TurkeyNWrestling: 2A-District 4

Team synopsis: A grand total of 274 individual wins, spread across six Matanzas 2016 graduates, provided the data on the hows and whys behind the Pirates’ success in 2A-District 4 over the past three seasons.

Those graduates — most of them now defending our freedoms as members of the U.S. Marine Corps — are no longer competing in the district. Nor are five Creekside graduates that pulled together a solid 157 wins of their own in 2015-16.

Point being, it’s in some measure the teams that weren’t hammered hard by graduation loss this past year that could flourish this coming year. It’s a district that, more than at any time since I started covering wrestling in northeast Florida, is up for grabs.

I think Bartram Trail is ready to grab it. With 12 returning starters, including two state qualifiers, the Bears are positioned well. They’ve built toward this goal steadily over the past two seasons, and while there are starters that need to take personal leaps within the group, the unit as a whole could fill the gap.

Never count Creekside out, though. If the Knights can sort out their lowers to get on a level where their uppers are already, they can return to titlist status, where they were three and four years previously. I have liked Nease’s depth ever since I started following the program, and — like Bartram — they took few hits (although their best wrestler over the past three years is lost this way) to graduation.

Matanzas will have to rebuild and can rebuild after winning outright or sharing the District 4 title from 2014-16, but the 4-6 spots are also in play for movement, as both St. Augustine and Ponte Vedra have — in addition to some concerns — some solid upper-class competitors.

Projected finish: 1. Bartram Trail. 2. Creekside. 3. Nease. 4. Matanzas. 5. St. Augustine. 6. Ponte Vedra. 7. Paxon.

Bartram Trail (St Johns)
Coach: Chad Parker, 3rd year.
2015-16: 22-9 in duals. 8th at Westside Kiwanis Invitational, 14th at Flagler Rotary, 20th at Clay Rotary.
Post-season stats, last 3 years: 2016 — 10th at region, T-57th at states. 2015 — 14th at region, 46th at states. 2014 — 19th at region.
Individual returners (post-season starters and those with 15+ matches): Nicholas Vugman (sophomore, 30-14 at 106, district runnerup, region 4th); Blake Swor (junior, 9-15 at 113, district 4th); Joseph Governara (sophomore, 7-11 at 113, did not compete in post-season); Sean McDonald (sophomore, 14-26 at 120, district 4th); James Mueller (junior, 12-19 at 126, district 4th); Matthew Pickett (senior, 23-16 at 132, district champ, region 4th); Tristan McElhinney (sophomore, 2-6 at 138, 1 match from regions); Kevin Williams (senior, 26-13 at 145, district 3rd); Caleb Sutherland (junior, 3-6 at 152, 1 match from regions); William King (junior, 12-11 at 152/160, did not compete in post-season); Jacob Bennett (junior, 18-21 at 160, district runnerup); Brooks Harp (junior, 23-14 at 170, district champ); Kolton McDaniel (junior, 28-13 at 220, district runnerup); Christopher Anderson (senior, 10-16 at 285, 1 match from regions).
Key losses (to graduation): Charlie Miller (23-7 at 138, did not compete in post-season); Anthony Stith (24-11 at 182, district 3rd, region 3rd); John Wilson (33-15 at 195, district 3rd).
Program strengths: Year 3 with a solid coaching staff at the helm, and it’s paying off in lots of returning starters, a few of whom did some solid work this off-season. Schedule is pretty solid.
Program needs: Like many of the St Johns teams, Bartram could have done a bit better in terms of off-season work. I know Coach Parker will want to see the IBT finishes match up a bit more with the dual-meet results.
Matmen’s take: More of a team with dual-meet strength compared to IBTs, Bears have steadily climbed toward top of the heap in the district.

Creekside (St Johns)
Coach: Rick Marabell, 9th year.
2015-16: 15-9 in duals. 3rd at Timberwolf Challenge, 6th at Kowboy Invitational, 13th at Flagler Rotary, T-16th at Clay Rotary.
Post-season stats, last 3 years: 2016 — 2nd at district, 5th at region, 20th at states. 2015 — 2nd at district, 4th at region, T-47th at states. 2014 — T-1st at district, 5th at region, T-51st at states.
Individual returners (post-season starters and those with 15+ matches): Colin Brown (sophomore, 16-25 at 106, 1 match from regions); Jake Summers (sophomore, 21-14 at 113, district runnerup); Michael Eckman (senior, 0-7 at 120, 1 match from regions); Thomas Taylor (sophomore, 3-9 at 126, 1 match from regions); Max Patterson (junior, 8-12 at 126, did not compete in post-season); Jacob Cooney (junior, 7-15 at 132, did not compete in post-season); Brandon Dickman (junior, 48-9 at 152, district champ, region runnerup, state 5th); Trey Chesser (sophomore, 13-17 at 160, district 4th); Cory Grower (senior, 26-14 at 220, district champ, 1 match from states); Saul Storey (sophomore, 5-7 at 285, district runnerup).
Key losses (to graduation): David Tyer (29-14 at 138, district runnerup, 1 match from states); Steven Stanton (31-13 at 145, district champ, 1 match from states); Jake Lockwood (15-18 at 170, district runnerup); Willy Lulias (33-14 at 182, district runnerup, region runnerup); Gus Fischer (49-6 at 195, district champ, region champ, state 5th).
Program strengths: Three straight top-five finishes at regions, and best showing at states since at least 2012, is proof enough that the program is firmly in place. Knights have been able to overcome sizable graduation losses each year and still succeed. Coaching staff puts together a solid schedule that pushes when needed and backs off when needed.
Program needs: I do wonder what greater off-season presence would do for the Knights in-season. Dickman has been working the circuit for two summers, was joined by Grower this off-season.
Matmen’s take: Solid numbers in place for Knight group as a whole; Creekside won’t be far from the top, if they’re not back at the top.

