The Season: Stanton, 2014-15

Next up: Terry Parker


Season record: 1-16 in duals.

Tournament record: 11th at Arlington Optimist Invitational December 5-6, 8th at Backyard Bash December 19-20, 15th at Gateway Conference meet January 16-17, 6th at Westside Roundrobin February 14, 9th at 2A-District 3 meet February 27. No region qualifiers.

Season in a nutshell: Well, to describe it in any way other than “uphill” would be inaccurate, after a season in which the Blue Devils were at the back of the pack at each IBT and had just one dual victory in 2014-15. The win came at the second of two Terry Parker Army Duals in late January. Success can be so hard-won with few numbers, lacking experience, but that’s what Stanton faced this past season. A year ago, the Blue Devils had one of the strongest wrestlers in his weight class. This year, just finding a wrestler with a better than .500 record was the most impressive accomplishment it could generate, such was the lack of experience returning for this year’s team, not to mention the lack of numbers (five Blue Devils competed at districts). Stanton was the only area school that did not send at least one wrestler to regions in 2014-15.

2014-15 MVP: Mitchell Mika was the biggest surprise in the Blue Devils’ lineup, establishing himself almost from the very beginning as Stanton’s best wrestler even as a freshman. Mika had win streaks of four and seven matches during the course of the season, and showed consistent signs of being a solid wrestler, particularly so when he was able to compete at 138. At 145, Mika was 3-7, but I had him at 16-8 at 138. Mika won five matches to take the Westside event at his weight class, and was the only Blue Devil wrestler to win a match at districts. He got to within one match of regions, but then lost to a former state qualifier. Mika might take a big step next season with some off-season work now; getting more mat time is something that all of the Blue Devils will need, and gain benefit from, this off-season.

Projected returning starters for 2015-16: Eduardo Castillo (sophomore in 15-16, Trackwrestling had him at 5-9, I had him at 3-10 at 120), Zachary Locke (sophomore in 15-16, Track had him at 7-15, I had him at 6-23 at 126), Stephen Hlawnchhing (junior in 15-16, Track had him at 19-14, I had him at 15-14 at 132), Mitchell Mika (sophomore in 15-16, Track had him at 20-15, I had him at 19-15 at 138), plus Alex Toney (sophomore in 15-16, I had him at 11-14 at 113), Justin Cowell (senior in 15-16, I had him at 6-12 at 120) and Miguel Rocha (sophomore in 15-16, I had him at 5-12 at 138).

2015-16 captain: Captains ought to have the most experience in season and in the post-season. That would make Stephen Hlawnchhing the most experienced returner, given his two-year run as a starter in the Blue Devil lineup. By the records I have generated this season, Hlawnchhing hung around the .500 mark for most of the year, but by what Track had, he had one fewer victory this past season than as a freshman. Districts, also, didn’t go all that well, either, as Hlawnchhing took two losses by fall, the second to a senior wanting to continue his high school career. Still, though, he has the most returning experience in the lineup, and much of the direction Stanton takes in the next couple of years will depend greatly upon his example for the younger Blue Devil wrestlers.

Heaton’s Hero: It took 10 losses, all but one coming by fall, before Zachary Locke would earn his first high school victory, and that was a forfeit win. The first contested win would come just a couple of matches later in that same weekend, the first Army Duals weekend, but the second wouldn’t come until the second Army Duals weekend, and there wouldn’t be a third until the Westside roundrobin. So that’s around one fall a month, from the first week of the season, but despite the difficult circumstances surrounding Locke and his teammates, he didn’t give up, continuing to make weight at 126 for the entire season up through districts, when his season came to an end via a pair of falls. You have to appreciate that kind of determination. Because of that unwillingness to concede, Zachary Locke is the Stanton representative of the Heaton’s Hero nomination.



The Season: Robert E. Lee, 2014-15

Next up: Stanton

Robert E. Lee

Season record: 12-6 in duals.

Tournament record: 25th at Capital City Classic December 12-13, 1st at Backyard Bash December 19-20, 7th at Gateway Conference meet January 16-17, 6th at Raines 5 Star IBT February 6-7, 1st at Westside Roundrobin February 14, 6th at 2A-District 3 meet February 27, 13th at 2A-Region 1 meet March 6-7, T-67th at 2A State meet March 13-14.

Season in a nutshell: If there was such a thing as a most improved team in the area for 2014-15, it would arguably have to be the Generals, and certainly true among Gateway Conference teams. Yes, Lee had a slow IBT start, but it also had five top-10 finishes, and two wins, in all the IBTs that followed leading up to regions. The Generals also had a slow start in duals, going 1-4 to start the year, but then won 11 of their last 13, including their last seven in a row. Lee also had three lockdown starters in its lineup that racked up 30+ wins each. The only thing I’m not sure about is the sizable discrepancies between what I had for wins and losses and what Trackwrestling has. What I do know is that the Generals are going to be a major force to contend with 2015-16, particularly if it can find a couple of lower weights to replace some graduation losses, because from 126 on up the depth this team has coming back is pretty impressive.

2014-15 MVP: Demetris Harris was an above-average heavy as a freshman, but was only just starting to come into his own by the end of the season, when he qualified for regions. Harris got out to a slow start as well, as he was 3-3 at the very earliest part of the season, but then Harris won 13 of his next 14 matches going up to the Gateway Conference semifinals, where he lost in overtime, eventually taking third (with that match coming via an overtime win). As it turned out, Harris would not lose again, before the region final, to anyone but Ed White’s Kelton Johnson. Harris and Johnson met four times, all going Johnson’s way, including in the district final. When Johnson lost to eventual region champion Gabe Beyer of Leon, also the eventual 2A state finalist, it was Harris who got to the finals instead. Neither Harris nor fellow state qualifier Jaren Jefferson competed at states — I’m not entirely sure why — but I think Harris could have had a good tournament there. There’s still a ton of talent among Duval County heavyweights coming back, and they’re all going to make each other, including Harris, that much better in 2015-16.

