Northeast/Northwest Florida Matmen staff report
1A 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: So OK. Unless you’ve been under a rock for a little more than a year now — or you have no need to follow 1A wrestling — there’s this little team out there in a quiet little hamlet called Orlando. Maybe you’ve heard of it. And this team, Lake Highland Prep, is a (and yes, I’ll use the word) overwhelming favorite to win the team title. Perhaps you’ve heard of the Highlanders. If not, watch them this weekend. They’re pretty OK. In my mind, the question is: Can anyone, outside of the Blue Devils themselves, stop Clay from taking second? Yes, maybe, but not the way that the Blue Devils have been wrestling the past few weeks. A very, very good Arnold team took their shot at Clay at Region 1 last week, won five region brackets, and couldn’t overcome the Blue Devils’ impression of the Dan Gable-era Iowa teams and their ability to lock up the tournament far before the final round. Cardinal Gibbons has some horses, Arnold certainly does as we’ve seen up north all year, and there are several other teams that could go top-five. But second to the Highlanders? To bring a tennis analogy into it, if Clay holds serve, yes, second is well within the Blue Devil grasp, and Arnold will certainly be looking at a possible top-five.
Expected title match: Ethan Pickren, Arnold, v. Ryan Chauvin, Lake Highland Prep.
Dark horse title match: Matthew Malavsky, Evangelical Christian, v. Louie Gagliardo, Clay.
First-rounder not to miss: Gagliardo v. Ben Buhler, Tampa Prep, a 4vs6.
Matmen projected semifinalists: Pickren; Malavsky; Chauvin; Gagliardo.
State of the state: The weight class had an uproar last week when the top-ranked wrestler was declared ineligible before the region tournament (go to TFWR for more on that, he’s not from the north and not at state, rightly or wrongly; I focus on who is at state, again rightly or wrongly). The bottom half of the bracket looks on paper to be the more-loaded half, which should benefit the top kids in the top half.
Local outlook —
Pickren (3rd): Did I say something about a benefit? I believe I may have. Not that Pickren needed that much of one after the exceptionally solid freshman season he’s had. He will open the tournament with unranked Danya Jones of Gibbs in the first round, with either Keys Gate’s Jacob Delgado (15th) or unranked Kevin Rochon of Villages in the quarters. I would anticipate either Malavsky or Bishop Moore’s Ryan Rowland (10th) in the semi. Saturday night is a very real possibility.
Jack Delaney, Bishop Kenny: Delaney starts the tournament with Malavsky in rd 1 and a ranked opponent in the next round, no matter whether win or lose. It’s not an ideal draw, and even should he get out of the first two with one win, he could face Suwannee’s Brandon Trask (9th) with Saturday on the line. It was competitive, their Region 1 battle for third last week.
Trask: Opens with #13 Travon Spry of Avon Park in the first round, not the easiest first-rounder but not the worst matchup possibility. Chauvin is the likely quarterfinal match, so for Trask, the consi side is the best way to a medal. It’s possible, needs to beat two ranked kids in back-to-back matches on back-to-back days, but Trask should have the grit to make it happen.
Gagliardo (4th): Has to get into Saturday thinking immediately on Friday, as Buhler will be a very tough first-rounder. The second match, against either #14 Carson Kirk of Astronaut or #16 Aaron Palacios of Key West, might be a bit easier to navigate. Chauvin in the semis will be tough, he already has a win in hand over Gagliardo from Grapple on the Gridiron back in January, but a podium finish is a strong possibility.
Expected title match: Chris Merring, Clay, v. Noah Castillo, Lake Highland Prep.
Dark horse title match: Christopher Riley, Somerset Academy, v. Larry Smith, Wakulla.
First-rounder not to miss: Riley vs. Jake Blount, West Nassau, a 4vs8.
Matmen projected semifinalists: Merring; Riley; Castillo; Daniel Porter, University Christian.
State of the state: Some interesting bracketology here in this weight class, as the bottom quarter has just one ranked wrestler in the group, and that was a region 3rd. The others all seem to be of a piece in terms of overall competitiveness, but there could be a 1vs3 matchup in the quarters.
Local outlook —
Merring (2nd): Despite being ranked as favored to reach Saturday night, it’s going to be anything but easy for Merring. The first-rounder, yes, should be quite winnable, against Chaminade-Madonna’s Joseph Scirghio, but both Astronaut’s Louie Cortez (10th) and Tampa Prep’s Aaron Mills (7th) are much different customers in the quarter, with probably Riley looming in the semi. Merring has enough to get to Saturday night, but has to continue to keep trusting the process that got him this far.
