November 24, 2022 — 10 a.m.
Sometimes I get it right. Sometimes I get it really right. Sometimes I get it wrong. Sometimes I get it really wrong. If you were ready to toss your phone or laptop through a window because I either A) ranked you too low or B) ranked you too high in your district, maybe this will set your mind at ease.
Or not. Perhaps only a healthy dose of tryptophan, football and pre-Black Friday shopping will do that (actually, if you can avoid the pre-Black Friday shopping, do; I plan to avoid it by writing a couple of previews of the Saturday tournaments, plus I plan to watch the worst offense in college football attempt to play its way into the Big Ten Conference title game).
Anyway, let’s set the Wayback machine to a year ago today — give or take a day or two — and see how I did with last year’s predictions. Let the laughter ensue! (or not). But first, a little data…gotta have a little stuffing to go with that turkey…
We were 10-for-12 on picking champions. After a bad year with this in 2021, we rallied, for the most part, with respect to this stat. We only missed a little bit in 2A-4, where our champ was second. But we had a big clunker in 2A-1; to be fair, the team we picked was expected to have more transfers in its lineup than it actually had, and it wound up with a pretty solid close.
We were 7-for-12 on picking last-place teams last year. This was a bit like our championship-picking form of the previous year. We didn’t have any super-bad misses, in that every team that we picked last finished no higher than sixth in their district. This is a good thing, in that the less-experienced and less-full lineups are catching up to the middle of the pack.
A quick note on the Orlando districts, which we added for the first time last year. We got both district champions right and we had one last-place team right. We had a bit more trouble with the middle half of those two districts, and some of that we’ll get into in a bit.
The point is this.
If I picked your team to win, you should be pleased and maybe feel kinda good about your chances. If I picked your team last, it’s maybe time to go get to work, kids.
In the middle, it’s often quite a muddle when it comes to picks. I’m a mixed bag here. Three years ago, I got the top 3 teams right in three districts. Two years ago, that number was two. None last year.
Four this year (3A-2, 1A-2, 1A-3 and 1A-4). Is it evidence I 100% know what I’m doing? Perhaps not.
Still, if you don’t like where you are projected today, take heart. Here are some examples of those who beat the Matmen odds:
Three straight years, I have under-performed with Rocky Bayou Christian. Last year, I had them fourth and they were second in 1A-District 1. But that wasn’t the biggest miss in 1A. That title belongs to Bishop Snyder. I had the Cardinals ninth last year and they finished fifth in the district, and, quite honestly, did a nice job of cobbling together a lineup through the season.
In 2A, Ridgeview was slotted for seventh place after losing their HC and 2021 state champion. The Panthers did a nice job of rallying from some big losses, and finished fourth as a group in 2A-District 2. We also under-estimated Ft Walton Beach as a team in IBTs; I thought they would be stronger in duals, but last year they walked away with the District 1 title.
As for 3A, the biggest misses for me were Seminole in District 2 and Olympia in District 4. The Noles were tabbed for seventh and finished fourth, while the Titans were slotted sixth and picked third.
So what’s the point of walking through those examples?
Where you’re projected today is just that: a projection. And not always a very good one at that. Ol’ Matmen really don’t know everything. Some days, he don’t know anything.
So. Dig in, not too much, to your dinners today. While you boys don’t have competition until next week (some girls teams have already begun competition), I’m sure you’ll have practice at some point soon, and you don’t want a full belly. Leave that to us old folks. I’ll see you on the mats soon enough.
Predicted: 1. South Walton. 2. Rutherford. 3. North Bay Haven. 4. Rocky Bayou Christian. 5. Bozeman. 6. Bay. 7. Wewahitchka.
Actual: 1. South Walton. 2. Rocky Bayou Christian. 3. Rutherford. 4. North Bay Haven. 5. Bay. 6. Wewahitchka. 7. Bozeman.
Analysis: As we noted earlier, we for sure under-rated Rocky Bayou — AGAIN — and the Knights leap-frogged two teams into second. For their trouble, they’ve been projected into sixth for the third time in four years this season. So, I’m certain they’re quite thrilled about that! The bottom three teams we had right, just in an incorrect order
Predicted: 1. Wakulla. 2. Suwannee. 3. Florida High. 4. Marianna. 5. Liberty County. 6. Godby.