Projected returning starters for 2015-16: Jaren Jefferson (junior in 15-16, Trackwrestling had him at 39-10, I had him at 31-12 at 106), Darius Wells (sophomore in 15-16, Track had him at 13-20, I had him at 11-26 at 126), Christopher Champine (sophomore in 15-16, Track had him at 15-18, I had him at 12-22 at 132), Darien Bowden (sophomore in 15-16, Track had him at 14-16, I had him at 7-10 at 138), Judah Brown (junior in 15-16, Track had him at 19-9, I had him at 15-15 at 145), Tony Belle (senior in 15-16, Track had him at 41-7, I had him at 33-7 at 152), Isaiah Mervin (senior in 15-16, Track had him at 20-17, I had him at 5-16 at 160), David Johnson (junior in 15-16, Track had him at 20-8, I had him at 15-10 at 170), Thomas Baker (senior in 15-16, Track had him at 14-22, I had him at 7-15 at 182), Jaron Weatherspoon (senior in 15-16, Track had him at 24-16, I had him at 17-13 at 195), Erik Sumter (junior in 15-16, Track had him at 10-10, I had him at 6-8 at 220), Harris (junior in 15-16, Track had him at 34-10, I had him at 31-10 at 285), plus Lamar Geter (junior in 15-16, I had him at 5-7 at 132), Aaron Base (junior in 15-16, I had him at 11-10 at 138), David Worrell (junior in 15-16, I had him at 4-5 at 145), Myles Thompkins (junior in 15-16, I had him at 6-12 at 152), Edward Colon (senior in 15-16, I had him at 13-13 at 220) and Rory Thompson (sophomore in 15-16, I had him at 5-5 at 285).

2015-16 captain: I’ve made mention of senior (graduated) wrestlers this year who deserved to get a shot at states, and one who is on that list for next year already is Lee rising senior Tony Belle. Belle lost two of his first three matches, but then won 18 in a row that took him all the way up to the Gateway final at 152. After that, Belle ripped off another 10 wins a row to take him into districts. For some reason, the post-season was a struggle. Clay County competition was a challenge, as Belle lost twice to Clay opponents and took fourth. Belle then lost, 8-6, in the first round of regions, but then won three matches on the backside to get within one match of states, where he lost to another Clay County wrestler, Middleburg’s Travis Neubeck, to fall just one match short. Belle is among the best rising seniors in a Duval County public school, and I’ll be watching his progress closely. Hopefully he’ll get some off-season work in, and close out his career with a states trip.

Heaton’s Hero: Whatever record is accurate, I still think my choice is a solid one. He started the year wrestling a weight up, and a couple of times two weights up, and didn’t get down to his final weight until just before the end of the regular season. He didn’t get his first contested victories until January, but he stuck it out wrestling against bigger competition, picking up a couple of falls at higher weights. At districts, he lost twice by fall and was the odd man out going to regions as a result, but instead of staying home and playing video games or hanging out with his friends, he showed up, put on the singlet, made weight and attempted to extend his season. He’ll have a chance to get better next year in a room that should be tougher. Thomas Baker is the Lee representative for the Heaton’s Hero nomination.



The Season, FSDB, 2014-15

Next up: Robert E. Lee

Florida School for the Deaf & Blind

Season record: 7-15 in duals.

Tournament record: 5th at Arlington Optimist December 5-6, 9th at Bierbaum Invitational January 17, 11th at Raines 5 Star IBT February 6-7, 4th at 1A-District 4 meet February 28, 19th at 1A-Region 1 meet March 6-7, T-66th at 1A State meet March 13-14.

Season in a nutshell: A year ago, the Dragons didn’t have numbers issues, so were very competitive in dual formats, but sometimes struggled a bit in IBTs because there were some solid kids, but no lockdown points. This past year, FSDB’s biggest issue was getting and keeping numbers in the lineup, as there were starters from 2013-14 that didn’t return to the lineup this past year. At the same time, though, the Dragons did have a few lockdown points that they could always count on, and nowhere was that more in evidence than at districts, when FSDB had three champions, leading to an eventual state qualifier. Should the Dragons have better luck with their recruiting efforts next season, I would expect a season with the ability both to score well in IBTs and do well in duals in 2015-16.

2014-15 MVP: Wesley Homewood began the 2014-15 season up two weights, having to wrestle the season-ending area #2 at 182 in his very first match of the season, and he would not win a tournament that day. In fact, the Dragons’ MVP would not win a tournament until districts. Homewood (37-9 per Trackwrestling at 160 pounds, I had him at 36-9) won 10 of his next 11 matches after his initial start of 4-2 at Arlington Optimist, with his only loss a 9-8 loss to Lee’s MVP in a match that had to have been fun to watch. Two midseason losses against 1A 160s seemed to refocus Homewood, as they were both in-district losses, but he eventually went on to avenge both, winning the district title with two pins. At regions, Homewood took a 6-3 loss in the quarterfinals, but went on to avenge that one, too, later on in the third-place match after punching his ticket for states. Homewood would win a match there, too, and wound up earning a nomination for the Russ Mauger Award by the FHSAA. Always fun to watch, he’ll be missed this upcoming season.

