By SHANNON HEATON
Northeast Florida Matmen
PALM COAST — OK, so districts are not JUST another tournament.
Even in the don’t-overhype-it-worldview of Fleming Island coach PJ Cobbert, he knows how important a winning performance in the first round of #RoadToTheShow is compared to winning a Saturday duals event.
But how to react to a winning performance?
“We’re going to practice tomorrow. Knock the dirt off and get better. While everybody else stays the same, we have to improve,” Cobbert said.
With that mindset, it shouldn’t surprise too much that Fleming Island not only won the 3A-District 1 tournament Saturday at Flagler Palm Coast High School. What might surprise some, though, was that in so doing the Golden Eagles scored more team points (294.5) than any other team in Florida did this past week and weekend.
“Nobody lifts and runs like we do. We run our program like a college program, maybe not in terms of the talent level but in workout and tempo we do,” Cobbert said. “If you’re stronger, and you’re in better shape, and your technique’s decent, you’re going to win matches.
“This weekend, it mattered only if you made it out. We’ll have a hard lift and a hard run Monday and go in the room about an hour. Tuesday…we’ll have a hard lift, a hard run, go about an hour. Wednesday, hard lift, hard run, go about an hour. Thursday we’ll recover and do walk-throughs on situations. Not a lot of live wrestling. You lose matches at this point in the season due to situations.”
Fleming Island had seven champions and advanced 13 wrestlers out, with just one dropping at the “blood round,” or consi semis, where winners earned qualification to Friday’s Region 1 tournament back at FPCHS. All 14 contributed significantly to that team score, which was good enough that it gave the Golden Eagles a 53.5-point margin of victory over the runnerup Bulldogs, whose 241 points would have won a lot of districts this past weekend.
Flagler qualified all 12 of its wrestlers for regions, with five champions of its own. Next up was Fletcher, which was third with 127.5 points and seven region qualifiers. Sandalwood edged Buchholz, 93.5-91, for fourth place, as both teams qualified five wrestlers out and both had one champion. Oakleaf also got five wrestlers out, with 59 points, while Mandarin was seventh at 54.5 points and four qualifiers. Lee was eighth at 50, with three out, while Atlantic Coast qualified two with 33 points. First Coast finished 10th, with 15 points.
Below follows a summary of Saturday’s action by weight class:
106: Fleming Island sophomore and top seed Briar Jackson wasn’t happy after his second district title in as many seasons (Jackson won for Middleburg in 2016), and it wasn’t because he couldn’t finish a pinning combination in the final. Jackson got a bye into the semis, then pinned Oakleaf freshman Cam’Ron Dove in 13 seconds in the semis. In the final against Flagler Palm Coast sophomore Christian Sheppard, Jackson scored at least four points in every period, with two turns in both the second and third periods, for a 14-5 major decision. Buchholz sophomore Bryan Perkins, who’d lost 7-3 to Sheppard in the semis, came back to finish third in the four-person bracket, with a 20-2 tech fall over Dove in the third-place match.
Jackson reax: “(On why he was upset) I felt like an idiot because I ate stuff (during the break between semis and finals) that I shouldn’t have eaten…Zaxby’s and cupcakes and a Poptart…I should have pinned him. (The win) felt all right. I just want to stay healthy throughout this week and come in healthy at regions.”
113: Fleming Island junior and top seed Albie Snedaker needed just two falls to win the bracket, with a bye into the semis and then a 28-second fall over Sandalwood junior Leon Cruz there. In the final against Fletcher senior Rayquan Piper, Snedaker scored in every period, with a second-period turn, and then a second turn in the third that became a fall in 4:39. Oakleaf senior Ryan Rosano, who’d lost 3-2 in overtime to Piper in the semis, didn’t allow a point in two consi-round matches, shutting out First Coast’s Jason Schwartz, 7-0, in the consi semis and then taking a 5-0 win over Cruz in the third-place match.