Actual: 1. Wakulla. 2. Suwannee. 3. Florida High. 4. Marianna. 5. Liberty County. 6. Godby.
Analysis: 100% dead on with this one. (Pats self on back). Actually, there was one thing I didn’t really expect out of this district, and that was how well Florida High would perform in the region tournament (7th); while the Seminoles have been a fixture for top-five performances, I thought somewhere around 10-12 was a safer bet at regions. Instead, FSUS was just 4.5 points out another top-five.
Predicted: 1. Yulee. 2. Bishop Kenny. 3. Fernandina Beach. 4. Episcopal. 5. Raines. 6. West Nassau. 7. Paxon. 8. University Christian.
Actual: 1. Yulee. 2. Bishop Kenny. 3. Fernandina Beach. 4. Episcopal. 5. West Nassau. 6. Paxon. 7. Raines. 8. University Christian.
Analysis: We got the top four teams correct, which is good; only in 1A-2 did we do this elsewhere. West Nassau had things going in a pretty good direction by this point in the season; things had been rough at the start of the season. Some of the trouble we had in this one was due in part to still not really being 100% familiar with tournament scoring.
Predicted: 1. Clay. 2. Palatka. 3. Baker County. 4. Bolles. 5. Union County. 6. Keystone Heights. 7. Wolfson. 8. Tocoi Creek. 9. Bishop Snyder. 10. Florida Deaf & Blind.
Actual: 1. Clay. 2. Palatka. 3. Baker County. 4. Union County. 5. Bishop Snyder. 6. (tie) Keystone Heights & Tocoi Creek. 8. Bolles. 9. Wolfson. 10. Florida Deaf & Blind.
Analysis: I got the top three teams correct in this one. Biggest miss, positively for the team involved, was Bishop Snyder, which did some decent lineup-building in preparing for the district tournament. The biggest miss the other way was Bolles, and I attribute that to the Bulldogs’ history of having their fullest team for the post-season, with part-time starters brought in. That didn’t happen last season.
Predicted: 1. Mosley. 2. Gulf Breeze. 3. Ft Walton Beach. 4. Pace. 5. Niceville. 6. Choctaw. 7. Crestview. 8. Milton. 9. Tate. 10. Arnold.
Actual: 1. Ft Walton Beach. 2. Gulf Breeze. 3. Pace. 4. Niceville. 5. Mosley. 6. Crestview. 7. Choctaw. 8. Tate. 9. Arnold. 10. Milton.
Analysis: Once again, the 2A Panhandle continues to elude me. Aside from Gulf Breeze being correctly picked, and the Pace/Niceville and Tate/Arnold orders being roughly accurate, this district has been — over the past several years — the hardest one to line up. Mosley was supposed to have at least two more kids that either didn’t transfer (or didn’t wrestle). Having them would have made some difference up, but all of it? Not sure.
Predicted: 1. Fleming Island. 2. Lincoln. 3. Columbia. 4. Chiles. 5. Middleburg. 6. Orange Park. 7. Ridgeview. 8. Leon.
Actual: 1. Fleming Island. 2. Lincoln. 3. Chiles. 4. Ridgeview. 5. Middleburg. 6. Columbia. 7. Orange Park. 8. Leon.
Analysis: I had the top two teams right (although LOTS of people would have gotten them right). Columbia had a very good wrestler not return for what would have been a senior season, and had a second very good wrestler get a season-ending injury early in January. Ridgeview, as I noted earlier, I thought would struggle for leadership and numbers, and as it turned out, cured its numbers problems with new blood in the lower bookend and some kids returning that hadn’t been out for a year or more.
Predicted: 1. Fletcher. 2. Ponte Vedra. 3. Westside. 4. Terry Parker. 5. Englewood. 6. Riverside. 7. Stanton. 8. Ed White.
Actual: 1. Fletcher. 2. Westside. 3. (tie) Englewood & Terry Parker. 5. Ponte Vedra. 6. Ed White. 7. Stanton. 8. Riverside.
