Northeast/Northwest Florida Matmen staff report
2A state meet preview
When & where: Friday and Saturday at Silver Spurs Arena in Kissimmee. Wrestling Friday starts with weigh-ins at 8 a.m. and the first round at 10 a.m. with first-round wrestlebacks immediately following. The arena will be cleared following the conclusion of those wrestlebacks, re-opened 45 minutes later with quarterfinals and then second-round wrestlebacks. On Saturday, wrestling begins at 9:30 a.m. with third-round wrestlebacks and semifinals scheduled for 11:15 a.m. Consi semis would begin after the semifinal round is completed, with place matches for third and fifth places afterward. Finals are scheduled for 5:30 p.m.
Team outlook: Although Brandon (team ranking 1st) appeared to have had a stranglehold for the foreseeable future on the 2A title as long as it stayed in 2A, Lake Gibson (5th)has proved the lie to that way of thinking, beating Brandon in both district and region tournaments. Belleview (8th) and Jesuit (4th) should also be top-five threats. If anyone else can capitalize on what seems to be an upheaval at the top of the team race, it might be Riverdale (ranked 2nd), the runaway Region 3 champs, or either Jensen Beach (6th) or Olympic Heights (3rd) out of Region 4. There could be a couple of northern teams in the top 10, with unbelievably strong tournaments, but a second-10 team finish seems more likely.
Expected title match: Ryan Rubenacker, Charlotte, v. James Monos, Riverdale.
Dark horse title match: Kristopher Smith, St. Augustine, v. Anthony Valverde, South Broward.
First-rounder not to miss: Timothy Tran, Bayside, v. Anthony Lopez, Liberty, an 8vs10.
Matmen projected semifinalists: Smith; Rubenacker; Trey Lane, Brandon; Monos.
State of the state: Monos and Rubenacker should have met up at the Region 3 semifinals, but instead Monos lost by DQ in the first round and pinned his way through the back side to take third. Monos could meet Lane, the Region 2 champ, in a 1-2 showdown in the semis.
Local outlook —
Smith: Has a winnable first-rounder against Cape Coral’s Christopher DePaola (expect a close one — DePaola’s three region wins were by a combined total of five points and his one non-Monos loss was by two), but the quarter, either Tran or Lopez, promises to be significantly tougher to get through. Podium’s not impossible (slam dunk if he wins twice Friday), as a quarterfinal loss would land him into an eminently-manueverable bottom half of the back side. The worst outcome would be a rd-1 loss, as he would be facing other ranked opponents to try to keep his medal hopes alive.
Nicholas Vugman, Bartram Trail (15th): Opens with Rubenacker in the first round, and that will be a tough test against the Charlotte senior, a placewinner last year. He’ll have a ranked wrestler no matter what happens in the first round, taking on a 106 from one of the power teams in either Lake Gibson’s Nathan Lawvell (7th) or Jensen Beach’s Wyatt Kirkham (13th) in his second match.
Jacob Cochran, Tate (12th): Opens in Lane’s quarter of the bracket with a first-rounder against Sebring junior Ryan Fountain (9th), who went 6-3 with Rubenacker in the Region 3 final last weekend. It’s a match that Cochran can win, but a possible quarter with Lane would be a different story. The top half of the backside is looking to be the more difficult side to get through. A first-round loss would mean a consi-rd 1 appearance against unranked Derrod Walker of Coral City.
Dominic Cerillo, Niceville: Put together a solid region run to make finals after finishing second at District 1. This time, the state run opens with Monos. A loss there would set up a matchup against (most likely) Pasco freshman Chase Ayers, who’s got a strong room working for him. The bottom half of the back side could get Cerillo to Saturday, but a tough quarterfinal loser will loom in consi rd-2.
Expected title match: CJ Robles, Barron Collier, v. Diamonte Perry, Lake Gibson.
Dark horse title match: Andreus Bond, Brandon, v. Rocco Pereira, Palmetto Ridge.
First-rounder not to miss: Bond vs. Robles, a 4vs3. Winner has a decent path to the final.