Snedaker reax: “I kind of expected it, but I’m happy with it. Now that I’m in better shape as we’re in the state series, I can go a lot harder all three periods and still have enough in the tank, instead of having to try to rely on a pin in the first period.”
120: Flagler Palm Coast junior and top seed Michael DeAugustino had two first-period falls to get to the finals, but then found himself in another tactical match with Fleming Island sophomore Deandre Demus in the final. DeAugustino pinned First Coast’s Seanjohn Adams (49 seconds) in the quarters and Fletcher senior Trent Dalldorf (1:12) in the semi, but after a takedown 30 seconds in against Demus, the match was tied until DeAugustino was able to get out with 41 seconds left, which was enough for a 3-2 win. Dalldorf rallied from the semifinal loss with a 14-0 major over Oakleaf’s Brandean Bacolor, then downed Gateway rival and Mandarin senior Chase Mattox, 2-0, for third place.
DeAugustino reax: “He wasn’t really trying to score too much; that’s how our last match was, too. Last time I out-shot him 12-2. He’s a good wrestler, but it’s like the plan is to try to eat up clock and land in a scramble situation…I could have scored more (in the tournament). Maybe shoot a little, I only had six shots all day. But it wasn’t too bad.”
126: Flagler Palm Coast junior and top seed Avery Holder has a high standard for himself, so finishing Saturday with two pins and a tech fall could be a disappointment for him. Holder pinned Atlantic Coast’s Marco Hunter in the quarters (1:26), then falled Buchholz’s DeAngelo Fletcher in 1:42 in the semi. Holder was able to get in five turns against Fleming Island junior Jacob Sandoval in the final, but couldn’t complete them for a full pin, settling for a technical fall in 5:52. Oakleaf junior Ethan Gustilo, who’d lost 7-4 in the semis to Sandoval, came back with two bonus-point wins for third, falling Fletcher’s James Knox in 2:01 in the consi semis, then majoring Mandarin sophomore Gunner Stier, 13-4, in the third-place match.
Holder reax: “I feel like I didn’t wrestle my best. I’ve had two pins in the first period against him earlier (this season) and I wanted to pin him because we needed more team points. Plus I wanted to get it done quicker, not go late in the third, but I was slow to pull the trigger. It is my first time winning districts after three years, so I’m happy for that.”
132: It didn’t seem possible, but Buchholz senior and top seed Gant Moore hadn’t won a district title before Saturday. He made sure that was crossed off the to-do list, with a fall over Fletcher’s Douglas Tappin (1:26) in the quarters and then a 36-second pin over Oakleaf junior Vince Karl in the semi. In the final against FPC junior Damion Figouera, Moore gave up the first takedown 45 seconds in, but set the pace after that, with a couple of turns late to secure a 9-3 victory. Fleming Island sophomore Trace Insalaco, who’d lost 6-2 to Figouera in the semis, came back to finish third with a pair of pins, 28 seconds over Tappin in the consi semis and then 1:51 over Karl in the third-place match.
Moore reax: “It just proves that hard work pays off. Just means everything. I knew I’d come back (after giving up the first takedown), and I just got back…(On dropping to 132) It’s been good. Not a hard cut at all. It was easier than I thought it was going to be.”
138: Flagler Palm Coast junior and top seed Michael Martins got to enjoy the feeling of winning districts after missing half the season a year ago with injury, with a fall over First Coast’s Wendell Bussey (3:24) in the quarters, a 38-second fall over Fletcher’s Matt Moffitt in the semi, and then a match where he set the pace against Fleming Island sophomore Vince Hauser in the final. Martins scored takedowns in each period to finish with a 7-1 victory. Mandarin sophomore Jake Kamins, who’d lost by fall to Hauser in the quarters, had to win twice on the backside just to assure a place at regions, pinning Oakleaf’s Austin McFarlane (3:26) in the consi quarter and then edging Moffitt, 4-3, in the semis before pinning Robert E. Lee junior Darius Wells in 3:45 for third place.
