Clay wrestlers and coaches celebrate the Blue Devils’ 19th consecutive district traditional title, taking first place in the 1A-District 3 meet Saturday at Westside HS in Jacksonville (Photo submitted by Hunter Hill via Facebook).
By SHANNON HEATON
North Florida Matmen
JACKSONVILLE — For the second time in as many seasons, second-ranked Clay gave itself a setback before even stepping onto the mats Saturday morning at Westside HS.
But, for the 19th consecutive season, even after losing two starters that did not make weight, the Blue Devils righted the ship, medaled all 12 of their remaining wrestlers (none finishing lower than third), put 11 into the finals, won seven of those finals matches and added a district traditional team title, this one the 1A-District 3 version, with 230 points.
“Two guys basically dropped the ball, but we still had an opportunity to compete, to win the district title, win the region title and get as many as we can down at state,” Blue Devils coach Jim Reape said. “The kids got after it and executed. We had some matches where we were hard-headed, but failure is a great teacher.
“(152) Dylan Taylor looked great. (138) Peyton (Hughes) was dominant, he looked very strong. I liked (126) Cale (Hoskinson)’s look, (113) Daniel (Porter) looked dominant. I liked that (195) Kurt (Jackson) tried to rally his teammates as well as his wrestling; he has really stepped his game up. (170) Carson Yost is a guy who just grinded. He’s a great team guy, such a great character kid. One of the guys I thought should be mentioned was (reserve) Garrett Weseman, who showed up in case DT (Taylor) couldn’t go today. He showed up all week, made weight this morning. That’s the kind of kids we have.”
In a pretty wild scramble to run down the Blue Devils — which often put the Westside gym in a place where it was Clay against whoever wasn’t wearing blue and black — Yulee came out on top, with 165 points. The Hornets matched Clay’s number of Region 1 qualifiers (12), with one champion.
West Nassau was third in the tournament, with 107 points and seven region qualifiers. Baker County took fourth, with 88.5 points, advancing six wrestlers, three of them as district champions. Host Westside was fifth, with 78 points and six qualifiers, with one champion.
Bishop Snyder took sixth in the event, with 65 points and six qualifiers, while Raines was seventh at 53.5 points and three qualifiers. Fernandina Beach was eighth, with 44 points, three qualifiers, and one champion.
Below follows a summary of the 14 weight classes, with champion quotes for each class:
106 — Fernandina Beach freshman Jeremy Mahoney won twice to claim the title, opening with a fall in 3:18 in the semis over Bishop Snyder freshman Christian Villanueva. That put Mahoney into the finals against seventh-ranked Yulee freshman Tristan Martinez (2:00 over West Nassau freshman Wesley Carlisle). Mahoney staved off every opportunity Martinez threw at him, surviving for a 10-8 finals win and taking the Pirates’ lone title. “It feels good. I put in a lot of work all week to prepare. Coaches worked us hard, and it showed up tonight,” Mahoney said. “I stayed patient (at the end), didn’t get too panicked. I was a little nervous, but I kept going. Kept pushing. Since I’m a freshman, it’s a good start. Hopefully I can keep on winning these titles.” Carlisle came back for third, after a bye in the consi semis, then winning by fall in 2:00 for third place over Villanueva, who punched his ticket to Bolles with a fall in 1:17 over Baker County’s Brianna Thornton.
113 — Third-ranked Clay senior Daniel Porter pinned his way through the bracket, without going past the first period in the process. Porter falled Bishop Snyder sophomore Jeffrey Prosser in 1:06 in the semis, setting up a finals match with Yulee sophomore Trevor Gladson (1:41 over Westside freshman Ernest Terry). Porter closed it out just before the end of the first period, with a fall in 1:52. “It feels great. A little sluggish. I wanted to pick up the speed, but I executed my game plan. Overall, I did well,” Porter said. “It’s not so strange (to be in the final district meet). It’s kind of like another tournament. That’s how I’ll treat regionals and states. Go out, try and compete as hard as I can. The wrestling is the easiest part. Hard part’s cutting the weight; once the wrestling starts, it’s easier for me.” Prosser would come back for third place with two pins, first in :47 in the consi semis over West Nassau’s Kyle Overturf, then in 2:00 in the third-place match over Terry, who punched his ticket to Bolles with a 58-second fall over Baker County’s Aaron Norman.