Matmen projected semifinalists: Bryan Rubenacker, Charlotte; Robles; Perry; Pereira.
State of the state: Regions 2 and 3 were put on the same half, matching the 1-2 in the semis in Perry and Pereira. At regions last week, it was 2vs3 in Region 3 for the final and could have been 1vs4 in Region 2 but not for a strong underdog run by Liberty’s Lucas Haase.
Local outlook —
Traevon O’Neal, Gainesville (11th): Has got a quarter of the bracket where he could get to Saturday having guaranteed his medal, or wake up Saturday watching the wrestling from the stands. It’s pretty wide-open, with a looks-winnable-on-paper-but-should-be-tough first-rounder against Seminole Ridge’s Zachary Robertson in the first round, with either Rubenacker or Haase waiting in the quarter or consi-rd 1.
Alex Porter, Tate: As the only unranked wrestler in the second quarter, and knowing that the Robles-Bond loser will await in consi-rd 1, Porter’s strongest tournament chances come with a first-round win over south Broward’s Andrew Valverde (9th), itself a tall order. Getting more than two matches would be a very good weekend indeed.
Rocky Samples, Matanzas (6th): Lost by fall in the Region 1 final to O’Neal, Samples will have to lock in fast, as he’ll have a solid first-round opponent in Jensen Beach’s Joey Tufo (13th), and a win there would likely net Samples a match with Perry in the quarters (unranked Naples junior Caleb Poche is also in the third quarter). It isn’t a great draw, with Tufo and Perry on the front and then likely to be Robles or Bond on the back.
Briar Jackson, Middleburg (16th): Faces an unranked wrestler from a solid program in the first round in Olympic Heights’ Paul Steger, with Pereira looming in the quarters. Although unranked, Pasco’s Bryant Haire is a tough customer, and not somebody that is desirable to face with the season on the line, so a rd-1 victory would be better. Even in the event of a quarters loss to Pereira, Jackson’s shot at getting to Saturday is pretty reasonable, but he’d need the match of his life in the consi quarter to get on the podium this year.
Expected title match: Kyle Irwin, Belleview, v. Chace Curtis, Columbia.
Dark horse title match: Matthew Daner, Jesuit, v. Brent Smallwood, Venice.
First-rounder not to miss: Irwin vs. Marcus Reid, Orange Park, a 1vs2. Wowza.
Matmen projected semifinalists: Curtis; Daner; Smallwood; Irwin.
State of the state: Either unranked Daner had the tournament of his life at regions or there was more than just one wrestler having a bad day going on, as Daner took down #6 Austin Hosegood of Lake Gibson in the semi and then Irwin in the final. Not the predicted outcome, to be sure.
Local outlook —
Curtis (5th): Is the highest-ranked wrestler in the top half, and faces the only other top-10 in his half in the first round against Springstead’s Vinny D’Alessandro. The winner has a reasonable path to the final — unless Daner continues his hot streak. Either East Lake’s Garrett Allen (14th) or unranked Gavin Johnson of Viera will be the quarterfinal/consi rd-1 opponent. It’s all there in front of him to wrestle to the final in what is as fair a draw as one could hope for.
Nelson Elder, Choctaw (10th): Elder’s been around a while too, and is in the second quarter, where he could be medaled and wrestling f finals, or watching from the stands Saturday morning. Elder will wrestle Daner in rd 1, with either #12 Brian Opalensky of Estero or Seth Adeclat of Heritage waiting as the next opponent. The key for both Curtis and Elder is to stay in the top half of the bracket for as long as possible.
Dylan Martinson, Nease (16th): Didn’t get the best first-rounder in taking on #6 Hosegood, but Martinson’s been much better down the stretch than he was midyear. Even a loss isn’t the end; he would likely have unranked Kevin Estevez of West Boca Raton, with the possibility of a Quarter 2 quarterfinalist in consi-rd 2, making Saturday very doable. Podium? Far less clear, but this would be a good run to get to Saturday.
