetherill said.
Teams 11-20 were Nease (63 points), Columbia (61), Niceville (59), Ridgeview (52), Chiles (49.5), Crestview (48), Gainesville (47), Gulf Breeze (46), Fort Walton Beach (39) and Choctaw (34).
Finishing 21-27 were Englewood & St Augustine (both with 30), Terry Parker (25), Milton (13), Ponte Vedra (eight) and Paxon & Stanton (each tied with 2).
A summary of each of the 14 weight classes, and the 56 Matmen-area kids that qualified for states, follows:
The skinny — Championship: St. Augustine senior Kristopher Smith (6th statewide) got to the final with two falls and an OT decision over Tate’s Jacob Cochran (12th) in the semis, while Niceville junior Dominic Cerillo won three tight decisions to get there, including a 5-4 semifinal win over Nease’s Sean Arnold (16th). The finals match was Smith’s, in a 7-3 decision.
The skinny — 3rd place: After falling to Smith in overtime, 10-8, Cochran (who had two first-period pins to get to the semis) had two first-period falls on the back side of the bracket to finish third. Cochran falled Middleburg’s Robert Sheridan in 1:43 and then pinned (in 41 seconds) Bartram Trail’s Nicholas Vugman (15th), who had four wins in the consi rounds, including a 4-0 decision over Arnold in the blood round, to punch his ticket after falling 6-3 to Cerillo in round 1.
The skinny — Championship: Gainesville senior Traevon O’Neal (11th statewide) reached the final with two first-period falls and a 12-9 quarterfinal win over Middleburg’s Briar Jackson (16th), while Matanzas senior Rocky Samples (6th) had a fall and two decisions. including a 3-2 win in the semis over Orange Park’s Frank Sawyer. In the title, O’Neal bagged his third fall in the first period, pinning Samples in 1:29.
The skinny — 3rd place: Jackson, a freshman, rallied with a pair of decisions for third, decisioning Sawyer 7-2 in the consi semis and then winning over Tate junior Alex Porter, 11-7, for third. Porter had reached the semis, but lost by fall there in 58 seconds to O’Neal. Porter rallied by winning his blood round match, 9-2, over Lincoln’s Michael Crowder (13th).
The skinny — Championship: Columbia sophomore Chace Curtis (5th statewide) got to the finals out of hte top half of hte bracket with two pins and a 6-1 decision in the semis against Ridgeview’s Justin Trinh, while Nease junior Dylan Martinson (16th) pinned his way there, including a third-period semifinal fall against Niceville’s Zach Hartzog. In the final, Curtis slowed down Martinson’s offense, and pulled together enough scores of his own for a 10-5 decision.
The skinny — 3rd place: Both the 3rd & 4th had to fight their way through the consi rounds to get to states. Orange Park junior Marcus Reid (2nd statewide) had lost in the quarters by fall to Hartzog, but then had two consi-side falls and a 5-2 blood-round win over Trinh, while Choctaw’s Nelson Elder (10th) had lost in overtime to Trinh, 2-1, in the quarters, and had a fall and DQ victory to get to the consi semis, where he pinned Hartzog in 57 seconds. In the placing match, Reid shut out Elder, 4-0.
The skinny — Championship: Lincoln senior Sean Hendley (14th statewide) reached the final with a fall and pair of decisions, punching his states ticket with an 8-4 decision over Gulf Breeze’s Nate Golman. Meanwhile, Nease senior Tristen Lucessi (13th) had two falls (quarterfinal pin over Tate’s Tanner Wood) and a semifinal decision over Middleburg’s Dylan Rossetti (16th), 6-3. The final was Hendley’s, as he doubled up Lucessi, 12-6, for the title.
The skinny — 3rd place: After losing to Lucessi in the quarters, Wood had to gut out three decisions to get through, including a consi-semi winner and District 1 title rematch over Golman, 3-0, to reach the placing match. Rossetti, on the other hand, had a District 3 rematch of his final against Orange Park’s Jeremiah Watson, winning that 5-3. In the placing match, Wood had enough in the tank for a 10-4 decision, his fourth consi-side win after losing in the quarters.
The skinny — Championship: Orange Park sophomore Saeid Ejmali (13th statewide at 138) pinned his way through to the finals, with a first-period fall in the quarters Friday night against Crestview’s Michael Cantwell (14th at this weight) and second-period fall over Bartram Trail’s Matthew Pickett in the semi, while Ridgeview’s Trevor Belden (15th) set up a District 3 finals rematch behind two falls and decision, with a 5-4 win in the quarters over Gulf Breeze’s Noah Losievsky and fall in 2:53 over Chiles’ Logan Mellor (16th) ion the semi. Like the district final, the win was Ejmali’s — this time by a 13-3 major decision.