Projected returning starters for 2015-16: Christian Miranda Reyes (sophomore in 15-16 per Track & freshman per district brackets, Track had him at 12-6, I had him at 12-17 at 106), Tayshawn Smith (8th grader in 15-16 per Track & freshman per district brackets, Track had him at 9-19, I had him at 10-19 at 113), Tyre Singleton (junior in 15-16, both Track and I had him at 9-17 at 132), Kolton Kimball (8th grader in 15-16, Track had him at 4-23, I had him at 6-23 at 145), Imed Touahri (senior in 15-16, Track and I both had him at 32-9 at 195), plus Ty Snow (7th grader in 15-16, I had him at 6-6 at 106) and Colby Shedd (senior in 15-16, I had him at 5-5 at 220).

2015-16 captain: Look at Imed Touahri as he warms up, and you almost wonder if he’ll beat anyone. Get Touahri on the mat, and you almost wonder if he’ll ever lose. Touahri is physically very strong, and has a great deal of balance and hip control not usually seen in an upper-weight, plus he has an uncommon tenacity. It’s very difficult to take Touahri down from a tie-up, and moving up from 182 to 195 only seemed to help him this year, as he won FSDB’s only title at Arlington Optimist and was the highest finisher for the Dragons at Bierbaum, before winning at District 4. Touahri was one match short of punching his ticket for states, losing only to the region runnerup and third-place finisher along the way. It’ll be that tenacity that gets him to states next year; I’d be very surprised if that does not happen. He’ll have to lead by example next year, with a lot of younger kids in the lineup.

Heaton’s Hero: I’ll just start with this. Everyone on this team could qualify as a Heaton’s Hero. I’ve made no secret that the Dragons are pretty much my favorite team. Imagine trying to wrestle an opponent entirely without the ability to hear your coach, and have to interpret signs while looking over at your coach while your opponent is trying to pin you. Or, imagine trying to wrestle an opponent you can’t see, where the moves that you know you have to go on by using feel. The blind wrestlers on the Dragons’ team have to start matches touching the hands of their opponents, unlike anyone else. And it is one of the FSDB blind wrestlers that particularly stood out for this part of the recap in my mind. Tayshaun Smith didn’t start the year as the starter, but he finished it as one. Six of his eight regular-season wins came by forfeit, and the two others came wrestling up, but Smith only lost to the eventual champion in the District 4 meet, pinning two opponents to not only punch his ticket for regions but have a decent shot at a seed as well, taking third. Smith was overmatched there, but he finished strong enough to get there. For overcoming challenges most wrestlers can’t understand, Tayshaun Smith is the FSDB representative for the Heaton’s Hero nomination.



The Season: Ridgeview, 2014-15

Next up: FSDB


Season record: 10-14 in duals.

Tournament record: 21st at Capital City Classic December 12-13, 9th at Billy Saylor Invitational January 9-10, 15th at Lincoln IBT January 31, 5th at 2A-District 3 meet February 27, 22nd at 2A-Region 1 meet March 6-7, T-67th at 2A State meet March 13-14.

Season in a nutshell: This season was going to be one of transition for the Clay County Panthers, with no established star power returning and a first-year head coach (albeit long time assistant). After a slow start (1-4 at Fleming Island the first weekend), Ridgeview won eight of its next 13 duals to right the ship at .500 (with a stretch of four wins in five at one point), before the Panthers faltered down the stretch, winning just one of its last seven matches. IBTs were also tricky enterprises, as the Panthers finished in the top half in just one of its three invites prior to districts. The good part of having a team in transition, though, is that the Panthers won’t lose a lot of starters (just two) for next year’s team, with a few places where Ridgeview can plug in some experienced part-time personnel. If the Panthers can find a couple of upper weights to fill in some holes up top, Ridgeview could be a strong team next year.

2014-15 MVP: Like Oakleaf MVP Jason Davis, Ridgeview’s MVP this past season also came over from Fleming Island. Devon Farrar was a 3A-Region 1 qualifier in his junior year for the Golden Eagles, but was looking for bigger things in his final season. After two losses in his former gym, Farrar won 11 of his next 12 matches, with the only loss coming against Suwannee MVP and 1A state finalist Sasha Key. After a second loss to Key at the Billy Saylor Invitational, Farrar won 17 of his next 18 matches, with the only loss a quick throw coming at the second of two Army Duals near the end of the two-day tournament. With wins along the way against area- and state-ranked wrestlers, Farrar was poised to make a serious run for states, and got through to regions with a pair of decisions en route to a runner-up finish. At regions, Farrar came out stronger, reaching the semis and punching his ticket with a fourth-place finish. The finish, though, put him in jeopardy of a tough draw, and he wound up 0-2 after wrestling two opponents with a combined total of 121 wins, including the eventual state title.

Projected returning starters for 2015-16: Storm Cowart (junior in 15-16, Trackwrestling had him at 10-27, I had him at 9-24 at 106), Justin Trinh (senior in 15-16, Track and I had him at 23-12 at 120), Trevor Bolden (senior in 15-16, Track had him at 24-7, I had him at 24-8 at 126), McKenzie Williams (senior in 15-16, Track had him at 28-20, I had him at 23-13 at 132), Nick Robinson (junior in 15-16, Track had him at 13-18, I had him at 15-22 at 138), Bryce Wilkes (junior in 15-16, Track had him at 16-9, I had him at 10-3 at 145), Steven Richardson (senior in 15-16, Track had him at 7-10; I think I had his matches assigned to brother Dillon, at 9-9 at 152); Daryn Tucker Brown (senior in 15-16, Track had him at 24-14, I had him at 19-14 at 160), Brandon Wilkerson (junior in 15-16, Track had him at 6-24, I had him at 8-26 at 220), plus Micheal Jacobs (senior in 15-16, I had him at 4-2 at 120), Nick Freeze (junior in 15-16, I had him at 0-16 at 126), David Otero (senior in 15-16, I had him at 1-7 at 152), Jordan Lane (sophomore in 15-16, I had him at 11-14 at 152), Skyler Taylor (senior in 15-16, I had him at 2-5 at 160) and Noah Hearn (junior in 15-16, I had him at 8-12 at 182).