Reid: The quarterfinal loss at regions didn’t help, and that combined with Irwin’s loss meant the setup of a match that would have been a fine Saturday-night special. Reid has no room for error in the “Group of Death” bottom quarter, with a top-11 wrestler either way in the quarters or consi-rd 1. Win or lose in round 1, he should still make the podium, but this is the challenge that his skills need. Win round 1, and the path to gold becomes much more manageable.
Expected title match: John DeAugustino, Pasco, v. Kyle Norstrem, Brandon.
Dark horse title match: Andrew Klopman, Jensen Beach (former Clay & Matanzas wrestler) v. Christian Minto, Mariner…but no one will beat Norstrem.
First-rounder not to miss: Johnathan Fan-fan, Lake Gibson, v. Stephen Nicholls, Dunedin, an 8vs9.
Matmen projected semifinalists: DeAugustino; Klopman; Norstrem; Minto.
State of the state: Norstrem will be attempting to win his fifth title this weekend. He decisioned DeAugustino 10-4 for the Region 2 title last weekend. Klopman had command of the Region 4, with bonus points in each round up to the final, while Minto needed everything to push past Nicholls, 5-4, for Region 3.
Local outlook —
Sean Hendley, Lincoln (14th): Has a winnable first-rounder against unranked Chris Patterson of Palm Bay, who has 21 losses coming in. DeAugustino looms as a quarterfinalist, but the bottom portion of the back side of the bracket shapes up favorably for Hendley to get to Saturday, although the consi quarter will be a tall order. Not impossible, but a tall order.
Dylan Rossetti, Middleburg (16th): Tough to get an injury late, but he will face a familiar face in Klopman in the first round. No matter how it turns out, Rossetti will have two ranked wrestlers to face in his first two matches. It’s just about battling through at this point. If he can get out of the weight’s Group of Death, he might get to Saturday. The middle of the brackets are the brutal parts.
Tristen Lucessi, Nease (13th): Not so much the Group of Death as the Group of Norstrem is the third quarter, but Lucessi has a tossup with first-round opponent Darius Darr (15th) of Viera in rd 1, with Norstrem then waiting in the wings in the quarters. That’s a real possibility, as is the possibility of a Clay-tournament rematch with Rossetti late Friday afternoon with Saturday on the line.
Tanner Wood, Pace: Wood’s been ranked and been there before, so knows what’s up. On paper, he won’t be favored against 10th-ranked Ethan Altabet of Olympic Heights, but that road would lead to King’s Jean-Pierre Loyola, also unranked, which is a fair scenario for staying alive, with maybe a meeting with Hendley in consi-rd 2. A win would mean a meetup with Minto, a freshman and heir apparent to Norstrem, and that could get Wood into Saturday. Winning rd 1 is a solid path.
Expected title match: Jalen Soto, Cypress Lake, v. Konnor McHale, Jensen Beach.
Dark horse title match: Clayton Leach, Lake Gibson, v. Colten Thomas, Fort Myers.
First-rounder not to miss: McHale v. Jarrett Chandler, Riverdale, a 1vs10.
Matmen expected semifinalists: Lawrence Scrivens, Brandon; Soto; Thomas; McHale.
State of the state: For one of the few times thus far, the top wrestlers in the bracket are pretty spread apart, so there aren’t any super-elite first-round or quarterfinal matchups, but the semis should be incredible.
Local outlook —
Saeid Ejmali, Orange Park (13th at 138): Has been a great closeout to the season, but states is going to be a tall order with a first-rounder against Brandon senior Scrivens (6th). The next match, win or lose, looks to be a little easier in either unranked George Zertopoulis of Palmetto Ridge or #9 Donald Christman of Sebastian River. On the whole, I think, staying on the top half of the bracket is a little bit easier, but the weight class has some room in it for guys that haven’t gotten much statewide run — like Ejmali — to do a little damage.
Matthew Pickett, Bartram Trail: Has a tough first-rounder in Leach, but Pickett too has closed out the year on a roll. Even if this doesn’t go his way, he might be in the fight against (probably) Olympic Heights’ Nick Peglow (11th) in consi rd-1. Still, though, the real reward is having gotten to this point and using it to sprinboard into his senior year.
