By SHANNON HEATON
North Florida Matmen
GAINESVILLE — Single duals haven’t been the kindest format for Columbia this season.
On December 6, the Tigers lost to now-ranked Buchholz. Before the Christmas holiday, Columbia fell to Suwannee in the inaugural “Battle for the Paddle.”
But put Columbia in a one-day, or a two-day, duals tournament, and the Tigers seem to figure things out. That was true when they won their own Tiger Duals back on December 16 and just as true this weekend, as Columbia ran the table without a defeat to win the second annual Category V Duals, hosted by Gainesville HS Friday and Saturday.
“We didn’t walk in there with a great attitude,” Columbia coach Peter Whittington said of the Suwannee dual. “We’ve got to come out ready to go every time.
“We used this weekend as a redemption weekend. This proves to the kids that they can do this every time. If we keep doing that, we believe we can hang with the best teams in the state.”
But there were some anxious moments, particularly on Saturday in the Tigers’ last dual against 3A south Florida side Cypress Bay, which had had its only loss earlier in the day against Oakleaf. The south Floridians jumped out to an early 12-0 lead, but Columbia would win five straight matches between 126 and 152 — with a couple of them featuring Tigers getting off their backs and turning the tide for pins themselves — and would not trail again.
That run included pins from Chace Curtis (126), Matt Ross (138), Matthew Arango (145) and Jonathen Sobczak (152). Arango’s and Sobczak’s falls, in particular, could have gone the other way, so the fact that they didn’t was crucial.
“Sobczak is a freshman who plays an intricate role for us. He came out and performed. And Arango, I can’t say enough about, because he took a beating pretty much all weekend. He had to win that match for us to mathematically win this,” Whittington said.
Columbia had contested wins over Eastside (78-6), Westside (52-21) and Oakleaf (42-36), plus team forfeit wins over Ocala Forest and Ocala West Port, both of which were no-shows on Friday. On Saturday, the Tigers followed up with wins over Middleburg (46-27), Leesburg (72-6), Interlachen (72-0), Gainesville (53-21) and Cypress Bay, for a perfect 10-0 weekend.
“The belief is there, which is the important part. Once the kids understand they can do these things, it becomes just a matter of taking care of business,” said Whittington, whose team will host FHSAA 2A-District 2 duals next. “We truly believe we have a shot at Lincoln. We’re coming.”
Columbia had four all-tournament performers, three of them going undefeated, in Curtis (5-0 at 126, 2 pins, 2 techs & decision), Daniel Mann (7-0 at 132, 3 pins) and Zion James (8-0 at 182, 5 pins). James was named as the tournament’s outstanding heavier-weight wrestler.
Ian McGuigan (120, 2 pins, 2 techs & major) was 7-1 for the Tigers and earned all-tournament honors with a loss only to another all-tournament performer, while Sobczak (152, pin & decision) compiled a 6-1 record.
After finishing second to the Tigers in pool action Friday, Oakleaf didn’t lose a dual on Saturday, taking second place as a result.
The Clay County Knights had contested wins over Eastside (78-6) and Westside (60-24) Friday, in addition to the loss to Columbia, adding Saturday wins over Interlachen (72-0), Leesburg (72-6), Middleburg (47-24) and Gainesville (57-24) for an 8-1 weekend.
“Our heavyweights are getting better, and hopefully we get our 195 back soon, but we plugged a hole at 106, so we’re not giving up points there now,” Oakleaf coach Wes Champ said. “But our young kids are getting better and that’s what matters.
“I try to get our kids good competition and some mat time, which is what they need most. Get eight or nine matches that way, get on the mat and get experience. That’s why we didn’t go to Knockout.”
Like Columbia, Oakleaf had three unbeaten all-tournament award winners and an outstanding wrestler winner.
Ethan Gustilo (138) was one of three Knights who went 8-0, with four pins and a tech fall, earning the middle-weight OW in the process. Joining him as all-tournament was Trenton Carroll (145, four pins) and Demonte Richmond (285, five pins).
Jacob McKee (106, 1 pin), Ryan Rosano (126, 3 pins) and David Parkes (132, 3 pins) all were 7-1 on the weekend for the Knights.
Cypress Bay won its pool on Friday, with contested wins over Interlachen (60-6), Leesburg (66-0), Gainesville (56-18) and Middleburg (48-36), adding wins Saturday over Eastside (66-0) and Westside (45-36) for a 7-2 weekend.
Cypress Bay left with four all-tournament performers and an OW, as Santiago Portilla (113) was the choice for the lower weights, handing Columbia’s McGuigan his only loss of the tournament after bumping up a weight to 120 for that dual. Thomas Spurlock (160), Simon Jee (170) and Matthew Toribio (220) were also all-tournament after unbeaten weekends.
Middleburg finished the weekend at 6-3, losing only to Cypress Bay, 48-36, on Friday, with wins that day over Interlachen (60-0), Leesburg (60-18) and Gainesville (54-30). After opening Saturday with the loss to Columbia, the Broncos rallied with wins over Eastside (60-18), and after falling to Oakleaf, closed out with a 42-30 win over Westside.
“We’re solid, but our youth keeps showing up, and so sometimes we’re losing those 50-50 matches and those same kinds of duals,” Middleburg coach Richie Dusinberre said. “But everything we’re doing wrong is fixable. We’ll just keep working at it.”
The Broncos had two all-tournament wrestlers in unbeaten Gabriel Burch (8-0 at 106, with two pins and a decision), and Bryce Williams at 152, who was 6-1 in the tournament with four pins. Williams’ only loss came on Friday against Cypress Bay, when he bumped up to 160 to face Spurlock.
Four other Middleburg wrestlers had just one loss on the weekend, including Tazz Hampton (7-1 at 113, 3 pins), James Benton (7-1 at 120, 4 pins), Storm Mercado (7-1 at 138, 4 pins) and Dustin Tollison (6-1 at 145, 2 pins).
The host Hurricanes were third in pools on Friday, with contested wins over Leesburg (42-18) and Interlachen (48-6), adding Saturday wins over Westside (30-28) and Eastside (48-6), for a 5-4 weekend.
Gainesville had one all-tournament performer in Corey Ryan (8-0 at 195, 4 pins). Alex Anzivino (220) was 7-1, with four falls on the weekend.
Westside (5-5 overall) also was 3-2 in pools Friday, with a contested win over Eastside (66-0). The Wolverines added victories Saturday over Interlachen (60-6) and Leesburg (48-18). Angelo Philpot (152, 2 pins & tech), John Jones (160/170, 2 pins & 2 majors) and Calvin Altman (182, 5 pins) were all 7-1 for Westside.
Eastside didn’t have a contested victory on Friday, but that would come for the Alachua County Rams on Saturday, as Eastside would defeat Interlachen, 36-6. The Putnam County Rams, with just one wrestler in attendance, only had one team forfeit victory on the weekend.
Complete dual results from the weekend can be found here.