2015-16 captain: Trevor Belden was a first-year starter at Ridgeview in 2013-14, and proved to be a pleasant surprise as a sophomore, as well as a district champion for the Panthers. As a junior, Belden got out to a fast start, jumping out to an 11-1 record in the first part of the season before the second half got a bit trickier. Defending his 126 title (Belden stayed at the same weight as in 2013-14) was also trickier, with another returning district champion (OP’s Tyrese Germain) moving up. Germain set the tone in that match, and Belden didn’t recover initially, also dropping his first match at regions. However, he did get it together with a pair of falls on the back side to get to Saturday before falling to a 39-match winner — and eventual state qualifier — in the consi quarters. Given that Belden gave a better match, and seeing how close he was to states, should motivate him for his senior year. There are a number of solid kids returning that will be seniors for the Clay Panthers, and Belden should lead several of them to deep post-season runs next year.

Heaton’s Hero: There’s a couple candidates there, but I’m going to go with the kid who had just one contested win (according to my records) going into the post-season. This guy had just one win by fall and six forfeits that made up his seven wins during the regular season, with 17 losses by fall before the post-season. And, once districts began, he had to wrestle an opponent with more experience, who’d just beaten him before in the Clay Panthers’ final regular-season duals. But despite just the one contested victory, and the disadvantage of a previous loss, Brandon Wilkerson found his way to victory in that first round, and that win — with just five wrestlers in the 220-pound weight class at 2A-District 3 — was enough to get him through to regions. The last four matches of his season all ended the same way as many of his regular-season matches did, but Wilkerson found a way when it counted at the end of the year, and I expect he’ll get better with experience. Brandon Wilkerson is the Ridgeview representative for the Heaton’s Hero nomination.



The Season: Episcopal, 2014-15

Next up: Ridgeview


Season record: 6-20 in duals.

Tournament record: 10th at Bierbaum Invitational January 17, 6th at 1A-District 4 meet February 28, 20th at 1A-Region 1 meet March 6-7, T-70th at 1A State meet March 13-14.

Season in a nutshell: Numbers were always a problem for the Eagles this season, at least when it came to being able to contend in duals against fuller teams, and giving up forfeits in as many as seven weights (sometimes more if Episcopal’s middle-schoolers were held out), which made winning duals a difficult thing to do. One thing that Episcopal certainly did right with their dual schedule this year was to get more duals in. That was key, but what also needed to be done, I think, was that the Eagles could have benefited from a couple more invites. Having just one regular-season invitational doesn’t always prep kids to get ready for the nature of the post-season race as much as one would like. Just six kids suited up for 1A-District 4, but the Eagles did get four kids to regions, with one district champion that became a state qualifier. That, plus ongoing off-season work on the Episcopal campus, should keep the attention focused on wrestling, and get more kids out for the sport.

2014-15 MVP: Sometime betweent the middle of the season and the post-season, Conor Chepenik figured out a few things. He got stronger. He got faster. He worked harder. Probably most of, if not all of, the above. Whatever Chepenik did, he turned himself from a competitive if not-necessarily highly-ranked 220-pounder into a top-five ranking, a district champion and a state qualifier. Chepenik had an 11-match win streak at one point going from Terry Parker Army Duals into the post-season, during which time he was able to avenge earlier losses to a couple of other ranked or nearly-ranked 220s, and really put things together just before districts, where he might have had one of the most competitive weight classes, at least among north Florida 1A teams. Chepenik then avenged another earlier loss at regions, going on to place second. States was a different experience, as it often can be for first-time competitors, but in fairness he wrestled only eventual placewinners.

Projected returning starters for 2015-16: Kyle Hopkins (8th grader in 15-16, I had him at 13-3 at 106), Reid Hampton (8th grade in 15-16, I had him at 19-8 at 113), Connor Evans (junior in 15-16, I had him at 7-14 at 126), Christian Rickey (junior in 15-16, I had him at 17-9 at 160), Conor Chepenik (senior in 15-16, I had him at 29-9 at 220), Travis Williams (senior in 15-16, I had him at 15-10 at 285), plus Adam Foster (junior in 15-16, I had him at 5-10 at 126), Shane Pack (freshman in 15-16, I had him at 5-12 at 145).

2015-16 captain: Christian Rickey moved up three weight classes for this season; I remember being surprised at how much he’d grown from the beginning of his freshman year to the start of his sophomore season (I imagine his parents’ food budget was surprised, too). Rickey didn’t seem to be affected too much by the jump, improving from 11 wins in his freshman year to 17 this year. He also seemed to handle the competitive side of things a bit better, as it usually took someone with a great deal more experience to put a hammer down on him. Rickey does have some footwork and motor issues to work through, but the evolution on those fronts, compared to freshman year, is certainly on a good path. Also, the tremendous amount of off-season work should help significantly. That attention to detail should rub off on the other younger guys who come into the Eagle program, and possibly also attract some new blood.

Heaton’s Hero: This was a bit of an interesting choice, as this wrestler had no forfeit victories under his belt; all of his wins were contested. For Connor Evans, starting the year wrestling a good chunk of matches a weight up was a tall order to fill, but he did finish with five pins. His record was not as good as a year ago, when he was 8-7 for the Eagles at 120, but Evans faced a few more kids with more experience than him compared to what he had a year ago. He proved he could go six minutes, with majors and decisions both going his way and not, and stuck it out through the entire season with the Eagles, suiting up and making weight and going out there as one of just six Episcopal kids who competed at districts. Going start to finish in an Eagle singlet and giving his best shot along the way makes Connor Evans the Episcopal representative for the Heaton’s Hero nomination.