The skinny — 3rd place: Cantwell won three times after the quarterfinal loss to earn his podium spot, pinning Mellor in the blood round and then adding a fourth victory in the third-place match, pinning Pickett in 2:25. Pickett secured his place at state after a wild consi-semi with Ed White’s Darrell Lampkin, eking out a 12-11 victory.
The skinny — Championship: Pace senior Travis Thompson (15th statewide) had a pair of pins Friday, decisioning Matanzas senior Tristan Kraus (11th) 7-5 in the semifinal to get to the championship match. Meanwhile, Crestview sophomore Diego Calonje scored maximum points to make it a District 1 title rematch, with two pins and an injury-default win, pinning Ed White senior Darien Tucker (9th) in 3:42 in the semi. The final was much tighter for both, but Thompson in the end came away again with the title, decisioning Calonje by a 5-3 count.
The skinny — 3rd place: Kraus rallied from his loss in the semis with a fall and decision to take third, opening with a late fall in the consi semis over Tate’s Daniel Pigg. Meanwhile, Tucker, also, punched a ticket in the consi semis with a victory, although his match with Creekside’s David Tyer was far closer, winning it 8-6. Kraus controlled the pace in the placing round, taking a 12-5 decision.
The skinny — Championship: The final set up another District 1 title rematch, with Pace senior Anthony Krevatas (9th statewide) winning by forfeit, then an 8-2 quarterfinal win over Lincoln senior David Jackson (11th), and finally a second-period fall over Ed White senior Juwan Lee (13th), in 3:43 in the semis. Meanwhile, Niceville sophomore Jack Johnson (15th) had pinned his way through the bracket to the final, falling Creekside’s Steven Stanton in 5:57 in the semis. However, the rematch did not proceed as districts did, as Krevatas gained a measure of vindication for the loss last week, turning back Johnson, 10-5, for the region title.
The skinny — 3rd place: After Jackson lost in the quarters, he needed 3 wins to get out, and got them behind a fall and two decisions, overcoming Stanton in the blood round, 5-3. Lee had just one match to win on the consi side to qualify, and he did so, decisioning Chiles’ Austin Nolan by a 10-4 count. The battle for third was a close one, with Jackson able to take a 7-6 decision.
The skinny — Championship: Leon sophomore Justin Grant (3rd statewide) scored maximum points in getting to the final, with two falls (including a quarterfinal one in 3:51 over Matanzas senior Eddy Leon de la Cruz) and then winning by injury-default over Tate’s Logan Womack in the semi. Creekside’s Brandon Dickman (8th) picked off a fall, 10-6 decision in the quarters over Gulf Breeze senior Aaron Mantuano and 13-0 major over Englewood’s Tavian Whitehead. Grant was too much, though, in the finals, winning by a 10-6 decision for the championship.
The skinny — 3rd place: Both placing wrestlers had to win three matches to get out, with Mantuano winning twice by fall and then taking an injury-default win over Womack to reach the placing round, where he added another fall over Leon de la Cruz (16th), who’d had two majors (including a 9-1 blood-round win over Whitehead) and a decision to get out.
The skinny — Championship: Lincoln senior Jaycie Rudd (2nd statewide) didn’t need much time to get to the finals, pinning three opponents in 4:08, including falls in the quarters over Ed White senior Sergio Jordan (15th) and in the semis over Pace junior Sullivan Gerlits. Meanwhile, Orange Park junior Nartorian Lee (10th) got to the final behind a decision, fall and 12-1 major over Terry Parker’s Landon Dains in the semi. Rudd couldn’t pick up a fourth fall in the final, as Lee pushed him to the brink before Rudd took a 9-7 decision.
The skinny — 3rd place: After falling to Rudd in the quarters, Jordan went six minutes in each of his next four matches, taking decisions in all of them, including an 11-6 win over Dains in the blood round and then a 10-6 win over Gerlits in the placing round. Gerlits had advanced to states with a second-period fall in the blood round over Englewood’s Zykeim Sermons.
