By SHANNON HEATON
Northeast Florida Matmen
(Editor’s Note: Again, apologies for the lateness of today’s stories. Only now just sort of feeling caught up).
ST JOHNS — Creekside has an established program that, for the foreseeable future, could be among the Northeast area’s ten best at least.
Ridgeview is trying to build its way back up to that level.
Both teams, even at the same time, showed why their programs are where they are Wednesday night, as the #8 Knights held off the honorable-mention listed Panthers, 39-30, in a cross-county showdown at Creekside HS.
“We want matches like this. This builds our guys up,” Knights coach Rick Marabell said. “We had a couple of matches where we should have had six (dual points instead of something less), but I liked the way we battled the whole time.”
Creekside (6-0) got out to a fast start behind second-period falls in the first two weights from Luke Davis (106) and Colin Brown (113), but Ridgeview’s experience showed through from 120 through 132, where Marcus Reid (120), Tanner Belden (126) and Saeid Ejmali (132) picked up back-to-back-to-back falls to take the lead.
“Obviously those guys are going to come out and be hammers for us,” Ridgeview coach Bryson Barker said. “But we had a couple of guys step up elsewhere and a couple others didn’t.”
Creekside cut into the Clay Panthers’ lead with a 4-0 decision for Jacob Cooney at 138, but Ridgeview freshman Malachi Martin (145) gave his team the biggest margin of the night with a fall in 3:24 at 145.
The St Johns Knights, however, showed their experience in the next three matches, as Brendan Jones staved off being put on his back for a 19-13 win at 152 and Danny Haila overcame a late rush for an 8-6 decision at 160, plus Brandon Dickman’s fall at 170. That gave Creekside a 30-27 lead, plus a forfeit in hand, with four weights to go.
“Brendan has put a lot of time in on his running and conditioning, and Danny same thing,” Marabell said. “They’ve realized now that conditioning’s extremely important.”
Ridgeview (0-1) broke back on top with a third-period fall from 182-pound Craig Zacker — who’d been winless in 2015-16 — to take a 30-27. A forfeit to the Knights’ Corey Grower and a double at 220 left Creekside up 33-30 going into heavyweight, and sophomore Saul Storey made his second headlock count, for a fall in 1:54.
“We’re still missing a couple of guys, our starting 82 and our heavy are probably out until January, and getting them back will help level our team out,” Marabell said. “We’ll be better when everybody starts going and working more matches, but I’m extremely happy.”
In a way, Barker was also.
“We’re just a bunch of young bucks trying to work our way up the ladder,” Barker said. “We’ve got to finish our turns. We’ll go back to work and get ready to do that this weekend.”
Creekside will be at Fletcher’s Neptune Duals on Saturday, while Ridgeview will compete in the Westside Kiwanis, hosted by Bishop Snyder, on Friday and Saturday.