By SHANNON HEATON
Northeast Florida Matmen
YULEE — Being able to count on a third of the lineup to lock down points — and bonus points besides — has a way of calming a coach’s mind.
On Saturday at the Yulee Duals, the host Hornets got a 25-0 day from their lighter third of the order, as those wrestlers combined for 13 bonus-point wins. That helped Yulee (11-1) cruise to victory in the inaugural year of the event.
The Hornets beat Fernandina Beach (60-12), Bishop Snyder (72-12), Episcopal (64-12) and West Nassau (54-24), then jumped out to an 18-0 lead over Brantley County GA, winning each of the final six matches of the dual for the title, 51-24.
“Having those (lowers) at the end takes a lot of stress off. I want to feel like we’re the underdog, at the end of the day, and I’m just a nervous-feeling type of guy, but — and I don’t usually say this — I’m kind of happy with what we’re doing,” Yulee coach Brandon Crowder said.
“Considering we have had JV fill ins for us, when we get John Parker back, we might be a pretty tough team to beat. There’s still a lot more elite competition out there, though.”
Yulee had seven undefeated wrestlers on the day, led by the lowers group of Kyle Davis (106, 2 pins & decision), Stevie Chopek (113, injury-default and fall), Dylan Youmans (120, 3 pins), Jacob Godsave (126, 3 falls) and Zach Watson (132, 3 pins & decision).
But they weren’t the only ones to go 5-0. Up top, Noah Winebarger (195) also had two pins and McKenzie Lewis (285) three.
“Noah wrestled AAU but hadn’t been here since eighth grade, and he has finally bought in. He can be a competitor for us,” Crowder said. “`Big Mac’ is still a work in progress, but he’s got size and some athleticism, learning different techniques that will help him.
“Right now, the biggest thing is the little mistakes in some of our weaker weight classes. We can wrestle two periods good and then make that one critical mistake in the third. But we’re starting to understand that.”
Mandarin finished third on the day, going 4-1 in duals after a tough 2-3 weekend the previous Saturday at Fletcher. Their only loss was in pool play, 42-35 to Brantley County, and the Mustangs took third with a 66-12 win over West Nassau.
“Both our newer and returning guys got used to winning last year, and going 2-3 at Fletcher might have been a reality check. So far, we’re 6-4, and last year we only lost three duals for the whole season,” Mandarin assistant coach Hunter Evans said. “In the loss today, we got pinned seven times. It’s tough to win against that when you’re not pinning.
“It’s a young team with a lot of room to grow. Time to regroup and get ready for the second half.”
Three Mustangs had 5-0 days, with Chase Mattox (120) picking up a decision and two majors. Blake Pruitt (160) had a major, tech and pin, while Mateo Drury (195/220) had four falls.
For West Nassau, the Warriors had two wrestlers go unbeaten at 5-0. William Tharpe (145) had a tech and two pins, while Blake Hodges (220) falled his way through the day — five in all.
Led by a 4-1 day by 170-pound Hunter Chaney, Bishop Snyder finished fifth, downing First Coast 36-30 in that match. The Buccaneers had two unbeatens, as Valois Ochoa (5-0 at 182) had two decisions and Jason Schwartz (4-0 at 113) two falls.
Raines downed Episcopal, 23-12, in what was effectively the match for seventh, although both teams were winless in pool play. With five wrestlers in tow, the Vikings were 20-5 as a group of individuals, led by Joseph Haynes (2 falls/major/decision at 126) and Jaquan English (2 pins & tech at 132) both going 5-0.
The Eagles, with just three wrestlers, were 10-5 in individually-contested matches, as Christian Rickey (170) and Freddie Dollison (220) both were 4-1.
Fernandina Beach had a solid day in pool play, going 2-2, but the Pirates left after their pool wrestling was complete. Corbin Snyder (138, 3 pins & decision) and Joseph Helm (160/170, 4 pins) were both 4-0 in the pool.
As a result, Yulee’s B squad was a dual short as well, going 1-3 in its pool. Barry McKendree was 4-0 with a pin and decision at 138.