Analysis: What we struggled with here has traditionally been a couple of teams’ strengths prior to last year, that being getting kids out and filling a lineup. We feel like those will return at least for one of the teams; the other is in the midst of a deep football run, and that has typically made for a tough start to wrestling for that program. It was good to see Westside get that double second-place finish (which meant a trip to region duals). Ed White also over-performed expectations, which is always good to see.
Predicted: 1. Matanzas. 2. New Smyrna Beach. 3. Belleview. 4. Mainland. 5. St Augustine. 6. Pedro Menendez. 7. Gainesville.
Actual: 1. New Smyrna Beach. 2. Matanzas. 3. St Augustine. 4. Belleview. 5. Mainland. 6. Pedro Menendez. 7. Gainesville.
Analysis: We were definitely surprised by New Smyrna Beach winning the title, but the biggest positive surprise was the move St Augustine made, because they had a ton of graduation loss to overcome — and a new head coach as well, always a situation where it’s impossible to determine what may happen. Aside from those two teams, things largely held to form in this district. Will have to see how the new 2A-District 4 will look next HGMB.
Predicted: 1. Oakleaf. 2. Creekside. 3. Mandarin. 4. Bartram Trail. 5. Nease. 6. First Coast. 7. Sandalwood. 8. Atlantic Coast.
Actual: 1. Oakleaf. 2. Creekside. 3. Nease. 4. Bartram Trail. 5. Mandarin. 6. Sandalwood. 7. First Coast. 8. Atlantic Coast.
Analysis: We really only bunged up where Mandarin and Nease would be. Mandarin had several regular-season starters that did not compete in the district tournament, and that would certainly have helped the Mustangs. Nease had a really nice regular season, but I thought the St Johns Panthers would have trouble in the post-season; that turned out not exactly to be true at districts, but the trouble did arrive the following week.
Predicted: 1. Flagler Palm Coast. 2. Buchholz. 3. DeLand. 4. Lake Mary. 5. Forest. 6. University (Orange City). 7. Seminole. 8. West Port.
Actual: 1. Flagler Palm Coast. 2. Buchholz. 3. DeLand. 4. Seminole. 5. Forest. 6. West Port. 7. University (Orange City). 8. Lake Mary.
Analysis: We had the top three teams, and we had Forest correctly slotted, but two teams we did not have a very good handle on, for different reasons. We under-estimated Seminole, which had some kids return to the lineup and perform quite well, and overcame some lineup losses. We had better hopes for Lake Mary, but things were a struggle from jump for the Rams last year, with a new coach and a lot of loss to overcome, both graduation and transfer.
Predicted: 1. Hagerty. 2. Timber Creek. 3. Winter Park. 4. Oviedo. 5. Lyman. 6. Lake Howell. 7. Lake Brantley. 8. University (Orlando).
Actual: 1. Hagerty. 2. Timber Creek. 3. Oviedo. 4 Winter Park. 5. Lake Brantley. 6. Lyman. 7. Lake Howell. 8. University (Orlando).
Analysis: In our first go-round with this district, we had a pretty good handle on things, generally. We thought Winter Park would be a little better — and maybe the Wildcats will show a bit more of that this year. And we thought Lake Brantley would struggle a bit more, and the Patriots had a nice season, and will probably build on that this year. Otherwise, we were pretty much on it.
Predicted: 1. Apopka. 2. Windermere. 3. West Orange. 4. Dr Phillips. 5. Ocoee. 6. Olympia. 7. Evans. 8. Wekiva.
Actual: 1. Apopka. 2. Windermere. 3. Olympia. 4. Ocoee. 5. Dr Phillips. 6. Wekiva. 7. Evans. 8. West Orange.
Analysis: We had the top two teams correct, and that wasn’t bad, although the choices were fairly straightforward. Olympia had a much better run than we thought, as the Titans were able to put together a lineup that was more solid than expected. Wekiva had some individual powerhouses we weren’t suspecting, and the biggest miss we had in the district was due largely to West Orange’s lineup slowly getting smaller and smaller as the season wore on. That will happen sometimes, and it’s impossible to predict.