Trevor Belden, Ridgeview (15th): Has unranked Austin Smith of East River in the first round, but Smith had a solid Region 2, only losing to Leach by fall in the semis. I’d look at this as a tossup coming down to grit and heart. The winner would get Thomas in the quarters, and a loss there would probably still provide a reasonable shot at getting into Saturday. Could be one more Ejmali-Belden post-season match before it’s all done.
Michael Cantwell, Crestview (14th): Cantwell is in the Group of Death for this weight class, with Chandler/McHale waiting in the wings in the quarters and a very solid Dalton Yerk of Belleview in the first round. It could be a tough prospect to get out of Friday, as Cantwell — even with a rd 1 win — is likely to face Ejmali or Scrivens in consi rd 2.
Expected title match: Jessen Hendrix, Belleview, v. Frank Bruno, Brandon.
Dark horse title match: Daniel Williamson, Riverdale, v. Chance Sharbono, Braden River.
First-rounder not to miss: Hendrix v. Shane Stewart, Palm Bay, a 3vs4.
Matmen expected semifinalists: Gabriel Bourne, Lake Gibson; Hendrix; Bruno; Sharbono.
State of the state: Two very different halves. The top half is brutal almost no matter where one starts. Getting to Saturday out of the top half — on either side — will be a difficult accomplishment. The bottom half, with Bruno and Sharbono potentially meeting in a 1-2 semi, has starpower, but some air to breathe. The two quarterfinal losers from the top half might meet with a podium spot on the line.
Local outlook —
Travis Thompson, Pace (15th): Probably a bit under-rated, but he’ll have a tricky first-rounder against Fort Myers’ Hadley Vadyak (8th) — get through that, and he could have a very real shot at the semis. Thompson will wrestle either Bourne or South Broward’s Andre L’Abadie as his second opponent. Wins might be the best way to get to the podium, as #5 David Sanchez of Miami Springs could be a consi-rd 2 opponent.
Darien Tucker, Ed White (9th): Finishing fourth at Region 1 meant the Group of Death for Tucker, who has #6 Williamson in the first round and then either Stewart or Hendrix for his first two matches in the tournament. Still, though, Tucker has had solid results during the course of the year and a podium spot isn’t out of the question.
Tristan Kraus, Matanzas (11th): Kraus will open the tournament with Dixie Hollins freshman Coleman Bryant, and though Bryant has 49 wins of his own, it is a winnable first-rounder, and that would set up a quarterfinal with Bruno. If that holds to form, Kraus would be looking at a consi rd-2 with a Group of Death survivor, which could be a good thing in that the intensity of those two rounds could take a toll.
Diego Calonje, Crestview: Calonje didn’t gain the best draw in the bracket, even though his quarter does look a little bit open, after the first round, as he’ll face Sharbono there. The likely consi rd-1 opponent would be Wesley Chapel’s Emmanuel Torres, who is unranked, but is quite solid — he just came out of a brutal region.
Expected title match: Hunter Weeks, Riverdale, v. Adam Lewis, Jesuit.
Dark horse title match: Anthony Krevatas, Pace, v. Keaton Koselke, Mariner.
First-rounder not to miss: Koselke v. David Jackson, Lincoln, a 2vs11.
Matmen projected semifinalists: Krevatas; Weeks; Lewis; Brendan Ditro, Dunedin.
State of the state: Koselke’s first loss of the season at regions to Weeks set up Lewis and Koselke to potentially meet in the quarters Friday afternoon, sending a terrific wrestler into the second part of the consolation bracket. Could be the case in the bottom quarter as well. Top half of the consis will be brutal Saturday morning.
Local outlook —
Krevatas (9th): Has a very solid opportunity to get to the semis, with a winnable match against East Lake’s Carl Monix in the first round and then (likely) a quarterfinal against Palm Bay’s Bryce Poppell (8th), which should be a very hotly-contested battle. That will be key to getting on the podium, the way this bracket is drawn up.
