By SHANNON HEATON
Northeast Florida Matmen
KISSIMMEE — Team-wise, the north region had to take a back seat to Tampa-area powers Brandon and Lake Gibson, as well as a few other teams on both coasts of South Florida.
But in the second group of 10 teams in the final standings, there were several Region 1 teams in that group, with Lincoln leading the way in 11th place (45 points). Leon (T-13th, 40), Fort Walton Beach & Ridgeview (T-19th, 28) weren’t too far behind, with Niceville (24th, 26), Middleburg (26th, 23.5) and Orange Park (T-28th, 22) all in the top 30.
The rest of the region finished as follows: Tate (31st, 21 points), Creekside (32nd, 19.5), Pace (37th, 15), Bartram Trail & Englewood (T-44th, seven), Chiles & Gulf Breeze (T-52nd, five), Crestview (T-57th, three), Nease (T-62nd, two), Terry Parker (T-68th, one), and Columbia & Matanzas with no points.
Individually, the region finished the weekend with one state champion — who’ll be returning in 2017-18 — and three finalists. Below follows a Day 2 breakdown of each wrestler’s performance, where that wrestler survived the first day of action Friday. For that breakdown, go here.
Gulf Breeze freshman Gabe Jacobs lost his blood-round match on Saturday morning, falling to second-ranked Charlotte freshman Donovan Cataldi by a 3-1 decision in the consi quarters. Cataldi would go on to finish fifth.
Ridgeview senior Marcus Reid, a recurrent sufferer of epileptic seizures who had to push through one on Tuesday prior to state and then again during the weekend, finished third in the weight class. In a matchup of 1 vs 2 in the semifinals, Reid fell to talented Fort Myers freshman Chris Rivera, 6-3, to drop into the wrestlebacks. There, Reid had two bonus-point wins to finish third, with a medical forfeit in the consi semis over Land O’Lakes’ Jarrett Kinney and then a 13-3 major over third-ranked and former state champion Diamonte Perry, in the third-place match.
Tate senior Alex Porter also came up short in the semis, falling 18-9 to sixth-ranked Heritage junior Seth Adeclat there. Porter then dropped a 5-2 loss in the consi semis to Perry, but finished fifth thanks to an injury-default victory over Kinney.
Lincoln junior Michael Crowder fell in the blood round for his only match of the day Saturday, taking a 14-4 loss to Kinney in the consi quarters.
Columbia junior Chace Curtis lost by fall in the blood round to eighth-ranked Dixie Hollins senior Drew Harrington, with a loss by fall in 4:01. Harrington went on to finish third in the weight class.
Ridgeview junior Saeid Ejmali lost his bid to join Reid as a state medalist, sustaining a 6-4 defeat in the blood round to unranked Estero junior Brian Opalensky. Opalensky went on to finish sixth in the tournament.
Niceville junior Jack Johnson confounded the experts with his run to the state championship, which included wins over three of the top four ranked kids in the weight class. Those upsets began Friday night in the quarters, and continued on Saturday, as Johnson took down top-ranked Palm Bay senior Bryce Poppell, 5-2, in the semis, and then decisioned fourth-ranked Fort Myers junior Mike Edouard, 7-4, for the championship. In that match, Johnson scored early and late, breaking a 3-3 tie midway through the third period with an escape. Johnson and Edouard then traded stall points before Johnson got the putaway takedown with five seconds left for the win.
Johnson reax: “I’d always had the intention of going to state, but after seeing the competition here, I thought I had a chance. It feels unreal, winning state. Everything you can hope for. It wasn’t until I got to the finals that I realized it really might happen…(tactics) I’ve developed a switch single that’s definitely a move that puts pressure on the other guy, because I’m pressing forward. Works to my advantage when stall calls come up because I had pressure…(future of Niceville program) We’re going to be good, especially with our new coach (Travis Laxton). He’s given us a real positive attitude.”
Lincoln junior Justin Grant didn’t lose again after taking an ultimate-tiebreaker loss to Edouard in the quarters on Friday. Grant began Saturday with a 3-2 win in the blood round over eighth-ranked Devin Price of Golden Gate to ensure a podium space, then decisioned Poppell, 8-5, in the consi semis. Grant then won by injury-default in the third-place match over second-ranked Hunter Weeks of Riverdale.
Orange Park senior Nartorian Lee advanced to the finals, moving past Brandon’s eighth-ranked Austin Deffenbaugh, 2-1, in the semis. That put him into the final against top-ranked Palm Bay senior Matt Cates. In that match, Cates had a takedown late in the first period and reversed out early in the second, and those scoring moves were enough for Cates to secure a 5-3 victory over Lee.