Matanzas (Palm Coast)
Coach: John White, 12th year.
2015-16: 26-9 in duals. 4th at Capital City Classic, 13th at Flagler Rotary, T-16th at Clay Rotary, T-27th at girls’ state meet.
Post-season stats, last 3 years: 2016 — 1st at district, 3rd at region, 26th at states. 2015 — 1st at district, 5th at region, T-30th at states. 2014 — T-1st at district, 12th at region, T-39th at states.
Individual returners (post-season starters and those with 15+ matches): Josh Bower (sophomore, 17-28 at 106, district 4th); Stone White (junior, 16-23 at 120, district 3rd); Lawrence Russo (sophomore, 23-21 at 132, district runnerup); Ian Eckert (sophomore, 3-7 at 145, 1 match from regions); Demetrus Miller (sophomore, 12-15 at 145, did not compete in post-season); Christopher Mixan (senior, 21-13 at 160, district champ); Paul Berent (sophomore, 6-9 at 220, district 3rd); Daniel Leonard (junior, 31-13 at 285, district 3rd).
Key losses (to graduation): Rocky Samples (47-11 at 113, district champ, region runnerup); Carter Goodman (30-9 at 126, district champ); Tristan Kraus (53-11 at 138, district champ, region 3rd); Eddy Leon de la Cruz (42-14 at 152, district runnerup, region 4th); Maverick Dennis (52-9 at 182, district champ, region champ, state 6th); Jordin Castanheira (50-13 at 195, district runnerup, region 3rd, state 6th).
Program strengths: Progression up the region standings each of the past two or three seasons, were just a couple of extra wins away from a region title in 2016. Coaching consistency has been a strength for the Pirates. Some good numbers returning, most of whom will be around for at least two seasons.
Program needs: Sizable senior class departs, taking a lot of wins and post-season success along with it. Younger kids need to get on that level for Matanzas to stay on top of the district. Off-season work was a bit sparse at least on the tournament scene, but Pirate wrestlers are competing in the Mutiny Wrestling Club since April, which is an important improvement.
Matmen’s take: This might be a tough year for the Pirates after three years of solid success; leadership on mats needs to establish itself early.

Nease (Ponte Vedra Beach)
Coach: Craig Muckle, 3rd year.
2015-16: 20-13 in duals. 7th at Arlington Optimist Invitational, 25th at Clay Rotary.
Post-season stats, last 3 years: 2016 — 4th at district, 11th at region, T-44th at states. 2015 — 5th at district, 23rd at region, T-67th at states. 2014 — 5th at district, 18th at region, T-59th at states.
Individual returners (post-season starters and those with 15+ matches): Sean Arnold (sophomore, 32-11 at 106, district 3rd, 1 match from states); Brenden Teaman (senior, 21-18 at 113, district 3rd); Tyler Saam (junior, 18-13 at 113/120, did not compete in post-season); Dylan Martinson (senior, 37-14 at 120, district champ, region runnerup, 1 match from state podium); Jacob Sorgen (junior, 11-8 at 132, 1 match from regions); Paxton Threatt (junior, 2-13 at 138, 1 match from regions); Dalton Koike (senior, 37-9 at 145, district runnerup); Jeffrey Mantz (junior, 9-14 at 152, did not compete in post-season); Jarrod Case (junior, 14-14 at 160, district 3rd); Derek Alexander (senior, 9-11 at 160/170, did not compete in post-season); Grayson Suggs (junior, 15-26 at 170, district 3rd); Jonathan Walter (senior, 11-26 at 285, district 4th).
Key losses (to graduation): Tristen Lucessi (34-7 at 126, district runnerup, region runnerup); Bailey Deitch (6-13 at 160/170, did not compete in post-season); Michael Steinhour (15-4 at 182/195, did not compete in post-season).
Program strengths: Team loses almost no seniors and coaching staff is back, which from a continuity standpoint is always key. This program is one that is coming around to the upside of wrestling in the off-season. Has had a massive roster.
Program needs: Having such a large roster has downsides, because Nease often platoons in the regular season, costing some post-season starters some mat time.
Matmen’s take: St Johns Panthers still the sleeping giant program in the region; the sleeper just might awaken this year.