Juwan Lee, Ed White (13th): Will face Weeks in the first round in a bracket that will be incredibly difficult just to get to Saturday, let alone get to the podium. I would see him against Miami Springs’ Randall Sandoval in consi-rd 1, and if he can win that he will likely face the Lewis/Koselke quarterfinal loser in consi rd-2, and it would be a massive tournament upset just to get to Saturday.
Jackson: Actually being in with Lewis & Koselke isn’t the worst situation (unless Lewis were to lose in rd 1), as Jackson should be able to get past Mourning’s Aslef Jean in consi-rd 1, and might have a reasonable shot of moving on to Saturday. But the middle two rounds of the tournament are stacked with solid competition, and Saturday would be a very big accomplishment.
Jack Johnson, Niceville (15th): Falling in a District 1 title rematch to Krevatas sent Johnson to the bottom quarter and a first-match with Ditro (5th), and no matter who he might get in consi-rd 1, whether it would be #4 Kyle Kirkham of Jensen Beach or Belleview’s Jakob Crew, who’s had a good season of his own. If he can get through consi-rd 1, it is possible that he might face Krevatas again.
Expected title match: Julian Ramirez, Jesuit, v. Christian Febus, Lake Gibson.
Dark horse title match: Justin Grant, Leon, v. Dan Georges, Olympic Heights…but I don’t see Ramirez falling.
First-rounder not to miss: Febus v. Brandon Dickman, Creekside, a 2vs8.
Matmen projected semifinalists: Grant; Ramirez; Febus; Georges.
State of the state: Although the third quarter appears to have Group of Death status locked down, the others all have some superstars in them, which should make the Saturday semifinals very compelling. I can’t see anybody slowing Ramirez down much in this tournament, honestly, but if anybody will give it a go, it will be Grant in the semi.
Local outlook —
Grant (3rd): The Leon sophomore should have a winnable match in the first round against Springstead’s Travis Williams (14th), but Palm Bay’s Dylan Perrow (5th) should provide a solid test in the quarters. That will bring on Ramirez, and I will be keeping an eye on that one, as there could be a ton of points piled up. I’m fairly confident that Grant will go home with hardware, perhaps as high as third. Were he in the opposite half from Ramirez, I could have seen a Saturday-night appearance.
Eddy Leon de la Cruz, Matanzas (16th): Leon de la Cruz will open the tournament with Ramirez in the first round, and that is a very difficult way to get to states, but he should have a chance, in consi-rd 1 against Golden Gate’s Devin Price, to pick up a victory there, but the consi rd-2 matchup, either West Boca Raton’s Dimitri Naimi (9th) or Venice’s Jacob Mathis (7th), will be difficult as well.
Brandon Dickman, Creekside (8th): I saw him as a podium threat at the start of the year, and still do, but his first-rounder only would have been harder had it been Ramirez in the draw. Still, though, I would project him for a podium finish, probably a 5-6 (due to the star power in the semifinalists), which would be a good finish to the season.
Aaron Mantuano, Gulf Breeze: Had no favors from the bracketologists, drawing Chad Heidt (6th) of Robinson in the first round. From there, he will face a ranked wrestler either way, so the best course for him to have a solid shot at Saturday is to pick up that first-round win.
Expected title match: Jaycie Rudd, Lincoln, v. Joey Nadotti, Palmetto Ridge.
Dark horse title match: Adam Pyle, Auburndale, v. Miguel Angel Hernandez, Pasco.
First-rounder not to miss: Nadotti v. Jared Burgess, Belleview, a 1vs5.
Matmen projected semifinalists: Rudd; Matthew Cates, Palm Bay; Hernandez; Nadotti.
State of the state: This one will have some state-final intensity right from the jump with Nadotti and Burgess squaring off in the first round, as the winner would have a solid chance to win the tournament and the loser would be one of the lead candidates for third. There’s a lot more air in the top half, particularly in the second quarter.
Local outlook —
Rudd (2nd): Should be seeing two ranked wrestlers on Friday, with a first-rounder against Jensen Beach’s Blake Wiswell (16th) and then possibly Pyle (6th) in the quarters. The winner of that quarter has a very good chance of getting to Saturday night, and it should be Rudd, who has been the best 160 in north Florida all season.