Blount (8th): Won over Porter in the regular season but had to injury-default to him in the Region 1 third-place match last week. If he can go for states, Riley’s still a tall order in the first round, and Crystal River’s Chase Bunts, despite being unranked, won’t be a whole lot less complicated to overcome. Plus there’s either Smith or Castillo in consi-rd 2 to get past. Saturday will be a tall order.
Smith (3rd): Smith has a winnable first-rounder against Jupiter Christian’s Eric Barnes (15th), but the quarterfinal against Castillo could determine one of the finalists Saturday night. Smith has the capability after having been a placer in 2015. But even a loss to Castillo won’t keep him from repeating the placing accomplishment this year.
Porter (9th): Has a very reasonable bracket to get to the semifinals, as the only ranked competitor in the bottom quarter, with a first-round against Miami Jackson’s Devon Smith and then either Bishop Moore’s Nick Walker or Bradenton Christian’s Alan Moreno — both unranked — as a second match. Either Castillo or Smith is probably a bit much — Smith pinned Porter in the semis at Region 1 last week — but a second state medal is well within Porter’s grasp.
Expected title match: Mason Wohltman, Lake Highland Prep, v. Dre Neely, Avon Park.
Dark horse title match: William Pickren, Arnold, v. Dominic Gibson, Cardinal Gibbons.
First-rounder not to miss: Colby Singletary, Somerset Academy, v. Eric Garcia, Lely.
Matmen projected semifinalists: Pickren; Wohltman; Neely. Gibson.
State of the state: With nothing but ranked kids wall-to-wall, the top half of the bracket is clearly the harder path to get through — even if top-ranked Wohltman wasn’t in it, and he is. Add in a former finalist and 2x placer, one of the state’s best middle-school kids competing with the older boys, and it’s a rough half. Those that drop quarterfinal matches might find the road in the bottom half easier to travel.
Local outlook —
Pickren (4th): Should be on target for at least a third state medal, although first-rounder Nick Lebeau of Astronaut (14th) should be a tough out and then there’ll either be Singletary or Garcia in the quarters, with Wohltman looming as a semifinal matchup. I don’t see a scenario, barring injury, where he doesn’t medal. Should be a good quarter and (perhaps, because Singletary is a tough 8th-grader) semifinal along the way, however.
Max Metcalf, Florida High (13th): Metcalf gets Wohltman in the first round, which isn’t a good open, but speaks to the depth of Region 1 at this weight. I suspect Metcalf would probably get Evangelical Christian’s Jason Meyer in consi-rd 1. Want to say that could be a tossup, but Meyer isn’t bad either. One of those two is going to be disappointed with the day.
Dylan Taylor, Clay (7th): The key for Taylor — as it will be for all of the bottom half kids — is to stay on the bottom half as long as possible. Moving up to the top half in the consi rounds becomes tricky. Taylor has unranked Austin Lashure of Rockledge in the first round and then probably would face Neely in the quarters. A loss there would net him a ranked opponent — but a winnable match — consi rd-2, but he might have to face the Kohn/Gibson loser with a podium spot on the line Saturday.
Joseph Haynes, Raines: Opens with a very tough kid in Bishop Moore sophomore Devin Kohn (6th), who might be underrated in this group. Haynes should have a winnable consi-rd 1 match against Immokalee’s Gabriel Ramirez, but then gets a very tough wrestler out of the first quarter dropping down for consi rd-2. Saturday would be an impressive feat.
Expected title match: Dale Browning, Clay, v. Joe Silva, Lake Highland Prep.
Dark horse title match: Connor Kirk, Astronaut, v. Noah Farrelly, Admiral Farragut…but no one will beat Silva.
First-rounder not to miss: Bryan Metcalf, Florida High, v. Nicholas Benton, Somerset Academy, a 5vs8.
Matmen projected semifinalists: Browning; Metcalf; Silva; Farrelly.
State of the state: Another top half that is wall-to-wall ranked kids, while the bottom half is a bit more open. Region 2’s strength might net it three quarterfinalists, but the same might be true of Region 1 as well, or at least the rankings might suggest so. For the top-half kids, there is room for some error; for the bottom-half kids not named Silva, there is very precious little.