Paxon (Jacksonville)
Coach: Al Valentine, 1st year as HC.
2015-16: Unknown in duals. 12th at Gateway Conference, 10th at 5 Star Invitational.
Post-season stats, last 3 years: 2016 — 7th at district, T-26th at region. 2015 — 9th at 1A-District 3, 29th at 1A-Region 1. 2014 — 9th at 1A-District 3, 29th at 1A-Region 1.
Individual returners (post-season starters and those with 15+ matches): Jack Donghit (sophomore, 126, 1 match from regions); Jamaari Mitchell (senior, 182, 1 match from regions).
Key losses (to graduation): Aldwin Pontejos (132, district 4th); Garen Mauney (152, district 3rd); Pavan Guduri (170, district 4th); Pete Russell (195, 1 match from regions); Zachary Owens (285, 1 match from regions).
Program strengths: Wrestlers have a school environment that enriches them every day — smart wrestlers can learn more, faster. Paxon had solid turnout at regular-season IBTs.
Program needs: Experienced numbers might be a significant problem for Paxon in 2016-17, even more so than they were this year. Team does need to expand its schedule and get its kids more matches.
Matmen’s take: Golden Eagles need to get out of the city for competitions in order to succeed, along with simply getting maximum mat time possible.

Ponte Vedra
Coach: Mike Ostlund, 7th year.
2015-16: 5-14 in duals. 9th at Arlington Optimist Invitational, 5th at Bierbaum Invitational, 30th at Clay Rotary.
Post-season stats, last 3 years: 2016 — 5th at district, 25th at region. 2015 — 6th at district, T-25th at region. 2014 — 6th at district, T-25th at region.
Individual returners (post-season starters & others with 15+ matches): Preston Turner (sophomore, 5-15 at 106, 1 match from regions); Gavin Riccobono (sophomore, 6-9 at 106, did not compete in post-season); Bryan Reed (sophomore, 4-18 at 113, 1 match from regions); Jack Fox (senior, 13-13 at 126, district 3rd); James Stanton (senior, 21-14 at 132, district 3rd); Harrison Crowley (senior, 13-16 at 138, district 4th); Marshall Frye (senior, 3-8 at 145, district 4th); Troy Maritato (sophomore, 6-20 at 152, 1 match from regions); Taylor Montroy (senior, 20-11 at 285, district champ).
Key losses (to graduation): Tony Giordano (25-10 at 120, district runnerup); Ricky Davis (12-12 at 170, 1 match from regions); Zach Gregory (13-15 at 182, district 4th); Cole Scott (4-16 at 220, district 4th).
Program strengths: Senior group has many years of starting experience. Coaching consistency across the board, combined with newer blood coming in at the assistant level. New batch of sophomores have provided the most new blood to the program since this year’s seniors were freshmen.
Program needs: This is the year for Ponte Vedra to make a move if it’s going to make a move, with five key returners in their final season. Schedule could stand some more matches, and some more tough ones.
Matmen’s take: Sharks haven’t been in the top half of the district since I started covering here; a top-4 showing possible this year, with improvements.

St. Augustine
Coach: Josean Gonzalez, 6th year.
2015-16: 11-24 in duals. 23rd at Flagler Rotary, 1st at Westside Classic.
Post-season stats, last 3 years: 2016 — 6th at district, T-21st at region, T-76th at states. 2015 — 4th at district, 21st at region, T-67th at states. 2014 — 3rd at district, 15th at region, T-51st at states.
Individual returners (post-season starters and those with 15+ matches): Julian Maldonado (junior, 7-16 at 126, did not compete in post-season); Malik Hicks (senior, 12-7 at 132, did not compete in post-season); Nick Thomson (senior, 26-17 at 138, district 3rd); Marcus Petersen (junior, 4-12 at 145, 1 match from regions); Max Schmidt (junior, 8-10 at 145, did not compete in post-season); Tracey Beshara (junior, 28-17 at 152, district 4th); Jacob Linden (senior, 11-12 at 160, 1 match from regions); Christian Rios-Candelaria (junior, 9-13 at 152/160, did not compete in post-season); Gabe Wentworth (junior, 11-27 at 170, 1 match from regions); Bryce Bannister (sophomore, 8-15 at 182/195, did not compete in post-season); Robert Zuzu (sophomore, 18-25 at 195, district 4th); Michael Bragalone (junior, 0-3 at 220, 1 match from regions); Robert Spencer (sophomore, 4-11 at 285, did not compete in post-season).
Key losses (to graduation): Kristopher Smith (45-8 at 106, district champ, region champ); Ralph Hicks (11-12 at 120, did not compete in post-season).
Program strengths: Yellow Jackets have had at least four consecutive years with at least some presence at states. Just one post-season starter is leaving, and there’s a solid number of regular-season starters also able to come back this fall, many of them with multiple years as starters. I like the young coaching staff at SAHS — it’s young, but aggressive and also nurturing of its kids.
Program needs: We have not seen as much off-season work from the St. Augustine kids as we would want, but that seems to be slowly changing. We saw the Yellow Jackets win a roundrobin meet in February; now, we need them to be entered in tougher invites.
Matmen’s take: Almost same take as Ponte Vedra, Yellow Jackets also in play for top-four team finish in district, but lowers have to sort selves quickly.

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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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