Sullivan Gerlits, Pace: Had a solid tournament to get to states, and could have had a far worse draw than the most open quarter in the weight class, but he will face 11th-ranked Matthew Cates of Palm Bay in the first round. In the event of a loss, Gerlits should have a reasonable shot to move on against an unranked wrestler, either Miguel Ruberia of East River or Jermaine Teague of Cypress Lake in consi-rd 1. That may be winnable, but getting to Saturday would be an accomplishment.
Nartorian Lee, Orange Park (10th): Appears poised to take over Rudd’s mantle among 160/170s next season after making a massive jump this year. Lee has a winnable first-rounder against Norland’s Cednet Jean, and that should put him into the quarters against Hernandez. The match he had with Rudd should convince him that wins are possible against anyone, so the semis are not out of the question, and even in the event of a loss to Hernandez, I like Lee’s podium chances.
Sergio Jordan, Ed White (15th): Is in this weight class’s Group of Death, and his best chance at avoiding an 0-2 tournament would be to win in the first round against Merritt Island’s Rene Capo (12th), because the other half of the quarter is Nadotti and Burgess. If Jordan can win in the first round, he’ll have a pretty decent shot at Saturday.
Expected title match: Jonathan Shoen, Middleburg, v. Laurence Kosoy, Olympic Heights.
Dark horse title match: Blake Castillo, Pasco, v. Jared Galan, Riverdale.
First-rounder not to miss: Kosoy v. Jesse Seidl, Land O’Lakes, another 1vs2.
Matmen projected semifinalists: Shoen; Joey Parmenter, Palmetto Ridge; Galan; Kosoy.
State of the state: With the favorites in Region 2 having to face off in the quarters of regions and then again for third, plus a few other high-level wrestlers taking losses in the finals, there are a couple of big matches early in this tournament that should shape how the rest shakes out — 1vs2 and 3vs4 in the first round and a potential 5-6 in the quarters.
Local outlook —
Shoen (5th): A placewinner last year, Shoen’s chances of getting to the finals are pretty solid, but after the first round — when he faces unranked Mike Edouard of Fort Myers — each match should progressively get tougher, with Castillo in the quarters, probably Parmenter in the semi and some higher-ranked kid in the final. This post-season, though, he’s met every challenge.
Heath Herndon, Tate (15th): Not quite in the Group of Death, but two very difficult matches loom, with Parmenter in rd-1 and then either West Boca’s Alex Bordeau (13th) or Gaither’s Brad Bolesta (9th) in the next match. Even a win in rd 1 doesn’t make Herndon safe, as a quarterfinal loss drops him into the Group of Death on the backside. It’s a very difficult draw to overcome beyond Friday.
Gavin Hoard, Chiles (4th): Will open with a very difficult first-rounder — but for him, it’s still potentially winnable — against Galan (3rd) in the first round, with the second match against either Liberty’s Brian Almeida-Torres (7th) or Belen Jesuit’s Ariel Jimenez (14th) in the next round. Hoard does have a solid chance of getting to the semis, maybe the final if he can get past Seidl or Kosoy.
Daryn Tucker Brown, Ridgeview: Brown’s first-rounder sets him up against East Lake’s George Hall, which presents on paper like at least a winnable match, though the quarter against either Seidl or Kosoy would be a very difficult enterprise indeed. Consi-round 2 prospects are OK, so Saturday’s got a shot.
Expected title match: Connor Knauer, Hillsborough, v. Brian Buser, Jesuit.
Dark horse title match: Brandon Nevitt, Dixie Hollins, v. Gage Schield, Riverdale.
First-rounder not to miss: Maverick Dennis, Matanzas, v. Nick Richards, Ida Baker, an 8vs5.
Matmen projected semifinalists: Malachi Ortiz, Belleview; Knauer; Buser; Schield.
State of the state: First class where some late drops affect things, as Nevitt is ranked at 195 (third) and will pose a massive issue for Knauer in the quarters. Buser will also face a top-3 in the quarters, taking on 182’s third-ranked Jacob Figur of Sebring.
