The Season 2015-16: Sandalwood


You can see everything I have on the Saints in 2015-16 here –> SANDALWOOD

Win/loss record: 8-2 in dual meets (I only received eight of them from dual tournament host). Please review the attached file above for a breakdown of the Saints’ tournament performances.

Season in a nutshell: Sandalwood doesn’t follow the traditional Duval County model for its schedule, and say what you will about that — the Saints get results for the amount of travel that they do. Sandalwood had just eight duals in 2015-16, competing in IBTs in just about every weekend possible. The Saints use their IBTs to prepare them for Gateway and the post-season, and they were able to defend their Gateway title with a bevy of seniors throughout the lineup. It might be harder for Sandalwood to pull off a three-peat in 2016-17, but don’t sell the Saints short. In the toughest district in 3A-Region 1, Sandalwood didn’t win any individual titles, but got seven through to regions and had one state qualifier. Keep in mind — the Saints only had a 126 at two events (just three matches total) and a 152 only early in the year. Otherwise, they had to give up two weights.

2015-16 MVP: Jacques Hale was so very quiet when I first interviewed him as a sophomore Gateway champion in 2014 over at First Coast that year. He was still working toward becoming the overall solid wrestler that he became through the next two seasons, finding ways to excel in what may have been the coverage area’s most difficult weight class this past year. Hale had three IBT wins this year, winning at Optimist and at Clay Rotary — something no other Saint did this seaosn — adding his third Gateway title in January. In a brutal district, Hale took third and added another third at regions to represent Sandalwood at states, where he got into Saturday’s wrestling, only to see a district rival eliminate him. He became much more capable on the attack over his junior and senior seasons, always representing his program well.

2016-17 captain: Although the degree of evolution in Cameron Bell‘s wrestling wasn’t quite as total this past season as it had been in the year, keep in mind that he had a near-total turnaround in every aspect in his sophomore year. This year, what I saw from him were things that built upon his transformative change of a year ago, like an ability to win matches against more-experienced competition. He had several like that over the course of the year, with IBT wins at Optimist and Gateway, plus one of the two runnerup efforts Sandalwood picked up at districts. Bell was just a takedown away from this year’s state tournament. He understands just how much effort it’s going to take for the Saints to win three Gateway titles in succession, how much effort it will take for multiple Sandalwood wrestlers to get to state and how much effort it will take to keep the Saints’ beginnings of a program continuing to move forward in 2016-17.

Heaton’s Hero: On a team that enjoyed a great deal of in-season success, it’s tougher to find someone who struggled throughout the year. I’m always kind of drawn to first-year senior starters, though, and so I am looking at Dominick Porcella as an ideal choice. Porcella had just two contested victories in 2015-16, and both of those came the first weekend at Optimist Invitational. Most of the other IBTs on the Sandalwood calendar were quick exits for Porcella, but yet he kept coming back to try to help the team. It looks like he may have only missed the Lake Mary and Clay events, but otherwise gave best effort at every other tournament for the Saints — including districts. Dominick Porcella is the Heaton’s Hero representative for Sandalwood.

Returning starters for 2016-17 (with year in school as they’ll be next year): Leon Cruz (junior, wrestled 120 this past year, 0-2 at districts); Bell (senior, wrestled 138 this past year, District 1 runnerup, 1 match from states); Chandler Bell (senior, wrestled 160 this past year, 0-2 at districts); Cole Friend (senior, wrestled 182 this past year, 1 match from regions); Leonardo Alonzo (sophomore, wrestled 220 this past year, District 1 4th place). Also: Dillon Morency (junior, wrestled 160/170 this past year, did not compete in post-season).


I covered wrestling for 15 years up north and "retired" in 2011. But as I thought I had in 1992, I couldn't stay away. Started Northeast Florida Matmen in 2013, Northwest Florida Matmen in 2015. New initiative this year is to create a space on my sites where ALL Florida results can be stored, searched, reviewed and used by my readers, with NO COST TO THEM.

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