120 — Top-ranked Clay sophomore Stevie Chopek also pinned his way through the bracket. Chopek falled Westside freshman Seth Britton in 2:36 during the semis, to set up a finals match with Yulee sophomore Bryce Bees (1:00 over Fernandina Beach’s Thomas Wright, 2:36 over West Nassau sophomore Brendan Ferenchik). Chopek controlled the final from the start, but wasn’t able to secure the fall until the third period, in 5:15. “I just took it like any other match,” said Chopek, who came to Clay from Yulee, where he reached the 106 finals last year. “It’s an old rivalry, but it is what it is. Right now, I’m ready. Trying to get that state title and get payback for last year. Just keep dominating, wrestle every match like it’s my last.” Ferenchik came back for third, with a 6-0 consi-semi win over Bishop Snyder’s Elijah Bishop and then winning by fall in 2 minutes for third place over Britton, who punched his ticket to Bolles with a fall in 4:13 over Baker County’s David Jackson.
126 — Fourth-ranked Clay freshman Cale Hoskinson took two wins for the championship. Hoskinson shut out Yulee freshman Aston Ricks by technical fall, 15-0, in the semis, to face off against West Nassau senior Jake Blount (1:00 over Bishop Snyder junior JP Villanueva) in the final. A rematch from earlier in the year, this one was closer, but Hoskinson was able to survive this one as well, downing Blount, 3-2. “I was nervous about this one; the whole day I was thinking about the matchup with Blount. I knew it would come down to him, and when he got that first takedown, it got me more nervous,” Hoskinson said. “Came down to mental toughness and movement. If I’d stopped moving, I would have lost the match. Winning means a lot; hopefully I can come back next year and win, eventually be a four-time district champ.” Villanueva came back for third with two pins, first in 2:14 in the consi semis over Fernandina Beach’s Camden Smith, then winning by fall in 57 seconds over Ricks, who punched his ticket to Bolles with a bye.
132 — Seventh-ranked Baker County senior Jordan Johnson powered through a pair of six-minute matches for the championship, won in the absence of Wildcats coach Hank Farmer, attending the funeral of his grandfather Saturday. Johnson overcame Yulee junior Orion Duffy, 12-7, in the semis, to set up a match in the finals with West Nassau sophomore Bradley Hulett (1:39 over Westside’s Steven Millikin, 6-1 over eighth-ranked Clay junior Gabe Peddichord). Johnson seized on the attack early, picking up a bonus point with his 12-2 major in the finals. “We’re just trying to make him proud,” Johnson said of his head coach’s absence. “He’s not a wrestling guy, but he’s been a really great help. Hank’s picked up the slack really good and trying to show us what we’re doing and he’s done a great job. Our assistant coach is our main technique guy and he’s been here all day, so it’s still been pretty good for us.” Peddichord came back for third with two pins in 1:05, first falling Fernandina’s Blade Wailes in 50 seconds in the consi semis, then needing just 15 seconds to secure a fall in the third-place match over Duffy, who punched his ticket to Bolles with a 15-8 decision over Millikin.
138 — Second-ranked Clay junior Peyton Hughes pinned his way through the bracket, with a pair of falls. First of those was West Nassau sophomore Taison Mullins, in 2:24, in the semis, setting the stage for a finals match with Baker County senior Devon Cole (5:27 over Bishop Snyder’s Clayton Beasley, :53 over Westside’s Jalonie Andrew). Hughes needed just 1 minute to take the title. “Pretty much everything was working; I was up 10-3 when I got the pin, so five takedowns in the first period,” Hughes said. “Just need to keep working hard on my conditioning, be in the best shape I can. Keep on working the fundamentals, so I’m ready for the next step.” Yulee senior Logan Blaise, who lost to Mullins in the quarters, came back for third, first pinning Andrew in 2:38 in the consi semis, and then winning by forfeit in the third-place match over Mullins, who punched his ticket to Bolles with a fall in 1 minute over Beasley.