Local outlook —
Browning (2nd): It’s the final go-round and I’m sure he wants to at minimum erase the disappointment of a year ago, where he did not place after medaling in both 2012-13 and 2013-14. Already at 150+ wins, Browning might not see another unranked wrestler in the tournament, with #14 Tarique Daley of Coconut Creek in rd 1 and a second match against either Kirk (4th) or Junior Jose Pontinela of Avon Park (9th). Saturday night is very possible, and I’m sure he feels it’s overdue for him.
Metcalf (5th): Injury-defaulted to English — who he beat at Raines 5 Star a month earlier — so we’ll have to see how he comes back. He has Benton in the first round and then either #13 Jake Wheeler of Bishop Moore or #11 Trevor McDaniel of Dunbar in the second match, which might actually be an easier go. Should have a shot at Saturday as well, if fit enough.
Kyle Black, Bishop Kenny: Surged into the Region 1 final after a semifinal win over Raines’ Jaquan English (6th) at regions. He opens with #10 Nick Desola of American Heritage-Delray, but showed with his win that rankings aren’t meaning a lot. Second match, either way, is either #1 Silva or #12 Jeffrey Phillips of Booker. Saturday’s a real possibility.
English, Raines (6th): As mentioned above, the best path for the podium, for English, is to keep winning Friday. Like it does for everybody else, two front-side wins guarantees a medal, but having to go into the back side on the top half is fraught with peril for anybody. English opens with unranked Kenny Lopez of Booker T. Washington, then would get Farrelly in the quarter. The odds are still in English’s favor but a lapse at the wrong time could really be critical.
Expected title match: Kai Bele, Lake Highland Prep, v. Richie McClanahan, Arnold.
Dark horse title match: Derek Miller, Clay, v. Frankie Talshahar, American Heritage-Delray.
First-rounder not to miss: Jack Pohler, Indian Rocks Christian, v. Daniel Valledor, Somerset Academy, a 6vs7.
Matmen expected semifinalists: Miller; Bele; McClanahan; Talshahar.
State of the state: From a macro standpoint, the bracket is nicely and evenly spaced out, for the most part, with each of the top four wrestlers in a different quarterfinal (the bottom quarter does appear to be more loaded than the others). There’s gaps in both halves for the elite kids to do their work and enough open space that a newcomer can make his mark in this field.
Local outlook —
Miller (3rd): While firmly staying out of the was-it-a-takedown-or-wasn’t-it nature of his overtime win, Miller will have gotten everyone’s attention with his region title Saturday. He’ll open with Space Coast’s Jason Amato in the first round, but expect the pressure to ratchet upward, with either Pohler or Valledor in the quarters and then possibly a rematch with Bele in the semi. Bele has a win in hand, but then McClanahan did, too. Either way, Miller should definitely be on the podium Saturday night, and has at least a shot at the finals.
Julian Borrell, Suwannee: Starts the tournament with Bele in the first round, but from there has a potentially-winnable match against unranked Kameron Maynard of Hallandale in consi-rd 1, but then probably faces Habeil in consi-rd 2. Tall order, but he’s already defied my expectations just by getting here, when I wasn’t even sure where in the lineup he’d be at districts.
McClanahan (1st): Very little changes from regions on Saturday. Still the favorite to defend, the little thing that changes is the order of opponents. He’ll open with Hernando’s Dakota Ellerbee in the first round and likely draw #5 Ashton Habiel of Tampa Prep, a solid 8th-grader but a winnable match. Then most likely Talshahar in the semis. What’s a little more up in the air after this is who he’ll get in the final. Bele has a win over Miller, but Miller is putting things together. Am sure, tape of both was watched this week.
Max Owen, Wakulla (13th): Has the Group of Death quarter, and will need at least one great match to avoid a quick exit on Friday. He opens with a very solid Hunter Gibson of Weeki Wachee (11th) in the first round, and then would face either Talshahar or Immokalee’s Andonet Thermidor (9th) in the second match. Got to win one of those to go on, with the likelihood of a very solid wrestler in consi-rd 2, even if the first match is a win. Saturday would be a nice accomplishment.
Expected title match: Julian Summa, Clay, v. Alex Perez, Miami Pace.
Dark horse title match: Caleb Ashe, Key West, v. Joey Lopez, Cardinal Gibbons.