The skinny — Championship: Middleburg senior Jonathan Shoen (5th) nearly picked up maximum points in getting to the final, with a pin and tech fall on Friday night and then a fall in 5:43 over Chiles junior Gavin Hoard (4th statewide) in the semis. Ridgeview senior Daryn Tucker Brown set up a District 3 title rematch in a more difficult route, going a full 18 minutes, with a major and two decisions, the second coming against Gulf Breeze’s Tannen Slack, 7-2, in the semis. Shoen repeated his District 3 title victory by fall, this time in 2:23 for the region win.
The skinny — 3rd place: Hoard, who got to the semis with a first-period fall over Tate senior Heath Herndon (15th) on Friday night, wound up seeing Herndon again in the placing match, rallying from the semifinal loss to Shoen with a 23-second pin over Englewood’s Michel Augustin in the consi semis. Herndon won three matches on the back side to get to the placing round, taking vindication for his District 1 title loss to Slack with a 6-0 decision in the blood round.
The skinny — Championship: Matanzas senior Maverick Dennis (8th statewide) pinned his way into the final, with second-period falls Friday night over Middleburg’s Bryan Heflin and Saturday morning against Choctaw’s Sam Mason. Creekside’s Willy Lulias (13th) set up a District 4 title rematch in the bottom half of the bracket, pinning Terry Parker senior Aquana McCalop in the quarters and then Bartram Trail senior Anthony Stith in the semi. As the rivalry had gone during the regular season and at districts, Dennis was able to close the deal in the region final, winning 10-4.
The skinny — 3rd place: Stith won both of his consi-side matches by fall, and both in pin times of 1:14, first taking down Heflin in the blood round, and then pinning McCalop for third place. McCalop, for his part, had to win three matches on the back side, all by decision and two in wild ones, including a 14-11 consi-semi victory over Mason to get to the placing round.
The skinny — Championship: Creekside senior Gus Fischer (4th statewide) pinned his way through to the final, needing just 3:19 to get there, with the longest match being in the semifinals, a fall in 2:19 over Leon’s Henry Segura. Meanwhile, Ed White senior Atyrus McDonald (7th) had a fall and two decisions, the last one a 6-5 squeaker over Ft. Walton Beach’s Brian Haynes (16th) in the semifinal. In the championship, Fischer completed the run of pins, with a fall in 3:51 over McDonald.
The skinny — 3rd place: After losing in overtime to Haynes on Friday night, Matanzas senior Jordin Castanheira (9th) picked off three victories to punch his ticket for states, edging Segura 7-6 in the blood round. Meanwhile, Middleburg sophomore Kurt Jackson also lost in the quarters to Segura, then rallied with two pins and a major to qualify out, pinning Haynes in the consi semis. Castanheira, in turn, then won by fall over Jackson, in 3:01, in the placing round.
The skinny — Championship: Leon sophomore JT Grant (10th statewide) had two pins, including a first-period fall over Ed White senior Avery Wilds (15th) in the quarters, on Friday night, then decisioned Creekside’s Cory Grower 9-2 in the semis. Meanwhile, Tate senior Gaven McAnally (9th) had a forfeit win, a fall, and 9-5 decision in the semis over Chiles’ Bobby Williams, but Grant was too much in the finals, winning by fall in 1:57.
The skinny — 3rd place: Middleburg senior Ammon Meeks (16th) got off the deck after a quarterfinal loss to Williams Friday night, winning three times to get to states, with a decision, fall and 11-3 major over Grower in the blood round. Meeks then took a 9-3 decision, in a third-place match that was a rematch of the District 3 title match, over Wilds, who also won three matches (all via bonus points), including a 13-4 major over Williams in the consi semis.
The skinny — Championship: Leon senior Gabe Beyer (2nd statewide) absolutely dominated the bracket, never having to go past the first period to win the title. Beyer needed 45 seconds to reach the semis and then won by fall in 1:26 over Ft. Walton Beach junior Joseph Pearson in the semis. On the bottom half of the bracket, Ed White senior Kelton Johnson didn’t need a whole lot more time (1:17) to reach the semis, but then needed the full six to take a 2-1 decision over Columbia senior Marcus Zeighler.
The skinny — 3rd place: Zeighler needed just one victory to punch his ticket for states, with a consi-semi pin over Milton’s Hunter Hall (who’d lost in the first round and had to win 3 matches to get to the blood round), and then defeated Pearson by a 9-5 score in the third-place match. Pearson also secured his place against an opponent that had lost in round 1 and needed three wins to get back, decisioning Lincoln’s Thomas Moss 7-4.