By SHANNON HEATON
Northeast Florida Matmen
ST JOHNS — Make no mistake about it — literally — the ability to capitalize on mistakes can not only turn around a match, it can turn around an entire dual.
Bartram Trail displayed that in a few different matches during Wednesday’s night 2A-District 4 rivalry matchup hosting Creekside, as the fullest lineup the Bears have had yet won seven of the dual’s first nine matches en route to a 49-26 win over the St Johns Knights.
“The lineup is getting there, but we still haven’t had our full team out there yet,” Bartram Trail coach Chad Parker said, noting the absence of 106-pound Blake Swor, still out with injury.
“The difference right now is that I kind of babied the team earlier on and let them get away from the idea of going to practice every day. At this point, here on out, it’s all IBTs. So you miss practice, you won’t be wrestling that week. If everybody comes to practice, I’ll make you pretty good.”
Through the first two matches — fall by the Bears’ Matt Pickett at 138 and an answering decision from Creekside’s Jacob Cooney at 145 — the familiar script of back-and-forth battle between the two strongest teams in St Johns County appeared to be the narrative that would play out once again Wednesday night.
That narrative started to flip at 152, when — in a battle of evenly-matched kids — Bartram’s Kevin Williams was able to headlock the Knights’ Brendan Jones and secure a second-period fall to push the Bears’ lead to 12-3.
That same flip only intensified at 182 & 195, after the teams traded falls at 160/170 (William King for Bartram at 160, Brandon Dickman for Creekside at 170).
At 182, Bartram’s Chris Kwarteng — who’d already been turned twice by Creekside opponent Trey Chesser — successfully thwarted a third turn attempt with a cradle of his own, falling Chesser in 3:30.
Then, at 195, and only having returned to the varsity lineup this past week, the Bears’ Brooks Harp gave up the first takedown to the Knights’ Corey Grower, but both rode tough on top and couldn’t be held on bottom.
Harp rode out Grower in the second period and reversed in the third, forcing overtime. In the second and third OT periods, Harp rode Grower out a second time and then got both a locked-hands call and an escape for a 4-2 decision.
“He’s tough, our whole team is tough on top,” Parker said of Harp’s win. “We were missing a couple of guys, they were missing a couple of guys.
“Should be an interesting district tournament.”
Creekside coach Rick Marabell agreed.
“That’s all I care about, is where we end up at districts. I don’t like losing, but when I lose, it just makes me want to work harder, and my captains were setting the tone for that afterward (in a post-match pep talk),” Marabell said.
“I still feel like if we do what we need to do, we can walk away with six district titles and 14 kids out to regions. They (Bartram) might have did me a favor (with Wednesday’s loss).”
Harp’s win made it 27-9, a lead that extended to 39-9 following a forfeit to the Bears at 220 and a 19-second fall for Bartram 285 Justin Thompson. With a penalty point assessed against the Knights earlier, that 285 fall essentially clinched the Bartram.
From there, the dual did largely hold to form, with Nicholas Vugman (113) taking a second-period fall and James Mueller (132) winning 13-2 at 132 for Bartram, and both Jake Summers (120) and Max Patterson (126) picking up falls for Creekside, plus a forfeit to the Knights at 106.
After what has been a taxing schedule for the Knights, they’re now off from competition for a week, when they’ll host Nease. The Bears, on the other hand, had a long break over the holiday and swing back into duals Friday night in Matanzas, where they might be the strongest of a few challengers to Fleming Island’s dominance of the St Johns River Conference meet, a two-day roundrobin duals event that will conclude on Saturday (pool schedule can be found here).