Season record: 11-22 in duals.
Tournament record: 24th at Palm Coast Rotary January 9-10, 7th at St Johns River Conference IBT February 7, T-24th at Green Cove Springs February 13-14, 3rd at 1A-District 5 meet February 28, 22nd at Region 1A-2 meet March 6-7. No state qualifiers.
Season in a nutshell: Palatka got off to a slow start at the Matanzas Duals in early December, going 1-6 in the first weekend of the season, but the Panthers eventually righted the ship, winning 10 of their next 14 duals. That included wins over its geographic rivals (Bradford, Interlachen and Eastside) as well as a few Jacksonville teams. Palatka was probably a bit over-matched, as a team, when it competed in the Flagler Duals at the end of January. The Panthers won their first dual there, but then lost their last 12 going into the post-season. For the most part, it was a situation where Palatka was simply outgunned as a team, but I always appreciate teams whose reach exceeds their grasp. You can’t get better without wrestling better competition, and I thought the Panthers did a really good job of trying to find that better competition. It didn’t make for a good dual or tournament record, but it should make better wrestlers for the future.
2014-15 MVP: One of the things I wanted to learn about Palatka was how good Eron Carter is. The short answer is, I don’t know. But I don’t know if the Panthers or Carter know yet, either. I feel like he’s still scratching the surface of his ability — which includes the strength of a heavyweight with the balance of someone competing nearly 100 pounds lighter. Carter faced a lot of north Florida’s best upper-weight wrestlers during the course of the season. He didn’t have a very strong district tournament, and I’m sure he would agree with that, finishing third after a tough semifinal loss to Clay’s Jeremy Beaulieu. At regions, Carter got farther in the tournament than any other Palatka wrestler, and that despite a very tough matchup against state finalist Anthony Contegiacomo of Nature Coast in the first round. Carter rallied all the way back to finish just one match short of states in a brutal 220 bracket. I think he will get out to Kissimmee next year, and possibly have a shot at a medal as well.
Returning starters for 2015-16: Marcellus Metson (sophomore in 15-16, Trackwrestling had him at 7-8, I had him at 13-10 at 106/113), William Mullins (sophomore in 15-16, I had him a 13-10 at 106/113), Dale Green (sophomore in 15-16, Track had him at 2-12, I had him at 4-15 at 113), Dean Lowe (senior in 15-16, Track had him at 25-15, I had him at 22-18 at 120/26), Shade Ward (senior in 15-16, Track had him at 17-16, I had him at 22-17 at 120/26), Logan Diana (junior in 15-16, Track had him at 4-6, I had him at 5-15 at 126/32), Kedrick Davis (sophomore in 15-16, Track had him at 7-9, I had him at 14-13 at 170/82), Ira Dixon (sophomore in 15-16, Track had him at 6-14, I had him at 10-15 at 195), Carter (senior in 15-16, Track had him at 29-10, I had him at 34-10 at 220), Jared Hindrix (senior in 15-16, Track had him at 7-9, I had him at 9-12 at 285), plus Wyatt Fillman (sophomore in 15-16, I had him at 6-4 at 113), Jerich Givens (sophomore in 15-16, I had him at 5-7 at 126-38), Jamar Danzler (junior in 15-16, I had him at 5-16 at 152/60), Bryan Smith (sophomore in 15-16, I had him at 10-16 at 170).
2015-16 captain: Carter would and will make a great captain for the Panthers in 2015-16. I don’t know if things would have gotten started between us and Palatka, however, if it had not been for the efforts of Dean Lowe to make sure that we had the Panther results in December. That’s a captain’s bit of work, there. And he’s got plenty of chops of the wrestling mat himself, reaching the quarterfinals of the Region 2 tournament after finishing second to Clay’s Cody Taylor at the District 5 meet. Lowe had 25 wins as a junior, and he’s already shown the leadership that might help his team become even more successful next season to go with enough talent that might be enough for him to make a run at states as well.
Heaton’s Hero: Dale Green had just one win in a contested match. That win came at, I believe, the Green Cove Springs Rotary. Mid-February is a long time to wait for a victory that doesn’t come via forfeit, but Green started competitive wrestling and yet still had to take some difficult losses, including a lot of pins, before he picked up that win by fall at Clay. Yes, Green didn’t get a win in the post-season, but he did get a chance to compete in the region tournament by finishing fourth at districts, and in so doing, gained an opportunity — first-hand — to see what kind of improvements he’ll need to make over the next three years. There’s a lot of freshman teammates that are on the roster with him. I like where Palatka might go in the next couple of seasons, and it’ll be guys like Green — the Heaton’s Hero nominee for the Panther team — that gets it there.