By SHANNON HEATON
Northeast Florida Matmen
TITUSVILLE — While most attention at Eastern Florida State College was centered on the juggernaut that is Lake Highland Prep at the 1A-Region 2 tournament this past weekend, Palatka was focused on just getting someone to states.
And they got two someones to Friday’s 1A state tournament at Silver Spurs Arena in Kissimmee, as juniors Bryan Smith (195) and Ira Dixon (220) will represent the Panthers at #TheShow this weekend.
Their qualifier efforts, plus five preliminary wins, were enough for the Panthers to score 45 points in the tournament and finish 14th out of 28 teams.
Smith, ranked ninth statewide, was 3-1 in the 195 bracket this weekend, losing only to eventual champion Zaqueri Viers of Space Coast. He had a first-round bye and then decisioned 40-match winner Joseph Gurley of Weeki Wachee, 3-2, in the quarterfinals. He went into the third period with Viers, ranked 5th, before losing by fall in 5:04. That sent him into the consi semis, where he ground out a 1-0 decision over Atlantic’s Austen Herres to punch his ticket for Kissimmee. In the third-place match, Smith pushed the pace in an 8-3 decision over Hernando sophomore Fernando Valdez.
Dixon was 3-2 on the weekend. He also made the semifinals, like Smith, but had to wrestle two matches to qualify, pinning Cocoa’s Hunter Gfell in 2:39 in the first round and then falling Damien Hay of Hudson in 5:21 to get to Saturday. There, he faced second-ranked Matt Whitehouse of Atlantic, losing by fall in 1:55 and falling into the consi semis. In that round, Dixon pinned Rockledge’s Noah Goldman in 4:17 to qualify for Kissimmee. That set a third-place match against 13th-ranked Nature Coast sophomore Michael Weston, which Dixon lost by a 3-1 decision.
Five Panther wrestlers — Drevon Wallace (106), Trevor Davis (113), Dale Green (145), Jamar Danzler (160) and Jason Gullett (170) were 1-2 on the day on Friday, while Jerich Givens (138) was 0-2. All were eliminated in the first day.
Interlachen’s Cade Mason (138) was 1-2 on the weekend, giving the Putnam County Rams three points and a tie for 25th place in the tournament. Eastside sent six wrestlers to regions, but it was an eye-opening experience for the Alachua County Rams, as all six were 0-2 and Eastside finished 28th, failing to score.