The Season: Orange Park, 2014-15

Next up: Episcopal

Orange Park

Season record: 26-6 in duals.

Tournament record: 18th at Palm Coast Rotary January 9-10, 4th at Lincoln IBT January 31, 2nd at St Johns River Conference IBT February 7, 1st at 2A-District 3 meet February 27, 3rd at 2A-Region 1 meet March 6-7, 26th at 2A State meet March 13-14.

Season in a nutshell: Getting started under a new coach was a bit of difficulty in getting the Raiders started out this year, particularly given that coaches do most if not all of the scheduling. Orange Park went 5-2 at Matanzas, won Englewood’s Super 6 dual event and put together some pretty solid dual efforts (winning seven in a row at one point, 11 of 12 at another). But there were occasional times when key competitors were out, and that partially explained the less-than-ideal 18th at Palm Coast. Still, after a significant amount of plug-and-play to find the right mix at the right weights, it all came together by the post-season, with a district title and a strong third-place effort at regions. I don’t know that states went the way the Raiders had hoped, but a lot of teams would have liked to get five wrestlers there as Orange Park was able to do. Not a lot of teams would survive losing eight seniors — all of them region qualifiers, including four district champions. Four of the Raiders’ five state qualifiers are set to graduate literally any day now, if they haven’t already. And yet, Orange Park looks next year to still be quite formidable at least up to 160, if everybody returns and can sort themselves into weights. The Raiders are still going to be a force next season.

2014-15 MVP: Marcus Reid took another step toward ultimate success this past season. After finding himself one match short of the state podium following district and region titles as a freshman at 113, Reid returned this season staying at the weight class, and jumped out a 12-0 start, losing only twice in the regular season, falling to American Heritage Delray’s Tyler Difiore at the Viper Duals and then by one point to north Florida rival Jacob Geiger (who won’t be around to darken his shadow anymore). Reid won 13 straight after that, taking districts and then forfeiting to Geiger in the Region 1 final. Reid then reached the state semis, dropping a 3-0 decision to eventual state champ Caleb Smith of Lake Gibson. Reid then finished sixth after a DQ in the consi semis. I think Reid will return to region-champion status and should go higher on the podium. What we in the larger community didn’t know until a few weeks after was that Reid suffers from epilepsy and yet performs at such a high level. Reid was first-team all-area by the Times Union and was our #2 at 113. Depending on how it falls next year, he’ll be in line for a local top ranking.

Projected returning starters for 2015-16: Frank Sawyer (sophomore in 15-16, Trackwrestling had him at 23-10, I had him at 25-9 at 106); Marcus Reid (junior in 15-16, Track had him at 36-6, I had him at 35-6 at 113), Victor Perez (senior in 15-16, Track had him at 15-10, I had him at 15-9 at 120), Dashner St. Vilus (junior in 15-16, Track and I both had him at 15-11 at 138), Nartorian Lee (junior in 15-16, Track had him at 21-18, I had him at 20-18 at 170), plus Jeremiah Watson (senior in 15-16, I had him at 7-3 at 120), Saeid Ejmali (sophomore in 15-16, I had him at 15-6 at 120/26/32), Reed Danielson (sophomore in 15-16, I had him at 3-6 at 145), Caleb Zaccheo (sophomore in 15-16, I had him at 7-5 at 160/170) and Tyler DeHart (junior in 15-16, I had him at 5-2 at 220).

2015-16 captain: With so many seniors leaving the lineup (by my count using my win totals, 247 wins graduate, and that was just the starters that appeared at districts this year), the key might not necessarily be so much reloading the lineup as it might be finding experienced guys capable of leadership. On the mat, Reid will do that well enough, but there’ll be a need for seniors next year. The only junior in 2014-15 who wrestled at districts was victor Perez, and the Raiders may need him to provide that senior leadership next season. Perez was a part-time starter through the first part of the season, but seized the job midway through and put together a decent campaign, going 5-3 in the district semis with one of Ridgeview’s top kids and then coming back with two falls to place third in that meet. Perez then went 13-12 with eventual state qualifier Tahj Brennen of Gainesville in the first round of regions, eventually winning a match before being eliminated. It might not be how far he gets next season that matters, it could be how well he can help motivate everyone else to go far.

Heaton’s Hero: We chronicled, as recently as last night, the often-repeated tale of younger, less experienced wrestlers having to move up a weight as others make their drops in weight downward. The case of Nartorian Lee is a twist on that scenario. Lee didn’t just have to go up one weight when senior and district finalist Ricky Torres took over at 152. With state qualifier Skyler Taylor well-entrenched at 160, Lee had to go up two weight classes and suit up for the Raiders at 170, which did solve Orange Park’s issue of finding a consistent presence there. And, Lee did just about as well with going up two weights as he might have by staying at 52, taking third at districts after losing in the first round by fall and then taking out three decent opponents in succession. Lee then won a match at regions before concluding his season. He didn’t exactly struggle, with 20-21 wins (depending on the record-keeping) to his credit, but he did take one for the team this year. For that, Nartorian Lee is the Heaton’s Hero representative for Orange Park.



The Season: Yulee, 2014-15

Next up: Orange Park


Season record: 11-6 in duals. I think mostly. We had a couple of events on the Hornet schedule that kind of fell through the cracks.

Tournament record: 1st at Bierbaum Invitational January 17, T-49th at girls’ state meet February 6-7, 4th at Raines 5 Star IBT February 6-7, 1st at 1A-District 3 meet February 28, 7th at 1A-Region 1 meet March 6-7, T-59th at 1A State meet March 13-14.