145 — Baker County sophomore James Knabb needed just one victory to win the bracket, and he got it with relative ease. After a bye to the finals, Knabb kept constant pressure on Yulee senior De’Von Worthen, scoring a 21-6 technical fall for the title. “It was a fun tech,” Knabb said. “The guy knew how to wrestle, but everything went pretty good. It wasn’t a huge match, but a good match to wrestle. I’m going to have to train hard every day this week (for regions). It’s going to be hard to get through it (to states), but I hope I can get there.” Worthen had advanced to the finals with a 15-10 decision over Bishop Snyder junior Johnathan Bokros. Bokros, in turn, would receive a bye in the third-place match.
152 — Top-ranked Clay junior Dylan Taylor had bonus points in both of his matches on Saturday. Taylor began the tournament with a fall in 1:12 in the semis over Yulee senior Tyler Berrier, setting up a finals match with sixth-ranked West Nassau sophomore Requan Works (1:28 over Fernandina Beach’s Taylor Maxwell, 5:30 over ninth-ranked Westside sophomore Angelo Philpot). Taylor scored at will in the final, going on for a 19-7 decision to take the title. “I felt solid, especially since I only got one practice in this week. I still expected to still have it today,” Taylor said. “I executed when I needed to. Had good movement, got a lot of backpoints. I got in a hard warmup that helped me get out of my slump and got all the nerves out of the way. Let technique take over. I think with a good week of practice this week, I’ll be ready to get first at regions.” Philpot came back for third, with a fall in 2:32 in the consi semis over Bishop Snyder’s James Baker, then won by a 6-3 decision in the third-place match over Berrier, who punched his ticket to Bolles with a 46-second fall over Maxwell.
160 — In one of the day’s most anticipated matches, third-ranked Raines senior Alonzo Davis won the title with three wins for the Vikings’ only title of the day, first teching Bishop Snyder’s Jose Indio (19-2) in the quarters and then edging eighth-ranked Westside senior John Jones, 3-2, in the semis. That set up a finals matchup against top-ranked Clay senior Connor Green (1:34 over Yulee senior Gunner Harrison), and Davis did just enough to seize and then hang on for a 4-3 win and the title. “(The summer at North Florida Wrestling Academy) helped a lot. PJ’s a great coach, tells me the same thing that Coach Gilbert does, just wrestle my match,” Davis said. “There’s a lot of great training partners over there. First period, I thought I had the high-crotch (takedown) but they didn’t give it to me; Coach just told me to keep wrestling. It was 4-3, I had a stall warning, couldn’t get a takedown…I just didn’t want to do anything stupid.” Jones would come back for third, with a fall in 4:27 in the consi semis over West Nassau’s Zachary Boston, then holding off Harrison, 5-3, in the third-place match. Harrison punched his ticket to Bolles with a fall in 1:00 over Fernandina Beach’s John Powell.
170 — Sixth-ranked Clay senior Carson Yost had three wins to take first in the weight class. After a forfeit win in the quarters, Yost decisioned Raines’ Raynarde Thomas, 6-3, in the semis, to set a finals match against West Nassau sophomore Breyer Wood (:56 over Westside’s Dalton Wilson, 7-5 over Yulee’s Victor Janson). Yost needed just 59 seconds to fall Wood, but the mental prep took considerably longer. “I walked behind the bleachers for an hour. Just telling myself, I’m going to win, I deserve to win, no one can beat me…and it showed,” Yost said. “We put countless hours in, practicing for district/regional/state. To beat our competition, we have to work better. We do two-a-days. Lift. Wrestle hard. It’s all worth it.” Baker County senior James Barnett came back for third after a loss in the quarters to Thomas, with a 12-1 major over Janson in the consi semis and then pinning Bishop Snyder sophomore Pedro Velez in 1:55 for third place. Velez punched his ticket to Bolles with a 7-3 decision over Thomas.
