The Season 2015-16: Wakulla

Wakulla

You can see everything I have on the War Eagles in 2015-16 here –> WAKULLA

Win/loss record: 7-2 in dual meets. Please review the attached document for a review of the War Eagles’ performance in IBT events.

Season in a nutshell: There are a lot of teams in north Florida — most of them, actually — that would love to have had Wakulla’s run of top-10 IBT finishes this year. The War Eagles only finished outside the top 10 once this year, and that was at states. Take away a 9th at Border Wars, where a couple of their aces only wrestled on Friday and a couple others were missing from the event in its entirety, and the War Eagles finished third or higher in every IBT they entered between Capital City and regions. That’s a solid, solid run. This program is long-established, steeped in tradition, and should be well-positioned to reload in 2016-17, which they’ll have to do, particularly between 145 and 182, where graduation losses have the most impact.

2015-16 MVP: I know that Larry Smith has high standards for himself — elite wrestlers always do — but looking objectively at his 2015-16 season, he had a fantastic year. He only wrestled the first day at Border Wars, and also took an earlier-than-hoped-for loss at Capital City, but after that second loss, Smith won 12 matches in a row and would only lose again to state finalists during the course of the season. After a midseason loss in the War Eagles’ roundrobin to Lake Highland’s Noah Castillo, Smith ripped off another string of wins, taking 14 in a row. All 14 were bonus-point wins and all but two were maximum bonus, with a fall over eventual 2A state champ Trae-von O’Neal of Gainesville included. I look forward to seeing him have another shot at a high podium finish — possibly the highest podium finish — to close out his Wakulla career.

2016-17 captain: I mentioned earlier in The Season that two wrestlers were uniquely positioned to benefit from the huge amount of heavyweight talent in north Florida. One, FWB’s Joseph Pearson, we already profiled, but the second is Wakulla’s Jacob Marin, who didn’t make an appearance in the lineup until January. But, once he did, he made an immediate impact, proving himself able to go a full six minutes without giving up a bonus point to Leon MVP Gabe Beyer, on three different occasions, with wins over very solid kids during the course of the year. Marin can’t afford to rest easy, not with two solid 285s able to push him right there in his own room, let alone the competition that Wakulla faces whenever it leaves Crawfordville. We could see the evolution of a Beyer-type career unfold with Marin over the next two seasons.

Heaton’s Hero: There were not a lot of kids in the War Eagle lineup that struggled to find wins in 2015-16. My rule on the Heaton’s Hero is that they start and finish the year in the starting lineup, with maybe a one-tournament miss. While he didn’t compete in the post-season, if he had, Brandon Hunter would have moved on to regions without even having to pick up a victory, as there were only three at districts for the 106 weight class. Hunter struggled early, giving up falls in each of his first seven matches. He didn’t get a contested victory until Beast of the Beach was almost over and there wouldn’t be another one for another month, when Wakulla hosted its own round-robin event. Hunter’s season effectively came to an end at Tricounty, but even with a more experienced wrestler dropping down, he kept battling throughout the regular part of the year. Brandon Hunter is the Heaton’s Hero representative for Wakulla.

Returning starters for 2016-17 (with year in school as they’ll be next year): Smith (senior, wrestled 113/120 this past year, District 2 champ, Region 1 runnerup, 3rd at 1A states); Rolin Malik (junior, wrestled 120/126 this past year, District 2 champ, 1 match short of states); Jonathan Hunter (senior, wrestled 126/132 this past year, District 2 runnerup); Max Owen (senior, wrestled 132 this past year, District 2 champ, Region 1 3rd place); Tyler Cordle (junior, wrestled 160 this past year, 1 match from regions); Andrew Annand (sophomore, wrestled 195 this past year, District 2 runnerup, 1 match from states); Marin (junior, wrestled 285 this past year, District 2 champ, Region 1 runnerup, 1 match from state medal). Also: B. Hunter (sophomore, wrestled 106 this past year, did not compete in post-season); Ashlee Dalton (junior, wrestled 106/113 this past year, did not compete in post-season); Micah Lanier (junior, wrestled 138/145 this past year, did not compete in post-season); Noah Breeden (senior, wrestled 138/145 this past year, did not compete in post-season); Marlon Ng (senior, wrestled 285 this past year, did not compete in post-season); Darius Wilkins (sophomore, wrestled 285 this past year, did not compete in post-season).

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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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