By SHANNON HEATON
Northeast Florida Matmen
MIDDLEBURG — From a results standpoint, Middleburg’s season has been very hit-or-miss.
That hasn’t been due to a lack of effort, as Clay County rival Oakleaf found out Wednesday night, as the Broncos won by fall in eight of the final 10 matches to erase an 18-6 deficit to win going away, 54-30, Wednesday night.
“We’ve been that way all year,” Middleburg coach Richie Dusinberre said of his team’s intensity. “The effort level has not been our problem. The problem has been our youth and inexperience.
“We’re ready to compete with anybody. We don’t always get the result we’re looking for, but it’ll come.”
The Knights got the start they wanted, overcoming a third-period fall from Middleburg’s Tazz Hampton with three maximum-point wins, including falls from Brandean Bacolor (120) and Ethan Gustilo (126).
But the momentum was shifted permanently at 132, with Bryce Williams’ third-period fall. Another pin from Dustin Tollison at 138 tied the dual, then, in a battle of Trenton Carroll vs. Trenton Carroll (a first in Matmen experience, ever), Middleburg’s version found a way in the third period to give the Broncos their first lead, in a match that saw both Trenton Carrolls turn the other.
Oakleaf would bounce back to make it 24-24 on Donovan Gray’s second-period pin at 152, but that victory would be the last contested match the Knights would win.
Cody Eastwood — a senior on the Broncos’ Senior Night — re-established the Middleburg lead with a third-period fall at 160, then back-to-back-to-back first-period pins from Robbie Reisenbeck (170), Dylan Hanna (182) and Bryan Heflin (195) combined to clinch the dual in the Broncos’ favor, as Middleburg held a 24-point lead (48-24) at that point, with two weights to go.
The teams then traded points, with Oakleaf winning by forfeit at 220 and Middleburg’s Robert Barnard winning by fall at 285.
“We kind of had a flat start on Friday at Flagler, but we wrestled better on Saturday. It was a tremendous experience for all those young guys,” Dusinberre said of Middleburg’s last tournament experience at the Flagler Rotary in Palm Coast last weekend.
“Hopefully this will give us a little confidence going into Clay (this weekend). Flagler’s a good, competitive tournament, so hopefully we can learn from that one and get a better start.”
Oakleaf did get the start it wanted Wednesday night, but couldn’t keep delivering.
“We’re stronger in lowers and we lost some of the 50-50 shots, like 132 and 145, that turned the match against us,” Oakleaf coach Wes Champ said.
“Our younger kids (also) learned from Flagler. It was definitely preparation for regions. That (tournament) was our region, plus some solid 1A & 2A teams. Hopefully we can drag a few out of districts to get them there.”
Both Middleburg and Oakleaf will be at Clay’s Green Cove Springs Rotary on Friday and Saturday.