First-rounder not to miss: Lopez v. Aaron Mason, Bishop Moore, a 4vs7.
Matmen expected semifinalists: Summa; Ashe; Lopez; Perez.
State of the state: Another 1A bracket where the top-four ranked wrestlers all fall into different quarters. This one, though, has got quite a bit of room for manueuverability, with three of the four quarters having two spots with unranked wrestlers.
Local outlook —
Summa (1st): Summa has the draw all in front of him this weekend, with a first-rounder against unranked Dayton Hutchins of Dunbar and a likely quarterfinal against either Somerset Canyons’ Alyis Marsuli or #12 Keegan Davis of Nature Coast. The key challengers to Summa are going to be familiar ones. In a possible semi, he is most likely to face Ashe, and Summa beat Ashe 6-4 at Somerset Scuffle. Then, in the final, possibly against Perez, Summa also has a prior win, 4-3. Lopez might be the only unknown commodity in a matchup, but Summa has all the pieces in place.
Marquez Patterson-Rhodes, Marianna: Patterson-Rhodes has a tricky first-rounder against Oasis Charter’s Gregory Krempski (10th), and a loss there isn’t helpful, as he would face either Ashe or Lake Highland’s unranked Max Cosmides. While Cosmides doesn’t have the resume of his teammate, he did finish second at Region 2 and a strong personal interest to make a contribution to his team.
Max Harris, Florida High (9th): Harris is in this weight class’s Group of Death, and opens with Admiral Farragut’s Jack Lescarbeau (11th) in the first round, with either Lopez or Mason waiting in the quarters. Average number of wins is 41 in this quarter, and at least one win would be helpful here at least as far as getting to Saturday is concerned. Losing in the first round might mean an 0-2 weekend in this quarter.
Andrew St. Amant, Arnold (14th): St. Amant has a winnable first-rounder against unranked Nicholas Carbone of Northside Christian, and then would likely take on Perez in the quarter, which would send him up to the top quarter of consi rd-2. There, too, he has a winnable path to Saturday. Getting past the consi-quarter might be a tall order, but a Saturday appearance will do a lot for the Marlin sophomore, who’ll have a big presence over the next two years at Arnold.
Expected title match: Anthony Artalona, Tampa Prep, v. Jake Brindley, Lake Highland Prep.
Dark horse title match: Ethan Ahrens, Astronaut, v. Dominick Venturi, American Heritage-Plantation…but no one will beat either Artalona or Brindley prior to the final.
First-rounder not to miss: Osvani Ley, Cardinal Gibbons, v. Bradley Kata, Bishop Moore, an 8vs.10.
Matmen projected semifinalists: Keath Sawdo, Clay; Artalona; Brindley; Venturi.
State of the state: The top half of the bracket is certainly stronger, but there are, essentially, three Groups of Death in this bracket — the top one that essentially is one, and the ones that Artalona and Brindley are in. Just expect the roof to get torn off when these two hook up Saturday night. A fantastic display shall ensue.
Local outlook —
Sawdo (6th): Although he’s in the Group of Death, he’s not in the Group of Artalona or Group of Brindley, which might be worse. The matchups in terms of rankings are pretty equal, which gives him a fair chance to get out, starting with #12 Zach Dagg of Lemon Bay in round 1 and either Ley or Kata in the second match. The only way that I don’t see Sawdo on the podium is if the first two matches go poorly. Two wins Friday is a definite yes, one win — almost regardless of when it happens — makes a probable yes.
Jake Richardson, Florida High: Richardson opens the tournament with Artalona, so the consi round is going to be his path to Saturday. I expect that he will — probably — face Somerset Academy’s Vincent Blasucci (14th) in consi rd-1. Blasucci knows how to win, he’s got 55 of them. If Richardson can get past Blasucci, the road in consi-rd 2 won’t be much easier.
Conner Cronk, Bolles (16th): Has a winnable first-round matchup with Lely’s Kayhan Peksen, and then would slot into Brindley in the quarters. Getting past Richardson or Blasucci in consi rd-2 might be a tough challenge. Doable, but difficult. Cronk has a shot at Saturday, and he would much rather try to do it in the 2nd quarter of consi rd-2 than the third, where Ahrens will lilkely land after his match with Artalona.
