Before I spend most of the rest of the day writing about the kids who get out, I have a couple of thoughts about those who didn’t.
I started this piece two years ago while covering the 1A-Region 1 finals at Clay. We were not then the burgeoning media empire that we are now, and so I watched the entirety of the blood round that year, whereas this year, I caught snippets here and there at Chiles, while feverishly tweeting out the entire history of the Matmen coverage area at four different region tournaments.
(I still have a chunk of that to finish, by the way).
The intensity of the emotion, no matter the venue, never changes.
No less a philosopher than the legendary Terry Brands (of course I’m going to name-check an Iowa wrestler) said about this sport, “You get what you earn.”
That’s true, and it’s not true.
Many of these kids should be at states. One or two of them have been.
And many wrestlers have their seasons end in the consi semis. Most, thankfully, have a chance to come back and gain redemption in subsequent years. But this is the cruelest of fates for these few (and yet, always, too many), the seniors who have their high school careers end in the blood round.
As I’ve written before:
<<I’m never going to forget those emotions, the highs and the lows. They’re absolutely beautiful, and they’re absolutely shattering. THAT is why I cover this sport.
That’s why I feel sorrow for these kids that follow in this list, the seniors whose careers ended in the blood round on Saturday, because precious few teenagers are willing to step up and do what it takes just to even say that they are wrestlers, let alone be good enough to have a chance to find out the answers on the state stage. Precious damn few.
I know how hard they’ve worked, and, at the same time, I will never, ever truly know.>>
Billy Duchaj. Only Suwannee kid I can name-check this post-season, you made the difficult jump DOWNWARD from 285 to 220, even though the team didn’t have a 285.
Robbie Elefterion. If I were to compose a most-improved list from year to year, you would certainly be in the top five area-wide this year.
Orion Duffy. The ultimate utility player for Yulee in the lowers, you started emerging late last year and really came close to putting it all together this year.
Lonnie Bell. Seems to have been at Mosley for years and years. You always seemed to find more of what he was looking for in the post-season events when it mattered most.
Brian Zerr. I hate to see ANY Bay County senior not make it to states, after what that county suffered last fall with Michael. You carried the Bucks’ program.
Tyler Tran. I don’t recall seeing you in Pace results last year, after a solid first couple years, and it sure seemed like you clearly benefited from a change in head coaches this year.
Calvin Malo. You were a stalwart for Gulf Breeze in the middle part of the lineup, and very few kids got more out of their ability than you did, year after year.
Colin Brown. Sometimes, in a rivalry match, you get the upper hand of it most of the time, only to see it come back upon you. That happened on Saturday.
Weston Tew. If we’d only had a full season with you. If we’d only had last season as well. What a monster career we could have seen from the Crestview heavy.
Chris Lands. Five years from now, when perhaps Englewood is hoisting a Gateway Conference title, you may have been the spark that started it all.
Troy Maritato. We saw you first as a skinny runt of a rising freshman, taking lumps at a summer event. We finally saw all that work come together over the last two weeks.
CJ Sexton. You had quite an evolution over your four years at Creekside, and you were a pillar of leadership for this program.
Collin Lentz. You benefited so much from the Eagles who came before you, and you no doubt have provided leadership for all the young Niceville kids that come after.
Seth Miller. We didn’t get off to a very good start in my first watching you wrestle, but you won me over with your grit and it was cool to see you win your first tournament.
Jamison Harris. We were hopeful that you would be the state qualifier that Mandarin has come oh-so-close to getting, but with two Gateway titles, it was a strong career.
Billy Green-Church. You’ve been consistently good for the Bobcats over the past four seasons, all of them as a starter and all as a vitally-important part of the program.
Dean Ganci. The tournament runs that end in injury-defaults are doubly wicked. Your Raider teammates needed every ounce of presence you gave them this year.
Jacob Satterfield. Probably the most talented kid on this list, you and injuries have become all too familiar. I hope that Coker can help you overcome them.
Jason Schwartz. The link to what First Coast was, and the link to what it became this year. That Gateway team title six weeks ago doesn’t happen without you.
Bronson Carter. Like a couple of kids on this list, you carried the Hurricane program this year, in a community that needs to see it preserved, desperately so. Lifesaving effort.
DeAngelo Fletcher. Two years ago, your coach told me how excited you were that I knew who you were. I’m gutted this didn’t work out for you, and I won’t forget you.
Tommy Graden. This one hurts most of all. Most of you don’t know the loss-after-loss-after-loss-after-loss this kid took as a freshman, along with his freshman teammates, thrust into starter roles after a monster 2015 graduating class left Bishop Snyder. I know. Those losses mostly continued in 2016-17. Wins started coming last year. Statewide rankings this year. But it all came down to a weekend, and an illness, and a match, and a takedown, or a lack thereof.
That’s how heartbreakingly beautiful, and how heartbreakingly savage, this sport can be. It is like none other in that respect.
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