Season in a nutshell: Other than a later-January hiccup where it seems like some things fell through the cracks (a couple of missed results), Yulee had a solid year. The Hornets got off to a stronger start at Deltona than it had had in the previous year, following that up with wins in seven of its next eight duals and earning — in a couple of stretches — a top-10 area ranking. A hiccup or two down the stretch made staying in the top 10 trickier, but the Hornets had solid results in its local IBT tournaments, with wins at Bierbaum and District 3, following that up with a solid 7th at regions. Barring significant re-districting, I should think Yulee will be the team to beat in its district next year, with nine returning starters and a 10th returner who saw significant time. The Hornets will have to replace their foundational group in the middle, but the beginnings of a long-term program are slowly being put together.

2014-15 MVP: There are a few wrestlers who compete with the motor that Daniel Beverly has, but not as many as you’d want. Beverly (Trackwrestling had him completing his senior season at 27-7, I had him at 27-5 at 160 pounds) wrestled the same style — all-out — against pretty much any level of competition, and the several occasions that I got to see him confirmed that for me. When he was at 170, he lost just once to eventual state finalist and Suwannee MVP Sasha Key, and once the drop was made, he only lost twice more, against 2A wrestlers, prior to states. Beverly rolled to a district title with a pair of two first-period pins, and then had three decisive victories before showing he could go patient as well, winning by a 6-3 decision to take Yulee’s only region championship. Beverly anchored a set of strong senior middles that set the tone for the Hornet lineup from 138 through 170. They’ll be missed, and hopefully his example on the mat will be noticed and copied by the younger Hornets coming up.

Projected returning starters for 2015-16: Logan Blaise (sophomore in 15-16, Trackwrestling had him at 3-9, I had him at 3-8 at 106), Dylan Youmans (junior in 15-16, Track had him at 31-4, I had him at 25-3 at 113), Blaine Dorsey (senior in 15-16, Track had him at 19-10, I had him at 20-9 at 120), John Parker (junior in 15-16, Track had him at 25-9, I had him at 25-10 at 126), Zack Watson (junior in 15-16, Track had him at 11-19, I had him at 5-17 at 132), RJ Adams (senior in 15-16, Track had him at 25-8, I had him at 19-5 at 182), TJ Holten (junior in 15-16, Track had him at 2-12, I had him at 0-11 at 195), Zack Walker (junior in 15-16, Track had him at 13-11, I had him at 8-10 at 220), McKenzie Lewis (sophomore in 15-16, Track had him at 9-12, I had him at 7-8 at 285), plus Makayla Hoyle (junior in 15-16, I had her at 2-4 at 152), Dylan Dial (junior in 15-16, I had him at 1-6 at 160/170), Trevor Ford (senior in 15-16, I had him at 10-6 at 182/195).

2015-16 captain: I would imagine — and I would guess from the Twitter feed that I’d be right — that the one-point loss, one match before punching a ticket for states, at regions in March will be a very strong motivator for RJ Adams this coming season. Adams got a bit of a later start, not competing in the Hornets’ traditional season opener at Deltona’s duals event, but made his case for an area ranking rather quickly after that. Unfortunately, he didn’t get a lot of looks at the stronger 182s in the area during the course of the season, and his draw for districts and the first couple rounds of regions didn’t give him a lot of preparation for the better kids in the final rounds. Adams has a crazy amount of talent, with far more athleticism than the average 182, and I can’t see him not making states with it. I also think he’ll be a strong influence on the young Hornet upper weights, who’ll have to carry more of the load this year now that Yulee’s group of middles will have all graduated.

Heaton’s Hero: TJ Holten didn’t join the varsity lineup until the county championships, that I’ve been able to gather from the results I have, but was a regular presence going forward, wrestling at either 182 or 195 after competing at 220 a few times early on. Matches went fairly quickly, at least that I have available to me. I’m not sure how the two wins came about — they must have been earned during the events I have missing for Yulee, but once the lineup was settled for districts, Holten was in there at 195. It was a very quick day, but Holten made weight and showed up and competed. Hopefully he’ll gain some more experience and come back with a few more wins next season. TJ Holten is the Yulee representative for the Heaton’s Hero nomination.



The Season, Duval Charter, 2014-15

Next up: Yulee

Duval Charter

Season record: 12-7 in duals.

Tournament record: 8th at Arlington Optimist December 5-6, 7th at Backyard Bash December 19-20, 10th at Raines 5 Star IBT February 6-7, T-24th at Green Cove Springs Rotary February 13-14, 7th at 1A-District 4 meet February 28, 15th at 1A-Region 1 meet March 6-7, T-42nd at 1A State meet March 13-14

Season in a nutshell: Struggles early and late sandwiched what was a pretty nice January for the Duval Panthers. With a lineup that always seemed somewhat short-handed during the course of the season for a variety of reasons, Duval Charter did struggle at its first two tournament events, but the Panthers got their act together a bit more effectively in January, and particularly so at the first Army Duals event hosted by Terry Parker, going 8-0 on the weekend and reaching the event championship against First Coast. While that particular dual didn’t go well for the Panthers, the weekend would have, ideally, jump-started the entire team’s remainder of the season. It did lead to a top-10 finish at Raines 5 Star a few weeks after, but attrition seemed to take hold of Duval Charter by the post-season, as I’m only seeing five wrestlers in the Panther lineup contained in the District 4 brackets, and just one after 138. That’s a difficult way to contend for a team title, but the Panthers still outscored all but two district rivals at states.

2014-15 MVP: Duval Charter was able to outscore all but two district rivals at states behind its first state qualifier in the school’s history, as 2014-15 freshman Daniel Porter became the first Panther to win a district and, a week later, region championship. Porter got his second regular season off to a fantastic start, going 25-1 with only a loss by fall very early, and up a weight for him, to eventual 2A placer Marcus Reid at the Englewood Super 6. That December loss would be his last until the first weekend of February, when he fell 3-1 to eventual 3A state qualifier Alex Barie of Sandalwood. As it would turn out, Porter would not lose to a Class 1A wrestler until states, winning districts with a fall and two decisions, and then rolling through regions with three falls and a decision to make history for the Panthers. The win streak would continue into states, as Porter reached the semis and became the first Duval Charter wrestler to earn a state medal as well. Getting that far put Porter into some very elite company, and Saturday was a struggle, but a ton of freshmen would love to have had his season.