Dylan Tuttle, Arnold (9th): Tuttle comes in with 60 wins and has a chance to add to that title, at least early, with a first-rounder against #12 Mitchell Kerr of Indian Rocks Christian. From there, it’s most likely that he would get Venturi in the quarter, but Hernando’s Codey Maniates would not be easy on the other side. Tuttle is most likely to go up to the top consi rd-2 quarter, where a Group of Death contestant will be waiting. Saturday’s doable, and the podium might be as well.
Expected title match: Erich Byelick, Lake Highland Prep, v. Michael Gingras, Indian Rocks Christian.
Dark horse title match: Paul Patterson, Arnold, v. Ryan Violette, Bishop Moore.
First-rounder not to miss: Violette v. Connor Green, Clay, a 3vs6.
Matmen projected semifinalists: Patterson; Byelick; Gingras; Violette.
State of the state: Although the bottom quarter shades toward Group of Death status, the top four wrestlers are all in different quarters, which should bring about explosive semifinal matches. All of them are looking for their first state championship. There are a few places in the bracket where new faces might be able to emerge.
Local outlook —
Patterson (4th): Patterson should be the favorite in the top quarter, even with a first-rounder against #14 Brock Grant of Satellite and then (most likely) Admiral Farragut’s Trayvon Taylor (13th) or (less likely) Coral Springs Charter’s Cameron Taylor in the second match. Patterson won’t be an easy out for Byelick in the semis, and has an excellent shot at third, but I think LHP will just be too strong.
Michael Surenyan, Bolles: Surenyan opens the tournament with Byelick, and whatever path he will be able to forge is likely going to go through the consi rounds. The next match, against Bradenton Southeast’s Jonathan Locke or (possibly) Cardinal Gibbons’ Devon Nelson (15th), should be easier than Byelick, by any means, and Surenyan might get another unranked wrestler in consi rd-2. Saturday’s not impossible.
Christian McIntire, Marianna: McIntire has one of the more intriguing first-rounders, in my mind, because his match with Weeki Wachee’s Alex Gomez is the only one with two unranked wrestlers facing off in the class. The second match — against either Gingras or #9 Nestor Nunez of Mater Lakes will be harder. Saturday will be a tough challenge.
Green (6th): The matchup against Violette is a hard one for the first round, and should send Green into consi-rd 1, where the second match — most likely against unranked Josh Washington against Lemon Bay — would be a less daunting prospect. Consi rd-2 will be more challenging, but still winnable, and so might the first match Saturday. Green has a good shot at the podium, despite the initial matchup.
Expected title match: Michael Lopouchanski, Cardinal Gibbons (the bracket and the Miami Herald story had it wrong, I’m much more likely to trust Purdue, where his brother Ivan wrestled, and The Citadel, where he coaches, and their respective sports information departments) v. Bryce Rogers, Lake Highland Prep.
Dark horse title match: Lavaris Preston, Dunbar, v. Leonardo Tarantino, Tampa Prep.
First-rounder not to miss: Preston v. Nathaniel DeJesus, Weeki Wachee, a 4vs5.
Matmen projected semifinalists: Preston; Lopouchanski; Rogers; Tarantino.
State of the state: The bracketology formular for this weight class placed Region 2’s and 3’s champs into the same side, so Rogers and Tarantino could have a 1-2 matchup in the semi. There are three quarters where there’s nothing but ranked kids — in fact, the entire top half is that way. Continuing to keep winning is key.
Local outlook —
Billy Jenkins, Suwannee (7th): Jenkins has a solid first-round match — competitive but winnable — against Key West’s Josh Hettel (14th) to begin the tournament, but he will have a more difficult challenge with either Preston or DeJesus in the quarter. I project him to slide to the bottom quarter in consi-rd 2. If he gets past #12 Justin Perkins of Atlantic there, there’s a tossup-y looking consi quarter to start Saturday with a medal on the line. Doable. Hard, but doable.
Cornelius Brown, Godby (11th): Brown will open with Lopouchanski (3rd) in the first round, and in this Group of Death will face either Zack Adams of Anclote (8th) or Kamen Wilmington of Northside Christian (6th). It’s an uphill battle on all sides and my guess is that another solid wrestler will come over from the third quarter. Getting to Saturday would be a great accomplishment.
Drew Hostetter, Florida High (9th): Hostetter opens the tournament with a relative tossup match against Keys Gate’s Ron Evans (10th) in the first round, with either Rogers (1st) or Avon Park’s Christopher Garcia (13th) as a second match. This third Group of Death is like the others — win the first one, because the consi-rd 2 projection, for Hostetter, is a fairer setup for moving to Saturday and maybe a podium spot.
