The Season 2016-17: Milton

MILTON

You can see everything I have on the Panthers in 2016-17 here –>  MILTON

Win/loss record: Unknown in dual meets. Please review the attached document for a summary of the Panthers’ performance in IBT events.

Season in a nutshell: The Panthers in 2016-17 consisted largely of untested or otherwise inexperienced seniors (with a couple of exceptions, one of which we’ll write a bit on in the MVP paragraph) and new freshmen, some of whom showed some very real promise. We don’t have a full picture on Milton, because we’re missing at least four dual results (two from Max-Fit Duals in mid-January and at least two from Gulf Shores dual invite in Alabama the first weekend of February). That’s something that has to be corrected next year. That being said, I thought the Panthers closed some gaps this year, with close losses late in the year to Tate and Bay and a win over Wewahitchka. Those would have been much more one-sided in favor of the Panther opponents in years past. But there are a lot of seniors leaving the lineup, which could be difficult to overcome — or an opportunity for new blood to write a new chapter to the story.

2016-17 MVP: Milton had a few region qualifiers this past year, none going farther in the tournament than senior Seth Martin (182). Martin was the highest-finisher for the Panthers at the District 1 tournament (third), and then reached the semifinals at Chiles. The bracket set up pretty well for him there, but a pair of solid District 3 wrestlers — both of whom will return in 2017-18 — knocked Martin out of the tournament. Martin was a solid leader for the past two seasons for Milton, and his loss from the 2017-18 team will be a difficult one to fill.

2017-18 captain: How a senior like Connor Saint develops this off-season will be key in seeing how much progress the Panthers can make as a team. Saint got out to a good start (9-2 at at one point), but then went 15-15 down the stretch after dropping down to 220. There were a couple of good wins on the resume this past year, and some “good” losses as well, particularly given how solid 220 — and the upperweights in general — were in the northwest corner of the state. Several of those are graduating, and Saint might be well-positioned to take advantage of that next season.

Heaton’s Hero: With the possibility of wins against Crestview or South Walton at the Max-Fit Duals notwithstanding in mid-January, according to the info I have it wasn’t until the Gulf Shores Invitational that sophomore 145 Ian Van Gestel got his first contested victory, and I have just the one for the year (there could have been others at Gulf Shores as well as at Pace). But Van Gestel stayed with the sport after a sizable weight-class jump from his freshman year, and after a heavy dose of first-period falls. I hope he stays in and continues to get better. Ian Van Gestel is the Heaton’s Hero for Milton.

Projected returning starters for 2017-18 (with year in school as they’ll be next year): Brandon Nicholson (sophomore, 126, district 4th, 0-2 at regions); Aiden Sterba (junior, 138, 0-2 at districts); Van Gestel (junior, 145, 0-2 at districts); Saint (senior, 220, district 4th, 1-2 at regions). Also: Cayden Busbee (sophomore, 106, did not compete in post-0season); Daniel McDonal (sophomore, 145, did not compete in post-season); Anthony Henry (senior, 152, did not compete in post-season); Alec Cavazos (sophomore, 220, did not compete in post-season).

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I covered wrestling for 15 years up north and "retired" in 2011. But as I thought I had in 1992, I couldn't stay away. Started Northeast Florida Matmen in 2013, Northwest Florida Matmen in 2015. New initiative this year is to create a space on my sites where ALL Florida results can be stored, searched, reviewed and used by my readers, with NO COST TO THEM.

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