Projected returning starters for 2015-16: Porter (sophomore in 15-16, Trackwrestling had him at 38-7, I had him at 40-7 at 106), Jack Fagan (8th grader in 15-16, Track had him at 5-17, I had him at 10-10 at 113), Andrew Slade (freshman in 15-16, I had him at 31-11 at 120), Andrew Duchaussee (junior in 15-16, Track had him at 15-17, I had him at 16-16 at 138), Ethan Barry (sophomore in 15-16, Track had him at 7-11, I had him at 7-12 at 160), plus Stone Rockhill (8th grader in 15-16, I had him at 1-7 at 120/126), Hunter Lawson (junior in 15-16, I had him at 13-10 until injury ended season), Sean Bennett (freshman in 15-16, I had him at 3-11 at 132), Blaise Puig (junior in 15-16, I had him at 11-10 at 138), James Allinson (freshman in 15-16, I had him at 6-10 at 138), Ben Fitzpatrick (senior in 15-16, I had him at 11-6 at 145), Mike Dinkla (senior in 15-16, I had him at 3-15 at 160), Michael Booker (senior in 15-16, I had him at 10-7 at 220).

2015-16 captain: In most ways, Porter has been the captain of the team, particularly this past season, but based upon his results thus far, Andrew Slade appears to have done enough to place himself into a leadership position as well as he moves into his high school years. Slade also was a district champion this past year, moving up two weights to do so after competing in his 7th-grade year at 106. After a slow start (4-4), Slade won 16 of his next 17 matches. He won the district title at 120 with a late takedown to secure the victory, and only lost by one point in the quarterfinals at regions, making it into Saturday. From there, though, he had to face a wrestler with Wakulla, with its very deep room and rich tradition in north Florida among 1A teams. I think Slade will get a chance to punch his ticket for states before a whole lot more time passes.

Heaton’s Hero: I’m not sure how much Jack Fagan weighs, but it couldn’t have been anywhere close to 113. But, when Porter made the decision to drop down to 106 full-time in January, that meant that Fagan was going to have to go up, and probably give up (conservatively) 20 pounds to his opponents. It’s the way of wrestling everywhere, as better wrestlers attempt to drop down as far as they can (not something I’ve seen as much of down here in Florida as up north). Fagan started off the season with an 8-5 record (as I recorded it), but it was a little bit deceiving in that the eight wins all came via forfeit and the five losses were all by fall. Despite that, he kept battling, even picking up a win at districts to score team points for Duval Charter. I’m not sure why his season record is so different from what I have, but it doesn’t matter — I do think Fagan will get better, particularly as he grows into the lower weight classes a bit more in the next couple of seasons. Jack Fagan is the Duval Charter representative for the Heaton’s Hero nomination.



The Season: Oakleaf, 2014-15

Next up: Duval Charter


Season record: 18-3 in duals.

Tournament record: 14th at Palm Coast Rotary January 9-10, T-43rd at girls’ state meet February 6-7, 8th at Green Cove Springs Rotary February 6-7, 3rd at 2A-District 3 meet February 27, T-7th at 2A-Region 1 meet March 6-7, 32nd at 2A State meet March 13-14.

Season in a nutshell: What would this team have been like with a December under its belt? That’s really the only downside the Knights had to their season in 2014-15. While every other team worked on its conditioning through competition in December matches, Oakleaf had just one dual in December and it was well into December, too. The lack of mat time hurt the Knights in their first IBT of the season, but they still pulled together a top-15 team finish at Palm Coast; from there, a one-point win over Clay County rival Orange Park, followed up by a 5-0 appearance at OPHS’ 10-Way Duals, really opened up the throttle for Oakleaf, which went on to finish third at Bartram Trail’s duals event and took a top-10 team finish at Clay. Not having upper weights (no 220 or 285) made things difficult for the Knights to do better than third at districts, but the regular-season dual record and IBT finishes were light years ahead of where Oakleaf was a year ago.

2014-15 MVP: When I learned that Jason Davis was switching schools last fall, I assumed a move, but I wondered if his wrestling would take a hit as a result of leaving a pretty solid Fleming Island room. As it turned out, Davis flourished in his sophomore year, with the key being physical growth and domination. Davis was 21-17 as a freshman, getting to Saturday at regions, but this year he put together a sparkling 35-3 season with a regular-season loss to South Dade’s hammer at 195, Chei Hill, and then post-season losses at 182 to Leon’s Joe Grant (10-8 in the 2A-Region 1 final) and Port St. Lucie’s Johnley Cadet (2-1 at state semifinals, in a match where Cadet didn’t take a shot). I remember thinking when I saw Davis at 10-Way that I didn’t know how good he could become. I still don’t, but I’m stoked to find out. Not sure what weight he’ll go next year, but he told he he could have cut to 170 (semi-wishful thinking, maybe, as he was a giant 82, but if anyone might have given it a shot, he might have). He’ll be leading an Oakleaf team that has nine returning starters, some good talent capable of starting for at least three other weights, and a new attitude at Oakleaf. Look out.