182 — Seventh-ranked Westside senior Calvin Altman finally broke through for a title, defending his home mat with a pin and decision as the Wolverines’ lone titlist of the day. He pinned Bishop Snyder junior Thomas Graden (1:37) in the semis, setting up a finals match against fourth-ranked Clay junior Abbott Taylor (7-1 over Fernandina Beach junior Nathan Manning). Altman nearly worked a fall, then held off Taylor’s late charge for a 9-7 decision as the building erupted and a fan did a cartwheel onto the mats. “It’s super big. I got to wrestle a state qualifier, but last year I was one match short, on points, so I came in thinking, I’m a state qualifier, too,” Altman said. “That’s how I felt. I’ve been wrestling for three years, and it’s all about getting your mind right, not about muscling. If one move doesn’t work, go to the next one. Last year, I was scared to take shots. I ain’t scared this year. With my quickness, I can score on anybody.” Graden came back for third with a 37-second fall in the consi semis over Yulee’s Will Harvey, then won with an 8-4 decision in the third-place match over Manning, who’d punched his ticket to Bolles with a 24-second fall over West Nassau’s Justin Curry.
195 — Top-ranked Clay senior Kurt Jackson pinned his way through the tournament, with three falls, collecting the Blue Devils’ seventh title on the day. Jackson falled West Nassau’s Cameron Chavarria (:36) in the quarters and Fernandina Beach’s Uriah Giedrys (4:34) in the semis, to take on ninth-ranked Raines senior Jevonte Hagan (7-1 over Baker County junior Josh Ossmann, 4:22 over Yulee junior David Crawford) in the final. Jackson was able to work his third fall in 1:47 for the title. “I need to get back to my old blast double, had it since freshman year at Middleburg, and I need more hard motion overall,” Jackson said. “I’ve been rolling with Connor Green in the practice room to get that motion going. I have to move against him. Otherwise, getting ready is mostly the same old, same old. Still get in the zone, focus on what I want and go get it.” Crawford had two max-point wins on the back side for third, first pinning Chavarria in 2:27 in the consi semis, then winning the third-place match by disqualification over Ossmann, who punched his ticket to Bolles with a 3-2 win over Giedrys.
220 — Seventh-ranked Baker County senior Blake Dicks had two wins for the Wildcats, earning their third weight-class championship in the process. Dicks pinned Fernandina Beach junior Robbie Elefterion in 3:25 in the semis, setting up to wrestle ninth-ranked Clay sophomore Joe Grelli (3:45 over Yulee sophomore Bradley Durrance) in the final. There, Dicks scored a takedown and was able to get out from bottom for a 3-0 victory. “I missed a few meets early on, with an injury. I was a 70-pounder, then my shoulder happened and there was nothing I could do but sit around and put on a bunch of weight. So I just tried to muscle up to make it at 220. Either he got a lot better or I was lucky the first time, I don’t know,” Dicks said, referring to his pin over Grelli at district duals at Yulee in early January. “(Winning over a Clay wrestler) gives us all something to work for. Feels good to be one of the only kids that beat them. We know they compete good on the state level, so if we beat them, we should be able to, also.” Durrance wrestled back to third with two pins, first falling West Nassau’s Daniel Boylan in 3;15 in the consi semis, then winning by fall in 1:38 in the third-place match over Elefterion, who punched his ticket to Bolles with a bye.
Yulee wrestlers and coaches mug for the camera following the Hornets’ runnerup showing Saturday at the 1A-District 3 traditional tournament hosted by Westside HS in Jacksonville (Photo submitted by Dana Crawford via Facebook).
285 — Third-ranked Yulee senior McKenzie Lewis powered through a pair of decisions in taking the title, first winning in the semifinals, 7-3, over Raines senior Jamon Goodwine, to reach the finals against seventh-ranked Clay senior Ryan Rivers (1:42 over Westside freshman Ray Bolden). In the final, Lewis was able to work enough offense to take a 5-3 decision and win the bracket. “It shows me where I’m at. Last year, I lost by two to him at district,” Lewis said. “I’ve put in the work to get ready and I’ve had my revenge. Coach is going to put us through some serious work (this week in practice). I’m going to do as much as I can to get ready for regionals, because I have to be ready to match up against Clay and Wakulla and Bishop Kenny.” Goodwine came back for third, with a medical-forfeit win in the consi semis, then needed 55 seconds in the third-place match to pin Bolden, who punched his ticket to Bolles with a fall in 3:31 over West Nassau’s Tre’Von Gray.
Brackets from this tournament can be found here. Region pairings for next week can be found here.
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