Caleb Gibbs, Westside: The only unranked northern wrestler, Gibbs has a fellow unranked competitor in Coral Shores’ Lazaro Rodriguez. A win is a must to keep the tournament going past two matches, as the second match is either Tarantino or Perkins, both of whom would be very tough. Tarantino in the quarter is the better place to be.
Expected title match: Jake Walker, Sarasota Military, v. Elijah Cleary, Lake Highland Prep.
Dark horse title match: Will Haigler, Florida High, v. Julian Georgescu, Cardinal Gibbons…but I don’t see Cleary losing.
First-rounder not to miss: Aryam Bonnin, Keys Gate, v. Donte Young, Weeki Wachee, an 11vs8.
Matmen projected semifinalists: Haigler; Walker; Cleary; Georgescu.
State of the state: The bottom half of this bracket, where Cleary is, is definitely the more loaded half of the two, as the top half definitely has some room for maneuvering. I expect at least one wrestler from the bottom half, once they get up to the top, to go pretty deep on the consi side (more on thought in a little bit).
Local outlook —
Haigler (6th): Has a winnable first-rounder against Gibbs’ Tra’Vaughn Harrington, with either Young or Bonnin in the quarter. If Haigler can hold his nerve through that quarter, a medal is going to be his, but even if not, he should still be able to put together a podium effort — it will just take a couple more matches to secure. I’m not sure Haigler can overcome Walker in the semi, but he won’t go down easily.
Yakeif Duncan, Rutherford: Duncan gets Walker in the first round, and I think that will put him into the consis, where I expect he will get Hernando’s Harry Williams in consi rd-1. I believe Duncan can win, but Hernando’s going to have some factors in the team race, perhaps a top-10, and that is a powerful asset in its favor. Saturday will be tough.
Cole Maddox, Marianna (12th): Maddox doesn’t have an ideal first-round match, taking on #9 Stephen Kelle of Bradenton Southeast, but I think the consi rd-1 setup — against unranked Anthony Machado of Westminster Christian — works in Maddox’s favor. Maddox might also be able to get through consi rd-2, although Miami Jackson’s Brandon Petit will be a tough out either way. Saturday’s possible, but will take a great victory.
Chris Surace, Wakulla (5th): Surace is in the weight class’s Group of Death, but does have a winnable first-rounder against #13 Colton Karpman of Berkeley Prep. Georgescu would await in the quarter, and while Surace will battle, I think it will go Georgescu’s way. That should still be OK, because Surace may have a harder time in consi rd-2 — which is winnable but harder — than the consi quarter will be Saturday, so I expect he will medal.
Expected title match: Conner Allshouse, Indian Rocks Christian, v. Kevin Ford, Lake Highland Prep.
Dark horse title match: Brian Girard, Arnold, v. Kevin Soltis, Coral Springs Charter..but no one in the bottom half will beat Ford.
First-rounder not to miss: Benson Dorvil, Coconut Creek, v. Edward Bennis, Crystal River, a 4vs5.
Matmen projected semifinalists: Girard; Allshouse; Ford; Soltis.
State of the state: Part of the reason that 170 is a bit open is because its #2-ranked wrestler, Allshouse, came up to 182 in an effort to make a run at a title. Makes sense, as comparatively Ford is not as strong in his weight as Cleary is in his. It will be interesting to see how the gamble pays off, as Allshouse will face 182’s #2, Satellite’s Christopher Ralston (who made a late drop from 195), on Friday afternoon in the quarters.
Local outlook —
Girard (3rd): The top quarter probably makes for the closest thing to a Group of Death, with the 4 and 5 also in it. In the first round, Girard should have a winnable match against Lake Wales’ Willie Knighton, with either #4 Dorvil or #5 Bennis waiting in the quarter. Those are far tougher possibilities, but Girard should be able to get through there. Allshouse or Ralston, though, may be a different story. Girard should finish his career on the podium.
Josh Strickland, Wakulla (8th): Strickland will start with Allshouse in the first round, so it will most likely be the consi side where he makes his run. He would face Cardinal Gibbons’ David Small in consi rd 1, and that should be winnable. It might be a consi rd-2 rematch with Yulee’s RJ Adams (or Sarasota Military’s #11 Dalton Burton) for Strickland, so getting to Saturday will require a solid victory.
