By Shannon Heaton, Northeast Florida Matmen
The old saying is tradition never graduates.
While that might be true, it does require the next generation to step into a level of competition it may not have experienced before.
That’s just as true for teams carrying on a long tradition, such as #2 Clay, or those that are attempting to build one, such as #9 Bishop Snyder.
Both teams built 5-0 records at Saturday’s North Florida Duals II at the Bishop Snyder gym, though the Blue Devils and Cardinals took very different paths to get there.
Clay, for its part, was expected to go 5-0, but its path to winning out took the Blue Devils through some stronger competition early in #7 Fletcher (50-19) and HM-listed Creekside (51-19).
As well, the Blue Devils shut out #8 Fernandina Beach (69-0) and a much-improved Buchholz side (46-27) before closing out the day with a one-sided romp over Nease (64-3).
“We had an absolutely tremendous mindset in practice this week,” Clay assistant coach Hunter Hill said. “We knew we had to get better after (finishing second at) Border Wars (last weekend). We started five freshmen at Border Wars and five again today. But it was good to come in and dominate. It showed that even some of our backup guys can do the job for us.”
Working off-season has proven key to Clay’s success over the years, and this past off-season was no different.
“We knew we were going to be in a spot where we were going to replace some top-notch guys, but it’s great to have the dedication from the parents and the kids the whole off-season, from March to July. That’s why we are able to reload and grow again,” Hill said.
Bishop Snyder is still working toward putting iself in that situation. Last week, the Cardinals had few troubles getting to 5-0. Saturday, with injuries causing some key losses, it was far less than a sure thing.
The Cardinals took out Fernandina Beach to start the day, winning that dual by a 39-27 count, and then breathed a bit easier in the middle of the day, with solid wins over Bartram Trail (36-24), Nease (48-36) and Middleburg (54-16).
But a determined Brunswick squad just about spoiled the party at the end of the day, forcing the Cardinals to a 39-39 tie. For the second time in five days locally, the 8th criterion — most first points scored — determined the winner. Snyder outperformed Brunswick by a 7-1 count on that score.
“It hurt us when our heavy (Christian DeLosSantos) went down and our 195 (Nate Morales) was out with a shoulder injury. The rest of the kids really picked it up,” Snyder coach Rusty Kellum said. “We’re always reminding them that we want to see a little bit of toughness in the program.”
Snyder is now 10-0 after two sets of duals at home, but it’s to programs like Clay’s that Kellum looks to most often.
“We don’t get our 132 back eligible until January and we just had a 106 come out yesterday so before long we’ll have a full lineup, and then there’s no more excuses. It’s put up or shut up time,” Kellum said. “These guys have to respond like some did today. We were wrestling a style that we teach in the room, which is to attack. Now we’ll shift gears and push even harder from here.”
Creekside fell out of the top 10 earlier this week after Snyder’s strong showing a week ago, but the Knights made their case to jump back up in the polls after a solid 4-1 day, losing only to Clay and picking up wins over Buchholz, Brunswick, Nease and Fernandina Beach.
“It’s all practice until district/regional/state, but I saw some good things, a lot of good things,” Creekside coach Richard Marabell said. “We tried to fine-tune things throughout the day, and most of the kids did that.”
Those three teams were the only locals to go .500 or better on the day, with Fletcher going 2-3, three teams (Fernandina Beach, Nease and Middleburg) all 1-4 and Bartram Trail not finding a win in the Bears’ season-opening set of duals.
Edit: Changed Clay-Fletcher dual score.