Martins reax: “It feels great. Not being able to compete last year…even the year before that…it’s exciting, and the best feeling I can hope to have. I am grateful to be here and wrestling for this team. Starting with (Michael) DeAugustino, we have a lot of power in our lighter weights and we can start out fast and no one’s going to stop us.”
145: Sandalwood senior and top seed Cameron Bell was the only Gateway Conference champion on the day, starting his road with a fall in the quarters (1:18) over Mandarin’s Noah Colbert-Santana, then a 16-second fall over Buchholz sophomore Tracen Ransdell in the semis. In the final, against Flagler Palm Coast junior Tyrone Jones, Bell broke open a scoreless match with an early reversal in the second period, then got a takedown plus penalty point in the third for a 5-0 decision and Bell’s first district title. Atlantic Coast senior Tywaine Rochebrun, who’d lost by fall to Jones (2:53) in the semis, came back to finish third with an 8-2 win over Fleming Island’s Luke Chop in the consi semis and then a 6-3 decision over Ransdell for third.
Bell reax: “Definitely a great experience and feeling, my first district title in 3-4 years of wrestling, but I definitely feel like I need to improve…It’s one of the three stepping-stones. Mindset for next week? Having fun, going out there and wanting to be there and not being scared.”
152: Fleming Island junior and top seed Paul Detwiler pinned his way through the bracket, starting off with a fall in 3 minutes over Oakleaf’s Donovan Gray in the quarters, then a 24-second fall over Buchholz junior Jordan Mobley in the semi. In the final against Flagler sophomore Curtis Brock, Detwiler hit a five-point move to establish early tone in the first period, then reversed and secured the fall over Brock in 3:36. Mandarin senior Adam Spikes, who lost by fall in 3 minutes to Brock in the semis, rallied for a 3-0 consi-semi win over Robert E. Lee’s Caleb Zaccheo, then outlasted Mobley, 9-8, for third.
Detwiler reax: “Not much drama this year. Having fun is a big motivator for us. Everyone is growing together, everything is going right at the right time…(Being at 152) is a different weight class, a little bit of a style difference but I’m comfortable with it. Last year was a big cut (down to 138), about 12-15 pounds, and you can’t trust your moves when you haven’t worked on them all week because you’re cutting and not practicing. The initial cut (this year) was a big one and at the beginning I was up and down, but I found a happy medium and we started to figure stuff out.”
160: Fleming Island senior and top seed Ben Sann continued his whirlwind late run into a district championship on his first try, pinning Oakleaf’s Isaiah Graham (1:06) in the quarters and then Flagler Palm Coast senior Keith Boswell (1:15) in the semi. In the final against Fletcher senior Owen Beining, Sann did get a cradle early, adding an escape, takedown and stall point in the third period for a 9-0 major. On the back side, Sandalwood senior Chandler Bell — who’d lost 3-2 to Gateway rival Beining in the semis — came back to finish third, winning by injury default over Graham in the consi semis and then downing Boswell, 3-1, for third.
Sann reax: “It’s pretty good. I felt in a lot better shape than previous tournaments. Felt pretty good wrestling-wise. We worked hard this week, we’ll work even harder for reigon. It’s mainly our coaches, PJ & Colby. They’re just tough, push as hard as they can. They give us the right mentality. If you believe, you can win…any match.”
170: Flagler Palm Coast senior and top seed Steve Canidate had just two matches in bringing home the bracket. After a bye into the semis of a six-man bracket, Canidate’s first action was an 18-10 major over Sandalwood junior Dillon Morency, sending him into the final. There, he gave up the first takedown to Fleming Island junior Jalyn Robinson just 30 seconds or so into the match, but rallied to tie it in the second period, then found a takedown of his own with 16 seconds left to secure a 4-3 win. Morency rallied back to finish third, falling Oakleaf’s Jesse Jennette in 3:47 in the consi semis and then winning by injury-default over Fletcher senior Julion Fix — who’d fallen 5-3 to Robinson in the semis — to finish third.