Local outlook —
Dennis (8th): Kind of two Groups of Death in this bracket, and Dennis is in the top-half version with a very solid Richards in round 1, with either Ortiz (6th) or Arlen Dean (Palm Bay, 10th) waiting in the next match, and the fun doesn’t end there, as a bottom half-Group of Death survivor could await in the back side.
Aquana McCalop, Terry Parker (15th): Starts with Nevitt in the first round, which isn’t the way you’d want to start, but the loser would get either Knauer or Barbara Goleman’s Enrique Kelly in consi-rd 1. Kelly might be a winnable match there, but most likely either Buser or Figur would await in consi rd 2, so Saturday would be an exceptionally tall order — unless he can win twice.
Anthony Stith, Bartram Trail: Opens the tournament with Figur in rd 1, a tall order, but should have a winnable consi-rd 1 matchup against Olympic Heights’ Troy Jaffy. The consi-rd 2 match, with the losing quarterfinalist out of the second quarter (likely to be Knauer or Nevitt), should be very difficult to get past.
Willy Lulias, Creekside (13th): Lulias is in the bottom-half Group of Death with a first-rounder against Schield (4th), which could be a competitive match but one that he wouldn’t be favored to win, and then he would face — regardless of first-round outcome — either #9 Brandon Burgess of Springstead or #11 Cole Podaras of Jensen Beach, with a top-half Group of Death member dropping down for consi rd-2.
Expected title match: Gus Fischer, Creekside, v. Clifton Thomas, Dixie Hollins.
Dark horse title match: Nick Vischulis, Venice, v. Joe Marcano, Brandon.
First-rounder not to miss: Garrett Davidofsky, Olympic Heights, v. Atyrus McDonald, Ed White, a 5vs7.
Matmen projected semifinalists: Fischer; Vischulis; Marcano; Thomas.
State of the state: It’s not often you see a 1 vs 1 possibility in a state-tournament field, but Thomas’ late drop from 220 led to it, as he was ranked #1 at 220. That drop very much loads up the bottom half of the bracket, as the only non-ranked wrestler in that bottom half is 50-match winner Logan Penman of Jefferson, hardly a slouch.
Local outlook —
Fischer (4th): Couldn’t almost ask for a better path to a state tournament than this one, with an unranked wrestler in the first round in Dillard’s Frederick Dixson, a reasonable quarterfinal against either #10 Najee Jacob of Fort Myers or #11 Cody Bush of Auburndale and a reasonable semifinal as well. If Fischer wrestles as he did for all of February, the chance of Saturday night is very, very real.
Kurt Jackson, Middleburg: Although he’s the only unranked wrestler in the second quarter, Jackson’s talent is sufficient enough to get him to the semifinals, but there’s enough good guys here — and throw in a Group of Death competitor in consi rd-2 — that getting to Saturday would be very difficult in the absence of two Friday wins on the front side.
McDonald (7th): McDonald has the benefit of having had state experience in the past, and that might be a very necessary asset to bring to the table, because being in the Group of Death is going to be hard enough as it is, with Davidofsky in the first round and with a win most likely would face Marcano in the quarters; a loss would mean #11 Jack Simpson of Barron Collier in consi rd 1. There was a point in the season when I wasn’t sure if he would make podium this year, but right now I’d say it’s a good possibility.
Jordin Castanheira, Matanzas (9th): A lot of Castanheira’s losses stem from the competition he had this year, and all of that competition made it possible for him to have a solid chance in the bottom quarter. He faces #8 Caden Norris of Merritt Island in the first round in a match that looks like a tossup on paper. The key is winning there, because a loss might mean Penman in consi-rd 1. The path at the top of the consi side might be one that could also lead to a podium possibility.
Expected title match: Alexi Castro, Olympic Heights, v. Jesse Pryor, Riverdale.
Dark horse title match: Jamel Davis, Barron Collier, v. Silas Root, Harmony.
First-rounder not to miss: Marvens Saint-Charles, Berkeley Prep, v. Gaven McAnally, Tate, an 8vs9.
Matmen projected semifinalists: Jonathan Grant, Leon; Castro; Root; Pryor.
