By SHANNON HEATON
Northeast Florida Matmen
JACKSONVILLE — Want to follow a sport that doesn’t generate controversy? Try something like tennis. (Editor’s Note: Four years on HS tennis team).
Controversies are everywhere in wrestling. In bounds or out of bounds? Stalling or no? Escape or reversal? Two!!!!
It’s not all that often that controversy begins before the first whistle starting matches is blown, but that might have been the biggest story at Raines Saturday.
Here’s the nuts and bolts. According to meet manager Brian Gilbert, Raines’ coach, not all of Clay’s expected starters were in the gym and on the mat when weigh-ins began. Those starters (3 of them, at weight classes 160-182) did arrive, but after weigh-ins had begun. After some back-and-forth and discussions were had between the coaches and officials involved, and phone calls placed to FHSAA wrestling administrator Robbie Lindeman in Gainesville for a final ruling, the decision was made — by Lindeman — to disqualify the three late wrestlers.
While that decision left Clay three kids short and could potentially impact the Blue Devils’ chances this coming weekend at regions, it didn’t stop Clay from winning its 18th consecutive district title — a little later than scheduled Saturday afternoon — with 222 points fueled mainly on nine individual titles.
As it turned out, the Blue Devils qualified 11 wrestlers for Friday’s Region 1 tournament in Green Cove Springs, with one runnerup and one third-place entrant as well.
That was enough to hold off Yulee, which put together 176.5 points and advanced 13 wrestlers to the next round. Westside was third, with 115 points (seven qualifiers), followed by West Nassau at 85.5 (seven), Baker County 75 (seven), Bishop Snyder 65.5 (five), host Raines at 64 (four) and Fernandina Beach with 27 (two).
Below follows a summary of the action on the mats Saturday:
106: Clay sophomore and top seed Lou Gagliardo controlled the bracket. After a bye into the semis, Gagliardo pinned Bishop Snyder sophomore Elijah Bishop in 25 seconds to reach the final, where he needed just 40 seconds to pick up a second fall, this one over Yulee freshman Kyle Davis. Bishop rallied from the semifinal loss to Gagliardo to finish third, advancing through the consi semis with a bye and then topping West Nassau freshman Roy Knight, 6-5, in the third-place match.
113: Yulee freshman and top seed Stevie Chopek also pinned his way through the bracket, like Gagliardo did at 106. Chopek had a bye into the semis, where he pinned Baker County freshman David Jackson in 2:36. In the final, Chopek needed 56 seconds to obtain his second pin of the day and the title, pinning Bishop Snyder’s Jeffrey Prosser. Clay sophomore Justin Byler, who’d lost by fall in 3:49 to Prosser in the semis, rallied to finish third with two falls on the back side, first in 42 seconds over West Nassau’s Brendan Ferenchik in the consi semis, then over Jackson in 1:59 to take third.
120: Clay senior and top seed Chris Merring took the title with two wins on Saturday. After a bye into the semis, Merring pinned Fernandina Beach freshman Camden Smith in 29 seconds to get to the finals, where he won the title with a 10-3 decision over Yulee senior Dylan Youmans. Bishop Snyder sophomore JP Villanueva, who’d lost by fall in 20 seconds to Youmans in the semis, rallied to finish third with a 14-second consi-semis fall over West Nassau’s Harley Bass, then pinned Smith in 1:45 in the third-place match.
126: In the first full bracket of the tournament, Clay sophomore and top seed Peyton Hughes won the title with three falls. Hughes opened the day with an 18-second pin of Fernandina Beach’s Jeremiah Giedrys, then pinned Yulee senior Jacob Godsave in 49 seconds in the semis to reach Raines junior Jaquan English in the final. There, Hughes earned his third pin, with a fall in 5:05. Baker County junior Jordan Johnson, who lost 10-4 to English in the semis, came back to take third behind two pins, first over Giedrys in 57 seconds in the consi semis, then over Godsave in 1:56 for third place.
132: Clay junior and second seed Dylan Fabiani won two matches to take the bracket. After a bye, Fabiani pinned Yulee’s Zach Watson in 38 seconds in the semis, and then won by disqualification in the final over top-seeded Ryan Timmons of Baker County. Westside freshman Angelo Philpot, who lost by fall to Timmons in the semis, came back to take third place, pinning Bishop Snyder’s James Baker in 4:48 in the consi semis and then majoring West Nassau freshman Bradley Hulett, 16-3, in the third-place match (they had met earlier in the day, with Philpot winning by tech fall).