Adams (10th): Adams will have a tossup first-rounder with Burton, with the victor likely to get Ford in the quarter and the loser to face Miami Jackson’s Tarivis Williams. It is so very unbelievably key to win that match against Burton for Adams, because going into the consi side will probably mean a Friday exit. Why? Either Ralston or Allshouse will be there, waiting. Adams would much rather rematch with Strickland and take a chance Saturday.
Abbott Taylor, Clay: Taylor has put a flurry down the stretch, having won District 1 and finished second at Region 1. He will have a first-rounder against #15 Luke Schwartz of McKeel Academy, with a second match against either Logan Hastings of Interlachen or #6 Soltis. The first-round match, the way Taylor has ramped up the intensity, could be close to a tossup. I don’t believe that Taylor can get past or Dorvil or Bennis, so consi rd-2 might be the best to expect, but a solid way to finish for Taylor, who didn’t start immediately at the beginning of the year.
Hastings: Soltis is a tough one in the first round, and, like Taylor, I don’t see — even if he were to beat Taylor or Schwartz in consi-rd 1, he would get Dorvil or Bennis. Hastings’ best shot is to somehow try to get through Soltis and make a surprise run into the semi. That would be long odds, but a tremendously huge possibility.
Expected title match: Ryan Thomas, American Heritage-Delray, v. Cam Brown, Florida High.
Dark horse title match: Kaleb Collins, Clay, v. Christopher Williams, Cardinal Gibbons.
First-rounder not to miss: Collins v. Jon Moltimer, Coral Springs Charter, a 2vs7.
Matmen projected semifinalists: Collins; Thomas; Brown; Williams.
State of the state: The top half of this bracket is unbelievably loaded; unfortunately, it’s matched Region 1 and 4 champs in the same half, meaning a 1-2 semifinal matchup. Like a few earlier classes, the best way to podium is to stay on the front side, because even the quarterfinal losers will find some air in the bottom half.
Local outlook —
Collins (2nd): Collins stands above the rest of the Group of Death in this class, but can’t be overconfident, because there are nothing but solid kids in his quarter, starting with #7 Moltimer and a second match against either #11 Abel Terkovich of Hernando or #8 Judah Bertolotti of Dunbar. Thomas should be the opponent in the semi, and is the solid-to-heavy favorite, even against Collins, who will podium and position himself to run the class in 2017.
Lance Hastings, Interlachen (15th): Hastings will start his tournament in the second quarter and a very tough first-rounder against Indian Rocks Christian’s Selbourne Steward, which should move him into the consis, most likely against Marianna’s Nick English (12th). It’s possible that Hastings could get yet another rematch with Crystal River’s Jaret Flynn (9th) before Friday is done.
English: Not the best first-round matchup; in this weight class, it’s the worst possible in Thomas. The consi-rd 1 with Hastings will be hard-fought, and a tough kid will go home early.
Brown (3rd): Has, for the most part, the best draw of the locals, with two winnable matches and a solid podium position in play. He’ll open with unranked Wanderley Mesa of Pinecrest Prep in the first round, with either Southeast’s Darrien Grant (6th) or Flynn in the quarter. For Brown, those are both winnable matches. The semi, against Cardinal Gibbons’ Williams (4th) will be tougher. CGHS will be in a fight for second and need every point it can get. But Brown gave a good accounting at regions and may have enough to get through to Saturday night.
Alex Edwards, Wewahitchka: Edwards will start with Williams in the first round, so any path he’ll take will probably go through the consi rounds. His second match will be against either Sam Voor of Atlantic or Lely’s Brandon Isnardi, both unranked. Anything’s possible at that point, but I would imagine consi-rd 2 is the furthest that any of them would go, given what will come down from Group of Death.
Expected title match: Ben Goldin, Lake Highland Prep, v. Anthony Contegiacomo, Nature Coast.
Dark horse title match: Jared Escorcia, Clewiston, v. Scott Dollison, Episcopal.
First-rounder not to miss: Escorcia v. Matt Whitehouse, Atlantic, a 4vs10.
Matmen projected semifinalists: Goldin; Escorcia; Contegiacomo; Jeremy Beaulieu, Clay.
State of the state: Very quirky bracketology in this one, due mainly to two top-four wrestlers (Dollison & Escorcia) losing in the Region 1 and 3 finals, respectively. The top half of the bracket had just one unranked competitor, while the bottom half has four. Top half quarterfinal losers may have a lot of room to reassert their podium chances.