Canidate reax: “I’ve wrestled (Robinson) since sophomore year and always pinned or teched him. I was able to get in on him but just didn’t finish early on. I saw I was down by one and it was kind of a high-stakes match. I dropped in for a single and I finished like I should have. It feels good to be a champion on my last run.”
182: Fleming Island senior and top seed Jason Davis pinned his way through the tournament, collecting four falls along the way, with First Coast’s Valois Ochoa first in a prelim, then Mandarin’s Gavin Miles (3:27) in the quarters, Buchholz freshman Armando Acosta (57 seconds) in the semi and Flagler Palm Coast senior Eddie Bryant in 1:23 in the final. Sandalwood senior Cole Friend, who’d lost 7-2 to Bryant in the semis, came back for third, with a 5-0 shutout over Mandarin’s Gavin Miles in the consi semis and 3-1 win over Acosta to take the third-place medal.
Davis reax: “I did what I intended to do, pinned my way through. I have a high caliber of practice partners in Ryan (Smenda) and PJ, but there’s always room for improvement. We are training with a purpose. This (districts) is where it starts to end kids’ seasons, so we’re approaching it with the right purpose in mind.”
195: Fleming Island junior and second seed Ryan Smenda pinned his way through the tournament, with a fall in 1 minute over Mandarin’s Kevin Castro in the quarters, in 1:15 over Atlantic Coast junior Jamari Broussard in the semis, setting up a rematch against Fletcher top-seeded senior Narek Stepanyan in the final. Smenda’s combination of strength and length proved devastatingly effective on his first move, as he wound up pinning Stepanyan in 46 seconds. Lee senior David Johnson, who’d lost by fall (4:40) to Stepanyan in the semis, rallied back to finish third, majoring First Coast’s Trever Bruce 11-1 in the consi semis, then decisioning Broussard, 12-5, for third place.
Smenda reax: “I learned (from his overtime loss to Stepanyan at the Flagler Rotary) that he’s really strong and that I couldn’t take him head-on. It’s been tough (in practice) this week; we’ve all been working super hard so that this (the result) seems like it’s nothing. Everybody pinned today.”
220: Fleming Island senior and tournament top seed Brandyne Mackey pinned his way into the final, then scored an early takedown that stood up for his first district championship. Mackey falled Mandarin’s Andrew Hudgins (2:33) in the quarters, then pinned Fletcher senior Darrell McBride (4:15) in the semi. His first-periood takedown in the final against Flagler Palm Coast’s Tyler Irigoyen was the difference in a 3-1 decision. After the loss in the semis, McBride came back to take third, falling Oakleaf’s Od’Juan Whitfield in 55 seconds in the consi semis to secure a region place, then edging Gateway Conference rival, senior Kurk Jackson of Atlantic Coast, 5-3, for third place.
Mackey reax: “Coach (Cobbert) works us as hard as we need to be to excel. Built the program what it is today…(Next week) I have to take more shots and have more pace…At the end of the day, it’s about the win, staying hungry for the win.”
285: Flagler Palm Coast senior and tournament second seed Vincent Ebanks found a way to his first district title, but it wasn’t easy, as he falled Lee junior Leo White in the quarters (1:08), majored Fletcher sophomore Stanley Hollenbach (16-6), then found himself fortunate enough to win the flip in the final against Fleming Island senior Jose Concepcion. That allowed him to escape from the down position, which was critical later, as his match with Concepcion went to the ultimate tiebreaker period tied 2-2. As Ebanks scored first, he had choice and took down, escaping halfway through the final 30-second period for a 3-2 win. Hollenbach rallied from the semifinal loss by punching his ticket to regions with a fall in 3:59 over Mandarin’s Kyle Redding, then followed that up with a second pin against White in the third-place match.
Ebanks reax: “It comes down to who’s trained the hardest, when it’s that close…I placed third two times already, so it feels good to be top of the podium in my senior year…I’d never even been in the district final until today.”