138: Clay senior and top seed Cody Taylor had two first-period falls to take the title. After a bye into the semis, Taylor pinned Baker County’s Devon Cole in 1:44 there, to set up a finals matchup with Bishop Snyder senior Brenden Bizier. There, Taylor needed just 55 seconds to win by fall. Yulee sophomore Grant Stanish, who had lost 11-3 in the semis to Bizier, pinned Cole in 1:59 to take third.
145: Clay senior and top seed Keath Sawdo had two wins for the bracket at this weight class. After a bye, Sawdo pinned Yulee’s Tyler Berrier in 2:27 in the semis, putting him into the final against West Nassau junior William Tharpe, where Sawdo took the victory with a 6-3 decision. Westside senior Jacob Boyd, after losing 9-1 in the semis to Tharpe, came back to take third with a forfeit in the consi semis and then a fall over Berrier in 2:22.
152: Clay sophomore and top seed Dylan Taylor won the bracket with a pair of six-minute decisions. After a bye into the semis, Taylor won 15-1 over Yulee’s David Dry to reach the final, where he turned back Westside senior Delmontae Davis, 5-3, to win the title. Raines junior Alonzo Davis, who’d lost 12-0 to Delmontae Davis in the semis, came back with two bonus-point wins and finished third, falling West Nassau’s Zachary Boston in 1:55 in the consi semis, then majoring Dry, 12-4, for third.
160: Yulee senior and second seed John Parker won twice to finish in first place in the weight class. In the semis, Parker pinned Westside junior Matthew Gathright in 4:48 to get to the final, where he faced off against unbeaten Joseph Helm of Fernandina Beach. Parker gave Helm his first loss, with a 6-3 decision. West Nassau freshman Breyer Wood, who’d lost to Helm by fall in 47 seconds in the semis, came back to pin Gathright in 2:32 to take third.
170: Westside junior and second seed John Jones took two victories in winning the weight class. Jones pinned Bishop Snyder junior Hunter Chaney in 3:01 in the semis, and then took down Baker County top seed James Barnett, 5-2, to win the district. Yulee sophomore Gunner Harrison, who’d lost to Barnett by fall in 49 seconds in the semis, came back to pin Chaney in 42 ticks for third place.
182: Westside junior and top seed Calvin Altman needed just 64 seconds to win the title. After a bye into the semis, Altman falled Baker County sophomore Andrew Rosepiler in 27 seconds there, and then pinned West Nassau senior Brice Burnsed in 37 seconds to take first. Yulee sophomore Michael Crawford, who’d lost by fall to Burnsed in 43 seconds in the semis, won by injury default over Rosepiler in the third-place match.
195: Clay senior and top seed Kaleb Collins had two convincing victories for the bracket. After a bye into the semis, Collins falled Baker County sophomore Josh Ossmann in 51 seconds there, then won by technical fall over Yulee senior Noah Winebarger, 15-0. West Nassau’s Daniel Boylan, who had lost by fall (3:44) to Ossmann in the quarters, came back to take third, with a bye into the consi semis, fall in 2:30 there over Westside’s Jakius Hunt, then decisioned Ossmann by a 7-4 score to finish third.
220: Clay junior and top seed Kurt Jackson brought home the Blue Devils’ ninth title of the day with two pins, both in less than a minute. After a bye into the semis, Jackson pinned Yulee’s TJ Holton in 38 seconds, following that up with a second fall in the championship match over Raines junior Jevonte Hagan, in 55 seconds. West Nassau senior Blake Hodges, who’d lost to Hagan by fall in 1:25 in the semis, came back to take third with two pins, first over Fernandina Beach’s Robbie Elefterion in 3:34 in the consi semis, then over Holton in 1:39 for third place.
285: In a very loaded district bracket, Westside senior and top seed Tariq Hookfin won the bracket with a pair of decisions. After a bye into the semis, Hookfin decisioned Raines freshman Jamon Goodwine, 7-2, then came back for a 4-3 win over Clay junior Ryan Rivers in the title match. Goodwine rallied to finish third, with a fall over Baker County’s Jestin Canterbury in 2:38 in the consi semis, then decisioned Yulee junior McKenzie Lewis, 7-4, to finish third.