State of the state: With the top-ranked 220 down at 195, this weight class beccomes a little bit more open, although the possibility of a Castro-Davis quarterfinal could be a great way to close out Friday. There are a few open spaces out there, particularly in the top quarter of the bracket.
Local outlook —
Grant (10th): Grant can get to the semifinals. He’s beaten some very good wrestlers in his career already, and he can get past Norland’s unranked Reoshard Donald in the first round and either Lake Gibson’s Devan Lopez-Rojas (7th) or Brian Batey of River Ridge in the quarter. Lopez-Rojas will be a tough competitor, but Grant can win. And don’t think he’ll be done. I expect him to make podium.
Avery Wilds, Ed White (15th): The second quarter is the weight class’s Group of Death, with all four kids ranked, and he opens with Castro in the first round. I would expect that he’ll face ranked competition all along his path, starting probably with Belleview’s Leonard Jacobs (12th) in consi rd-1. Getting to Saturday will be a solid accomplishment.
Gaven McAnally, Tate (9th): Getting a first-round win over Saint-Charles is critically important, because the road to Saturday and a possible podium spot depends on reaching the quarterfinal, at least that should be the easiest way to get there. A win means Root in the quarters, a loss probably means Jordan Rene of South Ft. Myers in consi rd-1, with probably either Davis or Castro in consi rd-2. McAnally would rather be in the top half of the consi bracket rather than the bottom.
Ammon Meeks, Middleburg (16th): Meeks does have a winnable first-round match against Dwyer’s Kyven Higgins (13th) in at least what should be a tossup, and like McAnally, Meeks needs to win that first-rounder and get to the quarter against (most likely) Pryor in the quarters, because that top half of the consis is much easier to get to the podium than the bottom.
Expected title match: Gabe Beyer, Leon, v. Michael Delago, Fort Myers.
Dark horse title match: Cole Schneider, Riverdale, v. Nate Podaras, Jensen Beach.
First-rounder not to miss: Podaras v. Jesse Smith, Dixie Hollins, a 7vs8.
Matmen projected semifinalists: Beyer; Schneider; Delago; Podaras.
State of the state: There’s three monsters in this bracket: the defending state champion, the top-ranked wrestler (who’ve wrestled each other several times, and have been all but penciled in to meet again for finals) and then there’s Beyer. There are several kids who’ll be fighting for three podium spots, essentially, because of how strong these 3 are.
Local outlook —
Beyer (2nd): It’s an article of faith in the north that Beyer is the north’s best heavy, and I can throw my belief behind that after a 90-second pin of the Northeast’s best, Kelton Johnson, in the Region 1 final. He has unranked Jefferson heavy Jesus Gonazalez in the first round and then most likely East Lake’s Julian Santos (4th) in the quarters, then probably Schneider, the defending champ. Beyer wrestled at the highest levels last off-season, and that’s why he will place (barring injury), could make the final and might win the whole thing.
Joseph Pearson, Ft Walton Beach (16th): Pearson’s tournament opens with a strong Rowdy Driggers of Lennard (5th), and that will be a tough matchup, but he should have a winnable match in consi rd-1 against Port St. Lucie’s Deandre Sims. It’s possible that Pearson might get to Saturday, but there will be a tough opponent coming out of the third quarterfinal.
Johnson (6th): Has a very tough matchup in the first round in Pasco’s Nick Burt (10th). Burt is an interesting cat. He’s lost in round 1 and then destroyed all in his path en route to taking third (I saw him do it at 220 at Region 2 last year), and is not built like a traditional heavy. Johnson will have to use all his athleticism to get through that, but Delago would be waiting in the quarters. I know Kelton can podium, just where is the question.
Marcus Zeighler, Columbia (12th): Has a winnable first-roiunder against Belleview’s Jordon Ortega (15th) and can be more than a match for either Smith or Podaras in the quarter, should he get there. He also needs to win that first-rounder, because an elite wrestler out of the top quarter (probably Santos) will come down there. He’s got a ton of grit, and he’ll need it to get to Saturday.