The Season 2016-17: Episcopal

EPISCOPAL

You can see everything I have on the Eagles in 2016-17 here –>  EPISCOPAL

Win/loss record: 1-14 in dual meets. Please review the attached document for a summary of the Eagles’ performance in IBT events.

Season in a nutshell: In December, we saw the Eagles with three starters in their lineup, and a third of their duals were wrestled with those three, with predictable results. The lineup was augmented substantially in January, with the return of one key starter and a few new ones, most of them freshmen, and so at Viper Duals the Eagles were somewhat competitive in a duals environment, even though their inexperience still led to mostly losses. But Episcopal’s firepower at a couple of weights and solid depth at two others helped during the Eagle post-season tournament run, when it finished in the top 10 at Clay for Region 1 and tied for 25th at states this year. Can’t stress this enough — the coaches at Episcopal know how to win. They just need a full team next.

2016-17 MVP: There’s never been any question of how talented freshman Kyle Hopkins is on the wrestling mat. This year, after a late start that didn’t see him in the lineup until Viper Duals in mid-January, Hopkins’ focus got to the level where his talent was, and the result was a tournament run in which he won districts, reached the Region 1 final and then got to the state semis, knocking off one of the state’s top-ranked wrestlers in the weight class, not once but twice, en route to taking third place. Hopkins showed himself very capable of taking direction, of learning from losses, and keeping his head even in really tight situations. As much as we saw this year, it’s hard to remember that Hopkins is still only a freshman. As the wise old philosopher once said, in a paraphrase, he’s only just getting started on showing us — and most importantly himself — what he can do on the mats.

2017-18 captain: This has been Reid Hampton‘s third year in seeing time in a varsity role, and you can’t overlook that kind of experience, particularly on a team that, next year, will not have a returning senior for the first time in a while. Hampton had a quiet sort of season in the background of the star power of Hopkins and 2017 graduate Christian Rickey, but I could see him starting to trust his instincts and his technique a bit more this year. It took a while, all the way up until Clay’s Rotary tournament, but the quick falls started going away and the one-sided wins started increasing. Some strength work, and Hampton could be somebody to watch next year.

Heaton’s Hero: We did not see a lot of Cooper Helton this year, but of the next wave of Eagle wrestlers that will join Hopkins and Hampton as sophomore returners in 2017-18, we saw the most of Helton, who got his first looks at the varsity at Bierbaum and was one of the three Episcopal middles that saw time at Viper Duals in mid-January, where he got his only contested victory of the season. Helton later went on to make it out of districts, getting a tough draw at Region 1. He was inexperienced this year, but a steady diet of off-season work would help get him better, and it was good to see him and his fellow freshmen join the lineup in January. Cooper Helton is the Heaton’s Hero for Episcopal.

Projected returning starters for 2017-18 (with year in school as they’ll be next year): Hopkins (sophomore, 113, district champ, region runnerup, state 3rd); Hampton (sophomore, 126, district runnerup, 1-2 at regions); Cooper Helton (sophomore, 132, district 3rd, 0-2 at regions); Nial Murphy (sophomore, 160, 0-2 at districts); Freddy Dollison (junior, 220, 1 match from regions). Also: Robert Jackson (sophomore, 138, did not compete in post-season); Kaiman Clark (freshman, 145, 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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