Local outlook —
Randy Koscak, Arnold (6th): Put together a great region tournament, and got the Group of Death and a likely matchup with LHP’s Goldin in the quarters for his trouble. Koscak will open with #12 Andrew Vazquez of Somerset Academy in the first round. Koscak could be one of those who benefits from dropping into the bottom half of the consi bracket, as he should easily get into Saturday. The consi quarter, againsst either Escorcia, Whitehouse or a sneaky-good Bradley Clement of American Heritage-Plantation (5th), will be another story. Koscak will need the kind of match he wrestled at regions, in order to make the podium.
Austin Beaulieu, Wakulla: Might be the odd one out in the second quarter, as he takes on Clement in the first round and then his second match will be against either Whitehouse or Escorcia, and that will not be a very happy wrestler to face, as both could be podium threats. Even a third match would be a huge accomplishment.
Dollison (3rd): I was surprised by last week’s result, but as it turned out at least the first round should be pretty OK, as he’ll face Key West’s Isaac Exilus. The quarter will be Contegiacomo, and I had really hoped that would be the final. The head is going to say Contegiacomo, the heart says let’s see which style wins out. Dollison should have not a massive issue getting to Saturday or to the consi semis, where he could face Koscak again. We will see which is right about Friday afternoon.
Jeremy Beaulieu, Clay (9th): Beaulieu will start with Mater Lakes’ Cole Schwartzberg in the first round, and while he’ll have to take care, it should be a winnable match. Even with just six weeks of action, Beaulieu has seen enough high-level action that he should be able to overcome either #8 Judas McKenzie of Dunbar or unranked Spencer Beard of Rockledge in the quarter. He then gets Contegiacomo or Dollison in the semi, and I don’t see that going his way, but for what he’s had to overcome — at the end of last season — a medal is a huge way for him to go out.
Expected title match: Conor Chepenik, Episcopal, v. Dante Jiovenetta, Coral Shores.
Dark horse title match: Dean Brooks, Weeki Wachee, v. Kristopher Bozeman, Tenoroc…but no one will beat Jiovenetta.
First-rounder not to miss: Chepenik vs. EJ Krajewski, Rockledge, a 3vs13 and the only first-rounder where two ranked kids meet.
Matmen projected semifinalists: Chepenik; Brooks; Bozeman; Jiovenetta.
State of the state: With only nine ranked wrestlers in the final 16, and half of the field able to come back next season, this weight class is going to undergo a lot of change between this season and next, particularly with the state’s most dominant heavy moving on to the next level.
Local outlook —
Chepenik (3rd): He should see ranked wrestlers in every round, which is a little surprising considering how few there are in the bracket. After Krajewski, there should bve Jaden Glover of Key West in the quarter, then Brooks in the semi. Brooks is ranked higher, but I think that’s in part due to the difference in competitive heavies in their comparative regions of the state — heavyweight is one of the Northeast’s strongest classes. Brooks may have made up a lot of ground from last year at regions, when he lost by fall to Clay’s Roland Samec, whom Chepenik has beaten this year, but I just have a feeling. Chepenik went six minutes with 2A favorite Gabe Beyer of Leon during the season. He can get to Saturday night. Odds are against him there, but he can get there.
Devaughn Stephens, Godby: Godby seems to continue to be able to find bigs and Stephens is no exception, but he was a surprise qualifier. I don’t see him holding up against Brooks, and he’s got another tough one in American Heritage-Plantation’s George Ellis. A third match would be an accomplishment.
Jacob Marin, Wakulla (7th): Marin went double-OT with Chepenik in the Region 1 final, and while he has an unranked wrestler in round 1 here, Crystal River’s Jason Graham won’t be an easy out. Then there will be Bozeman or unranked Adam Fox of Cardinal Gibbons. Marin does have a decent shot at the semis, or the consi semis if he falls in the quarter. Will certainly get to Saturday.
Roland Samec, Clay (9th): Samec should have a winnable first-rounder against Astronaut’s Javohn Maravolo (unranked) but will draw top-ranked Jiovenetta in the quarters. That will send Samec to the top quarter of consi rd-2, and that should be winnable territory. Saturday, I am projecting Marin and Samec to face off, with a state medal on the line. Marin will take over as the dominant heavy in north Florida next year, either way.