The Season 2016-17: Marianna

MARIANNA

You can see everything I have on the Bulldogs in 2016-17 here –>  MARIANNA

Win/loss record: 11-15 in dual meets. Please review the attached document for a summary of the Bulldogs’ performance in IBT events.

Season in a nutshell: With a transfer or two altering the mix even before the season began, the Bulldogs were also affected by a mid-season move-out by one of their two top returners, and it was a move that put a dent in Marianna’s uppers. Three kids that started the season with the team didn’t see much, if any, action beyond December. And yet, the Bulldogs soldiered on, with better performances in IBTs than in dual events, where Marianna’s solid kids could shine and help the overall team effort. That led to top-half showings at Gator Brawl, District 1, and right in the mix of the top half at both Region 1 and at states. Marianna will have six post-season starters returning, but if a few others that had double-figure matches also return, the Bulldogs could have a base to build on in when practices start late this fall.

2016-17 MVP: Senior 152 Max Martinez took three early losses at Border Wars (although he did avenge one of them), and took a fourth loss in the finals at Capital City. Martinez would not lose again until the District 1 final at Wewahitchka. In late February. That’s 31 straight wins, with a title effort at Lincoln’s Trojan Invitational, a title win at Gator Brawl, and 22 pins during that streak (including seven in a row at one point, all against Northwest Matmen opponents). The loss was a one-point loss to a wrestler that Martinez had beaten twice before, by a combined total of three points. Martinez took third at Region 1, Marianna’s lone state qualifier, with his only loss coming to another team MVP in the semis. At states, Martinez completed his high school career with a podium finish, falling to a Lake Highland wrestler in the quarters and then winning twice on the back to secure his state medal.

2017-18 captain: Of the three seniors coming back in 2017-18, Ethan Ellis had the most consistent success over the past couple of seasons. There were no 31-match win streaks over the season, but Ellis (138) did win five in a row at one stretch of December/January, eight at another late in the regular season and six in a row that carried into the post-season. Although there were no titles in Ellis’ season, he did reach the second day at Border Wars (much harder than it sounds), and placed fifth at Gator Brawl. That solid prep in December and January led to a finals appearance at District 1 (after a revenge win in the semifinals). After taking a quarterfinal loss at Region 1 to the eventual runnerup, Ellis got all the way back to the blood round, where he was knocked out by an eventual state medalist.

Heaton’s Hero: It’s always tough on an inexperienced upperweight to find his footing, particularly when an older, very solid practice partner moved away, removing one of your best chances, right there in the room, to get better. So sophomore 182 Jonah Mercer had his share of struggles from the start of the season and most of the way through it. He did not compete at Beast of the Beach, but, after wrestling a weight up for Trojan Invitational, Mercer earned his first victory there over a district rival, then added two more wins at Gator Brawl, both of those against region rivals and both pins. That would be it until the final week of the regular season for any victories. But Mercer stayed in the lineup from the beginning of the season until the end, and at times was often the biggest Bulldog on the mat in so doing. For that persistence, Jonah Mercer is the Heaton’s Hero for Marianna.

Projected returning starters for 2017-18 (with year in school as they’ll be next year): Neal Smith (junior, 113, district runnerup, 1-2 at regions); E. Ellis (senior, 138, district runnerup, 1 match from states); Gunner Nebel (senior, 160, district 4th, 0-2 at regions); Dillon Melvin (senior, 170, district 3rd, 0-2 at regions); Mercer (junior, 182, 1 match from regions); Jason Rudd (sophomore, 285, district 3rd, 1-2 at regions). Also: Cooper Large (senior, 126, did not compete in post-season); Damone Rolle (sophomore, 132, did not compete in post-season); Brandon Thomas (junior, 138, did not compete in post-season); Dee Dubose (sophomore, 152, did not compete in post-season); Corey Davis (sophomore, 182, 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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