Lee reax: “It means a lot to me. It’s an honor. I wanted to win it, I couldn’t, but I’m very honored. Wish I could come back again next year. He (Cates) was really strong. Probably one of the best people I wrestled all year. I couldn’t adjust to what he was doing; it was something I’d never seen before.”
Creekside junior Brandon Dickman also ran into Cates, but in the semifinal in a battle of 1 vs 2. Cates also had the upper hand in that match, taking a 7-3 win and sending Dickman into the wrestlebacks. There, Dickman went into double-overtime against fifth-ranked Venice senior Luke Veigel, winning 2-1. In the third-place match, Dickman needed sudden-victory time for the second time in as many days against fourth-ranked Cypress Lake junior Jermaine Teague, with a 6-4 victory.
Fort Walton Beach senior Chase Cleveland lost in the blood round for his one match of the day on Saturday, falling to Veigel by a 7-3 decision. Veigel went on to finish fifth in the tournament.
Leon junior Jonathan Grant won by the pin early and lost by the fall late, in reaching the finals. Grant continued his pinning ways from Friday in the semis, falling fourth-ranked Gaither junior Brad Bolesta in 2:36. That set up a 1 vs 2 match in the finals against Brandon senior Alex Popke, who needed a victory to help his team’s chances to win the team title. An overaggressive move got Grant in bad position, as Popke secured the fall in 3:20.
Grant reax: “I just used all my emotion. I was too upset, and it just got to me. I did a move I shouldn’t have and I got stuck…This is my last year of wrestling and getting to the finals after placing last year, it showed that I improved. I wanted to follow in the footsteps of (2016 Leon graduate and 2A champion) Gabe Beyer, but I couldn’t follow him. Hopefully I can help get (brother) Justin there (next year). It was weird with me (with Justin transferring to Lincoln) at first, but we just said we’ll wrestle at home and make each other better.”
In a faceoff of area wrestlers, unranked Middleburg junior Bryan Heflin pinned 12th-ranked Englewood senior Michel Augustin in 2:17 of the blood round, ensuring Heflin’s place on the medal stand and at the same time bringing Augustin’s tournament to an end. Heflin did take two losses from there, falling 10-4 in the consi semis to Bolesta and then falling to third-ranked Barron Collier senior Jack Simpson, 4-2 in sudden-victory, to place sixth.
Pace senior Key Nettles took just one loss by one point in finishing third in the weight class. Nettles’ bid to represent the Patriots in the final fell just short, as he lost, 2-1, in the semis to third-ranked Charlotte junior Dalton Mills. Nettles then had a reprise of his Region 1 final against second-ranked Leon senior Henry Segura in the consi semis, winning that match by an 8-4 count, then decisioned unranked Naples senior Dinel Chery, 7-2, in sudden victory during the third-place match.
Segura won his blood-round match over Gulf Coast’s Nikolas Perovic, with a second-period fall in 3:20, to ensure his podium space. After the loss to Nettles, Segura picked up a second pin in the fifth-place match, falling 13th-ranked Troy Jaffy of Olympic Heights in 2:27.
Fort Walton Beach junior Nick Woodward lost in the blood round early on Saturday afternoon, taking a 4-2 loss to Jaffy in the consolation quarters.
Lincoln junior Josh Martin‘s only loss in the tournament came in the semifinals to eventual champion and top-ranked Brandon senior Joe Marcano, in which Martin lost by fall in 5:50. The loss sent Martin into the wrestlebacks, where he began the road to third place with a pin in 2:51 over unranked Seabreeze junior Braden Buswell in the consi semis. Martin picked up a second bonus-point victory in the third-place match, majoring 11th-ranked Cypress Lake junior Jean Malivert, 10-1, in that round.
Orange Park senior Tyler Dehart lost by fall in the blood round to Malivert, with a pin time of 3:35.
Fort Walton Beach senior Joseph Pearson‘s bid to reach the finals fell short in the semis on Saturday, as he lost by fall — as all others who faced Pearson’s semis opponent did — to top-ranked Riverdale senior Cole Schneider in 1:44. That sent Pearson into the wrestlebacks, where he decisioned unranked Palm Bay senior Brian Ormsby, 8-4. That put Pearson into the third-place match against 15th-ranked Middleburg senior and region rival Bailey Barnard, and Pearson won by fall there in 50 seconds.
Barnard won twice on Saturday to get into the third-place match, rolling up four wins in the consi rounds to ensure a top-four medals finish on the weekend. Barnard began the day with a tech fall over King senior Willie Mason, 18-1, to ensure a medal place, then knocked off second-ranked Dixie Hollins senior Jesse Smith, 4-1 in double-overtime, in the consi semis.