The Season 2016-17: Baker County

BAKER COUNTY

You can see everything I have on the Wildcats in 2016-17 here –>  BAKER COUNTY

Win/loss record: 12-8 in dual meets. Please review the attached document for a summary of the Wildcats’ performance in IBT events.

Season in a nutshell: I thought Baker County took some important steps this year, steps that I noticed maybe if no one else did. The Wildcats stepped out of their usual duals-first policy and entered a couple of tournaments this year (one was a round-robin, which I think accomplishes most of the same missions that a duals tournament does, without the forfeits), and I think that was beneficial, as Baker had its first state qualifier in three years. Baker County also had a more consistent lineup than in some seasons past. There were some brief single-event appearances in a couple of cases, but generally there was more consistency. That had to change somewhat for districts, as there were a couple of missing wrestlers that I would have expected to see starting, but both should be back to help build part of a solid nucleus of kids for 2017-18. With youth wrestling picking up in Baker, I think the good things will continue for the Wildcats.

2016-17 MVP: Junior Jordan Johnson was the most consistently solid presence in the Baker County lineup from beginning of the season to the end, but simply ran into a loaded weight class during the post-season. Johnson got out to an 8-0 start, winning 12 in a row after a loss by fall at Columbia. The Wildcats did have a lighter schedule at the start of the year, but Johnson proved himself capable of knocking off a three-time Gateway champion at his home gym with a standup cradle. Johnson did finish fourth at 5 Star, with two losses there in a loaded class, but rallied with a title effort at Westside Duals. He wound up third at districts, with a loss to a 2016 state placer in the semis, and was one takedown away from wrestling for the state tournament, reaching the second day at Region 1 at Clay.

2017-18 captain: Junior James Barnett has quietly filled in a solid role in the upper weights for the Wildcats, and the result of that two-year body of work was an appearance in the state tournament, first under Coach Hank Fisher. After a couple of early losses at North Florida Duals, Barnett won seven matches in a row in December. After a mid-season lull against some solid competition at Army Duals — Baker’s first competition back after almost a month away — Barnett had a solid performance at Raines’ 5 Star tournament, where he was Baker County’s lone champion. Barnett was seeded first at districts, where a wrestler he’d beaten at Westside in a close match got him back, and he also lost in the first round at Clay for regions, but then didn’t lose again until the third-place match. Just getting to states was the real battle this year; now, Barnett will set his sights on podium in 2018.

Heaton’s Hero: We didn’t see Michael Donnelly in the lineup until January, but he was a fixture at 145 from Army Duals going forward for the Wildcats. It was a tough five weeks. Donnelly had just two matches reach the second period, and all of the contested wins wound up as losses by fall. It’s a pretty tough thing to enter the lineup mid-season, when most of your opponents are in mid-season shape, and it’s also a pretty tough thing for an inexperienced freshman wrestler to compete at 145, where most of his opponents (just a quick look at Donnelly’s opponents tells me this) were juniors or more often seniors. Donnelly did have his hand raised three times, but he’ll have to wait for next year to have it done in a contested match (according to the results I have). Still, he stuck with it, and for that, Michael Donnelly is the Heaton’s Hero for Baker County.

Projected returning starters for 2017-18 (with year in school as they’ll be next year): Brianna Thornton (sophomore, 106, 1 match from regions); David Jackson (sophomore, 113, district 4th, 0-2 at regions); Johnson (senior, 126, district 3rd, 2-2 at regions); Devon Cole (senior, 138, district 4th, 0-2 at regions); Donnelly (sophomore, 145, 0-2 at districts); Barnett (senior, 170, district runnerup, region 4th, 0-2 at states); Andrew Rosepiler (junior, 182, district 4th, did not compete at regions); Josh Ossmann (junior, 195, district 4th, 0-2 at regions). Also: Cole Cushman (senior, 106, did not compete in post-season); James Knobb (sophomore, 120, 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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