Northeast Florida Matmen staff report
JENSEN BEACH — Traveling 300 miles and staying overnight to face one of Florida’s most storied wrestling programs, a class up from your own, on its home mat, is a challenge that is tricky to navigate even for a team as strong as #1 Clay.
Outside of tournament host Jensen Beach, the Blue Devils cruised past all other opponents in last weekend’s Battle at the Beach, with a 7-1 weekend posted by a group that was giving one forfeit at every weight and two forfeits in several duals due to in-tournament injury.
Only the host Barracudas proved to be too much for Clay, taking a 42-21 victory over the Blue Devils in the final dual round on Friday night. The Blue Devils were 5-0 on Saturday, with an average margin of victory of 44.6 points.
“We got straight beat by JB. They were just sharper than we were,” Clay coach Jim Reape said via email Monday morning. “They beat five of our state placewinners head to head…three of those 1- or 2-point matches, one we got handled and one we were up 5-0 and got pinned.
“Back to work today.”
Four Clay wrestlers were undefeated on the weekend. Back in the Blue Devil starting lineup as a regular for the first time since the 2014-15 season, senior Cody Taylor was 8-0 with four pins. Heavies Kaleb Collins and Kurt Jackson, who mixed and matched at 220/285 throughout the weekend, both were 8-0, as Collins had six pins and Jackson picked up seven.
Additionally, Justin Merring — in a fill-in role and wrestling mostly on Saturday after injury kept starting 152 Connor Green out that day — was 5-0 with three pins.
Louis Gagliardo (113, 5 pins, loss to state qualifier), Chris Merring (120, 6 pins + TF, loss to state qualifier), Dalton Wright (160, 5 pins) and Max Beavor (170, 6 pins) all were 7-1 for Clay, while Keath Sawdo (145, 4 pins + TF + major, loss to state qualifier) was 6-1.
Complete Clay results are found on the Local dropdown menu of the Duals page, and on the Statewide dropdown of the Duals page over on the Northwest site.