Returning starters for 2015-16: Ryan Rosano (sophomore in 15-16, Trackwrestling and I had him at 29-10 at 106), Vince Karl (sophomore in 15-16, Track had him at 21-11, I had him at 22-11 at 113), Riggs Wolf (senior in 15-16, Track and I had him at 14-12 at 126), Detrall Lanier (junior in 15-16, Track had him at 21-14, I had him at 21-13 at 138), Isaiah Graham (sophomore in 15-16, Track and I had him at 7-15 at 145), Lucas Karl (junior in 15-16, Track and I had him at 19-10 at 152), Josh Detrick (senior in 15-16, Track had him at 18-16, I had him at 19-15 at 170), Jason Davis (junior in 15-16, Track and I had him at 35-3 at 182), David Thompson (junior in 15-16, Track and I had him at 16-11 at 195), plus Geneva Winston (senior in 15-16, I had her at 4-4 at 113), Luke Simons (junior in 15-16, I had him at 3-4 at 126), Deonte Adams (senior in 15-16, I had him at 10-7 at 160/170/182) and Sean Tairovski-Romeu (senior in 15-16, I had him at 10-8 at 182/195/220).

2015-16 captain: While Davis just might be able to go it alone next year, I think this is the kind of team where a rising tide is going to lift all the boats. The question is who is most likely to rise. Rosano had a lot of wins and Lanier has state-qualifier experience, but I look for a guy like Luke Karl to bust out this year. He’s been wrestling in the middles for two years now, a province most often dominated by senior talent, and 152 was certainly a weight like that this past year. So, too, was 160, and either way, I think there’ll be room for him to make a case for a top-five easily, maybe even top-three area ranking in 2015-16. He was a region qualiifier in a district where all four qualifying 152s were top-10 in the area, and won two matches at regions, making it to Saturday in a bracket that might have been one of the deepest in the region. He wrestles a lot in the off-season, and that can only help.

Heaton’s Hero: Just about every weight class in the Knights’ lineup found a fair amount of successes in 2014-15, just in terms of double-digit wins and finishing over .500 on the season, a significant upgrade from the previous year. Only one starter found precarious footing in the lineup, and that was 145-pound freshman Isaiah Graham, although he, too, had figured a couple of things out at the end of the year. Graham faced a lot of seniors in his list of opponents this past year, and began the season 2-11 at one point, with nine pins against and only two forfeits to his credit. From there, however, he went 5-4, going 8-6 with one wrestler, shutting out another wrestler to put himself just one match from regions and then going OT in the consi semis with another wrestler with a much better record. Graham, too, has been toiling this off-season, getting more mat time, which means more experience, and eventually that inevitably leads to wins. For his determination in overcoming a slow start, Isaiah Graham is the Oakleaf representative for the Heaton’s Hero nomination.



The Season: Westside, 2014-15

Next up: Oakleaf


Season record: 1-8 in duals.

Tournament record: 17th at Westside Kiwanis December 12-13, 6th at Lee Backyard Bash December 19-20, 10th at Gateway Conference meet January 16-17, 2nd at Westside Roundrobin February 14, 2nd at 1A-District 3 meet February 28, T-12th at 1A-Region 1 meet March 6-7. No state qualifiers.

Season in a nutshell: Given what I have recorded for the Wolverines this season, it was a difficult uphill battle for Westside in its first year of existence under its new name (in case you’ve been under a rock or are from out of the area and reading this, it was Forrest High School a year ago). I got a couple of looks at Westside, but nothing directly after Gateway. I keep the records that I do because of rankings purposes and also so I can just have an informal record of who’s wrestled who, and how the outcomes went down. They help me make some semi-accurate forecasts (assuming weights don’t get shuffled up) for the post-season. So when I got the brackets for District 3, I was concerned that my records were so very different than what was reported on the brackets for District 3. If you’ve a mind, you can check those brackets out and compare to the records I’ve compiled. I would have to be missing at least two larger events to explain some of the discrepancies. I don’t really know why there is such a difference, all I know is what I can prove, which is in the results contained here. However, it’s hard to argue with a runnerup District 3 finish — generated despite missing four weights and only one champion. Westside’s getting better, even if it’s hard to show exactly how much better.

2014-15 MVP: Regardless of which record is accurate, I’ve got to go with one of the Wolverines’ bevy of sophomores as the Westside MVP for 2014-15. Delmontae Davis doubled his win total from a year ago (under either my numbers or Track’s) and did so after moving up three weight classes from 106 to 126. Davis was the top seed at districts, qualifying out with a runnerup effort, and then advanced the farthese of all of the nine Region 1 qualifiers, falling short just one match before being able to punch his Kissimmee states ticket. He should get another shot at moving all the way through before his career is over, particularly if he keeps up the off-season work (he was at Southeast Regionals in Atlanta last weekend). That’s a good way to start paving a path for states next season.

Returning starters for 2015-16: Davis (junior in 15-16, Trackwrestling had him at 31-9, I had him at 20-13 at 126), Jacob Boyd (junior in 15-16, Track had him at 29-8, I had him at 16-11 at 132), Keyvonta Broadwater (junior in 15-16, Track had him at 21-12, I had him at 9-15 at 138), Caleb Gibbs (senior in 15-16, Track had him at 24-12, I had him at 9-14 at 152), Calvin Altman (sophomore in 15-16, Track had him at 20-11, I had him at 12-14 at 160), Christian Wilkerson (senior in 15-16, Track had him at 28-13, I had him at 15-10 at 170), Tyler Gathright (junior in 15-16, Track had him at 15-8, I had him at 14-8 at 220), Tariq Hookfin (junior in 15-16, Track had him at 13-9, I had him at 14-13 at 285), plus Vannie Flomo (junior in 15-16, I had him at 2-5 at 152) and Richard Murray (senior in 15-16, I had him at 3-15 at 195).

2015-16 captain: In what appears to be his first year out for the sport, Caleb Gibbs had a solid season, doing enough to qualify for regionals with a runnerup finish. He went 8-4 with an eventual state qualifier in the first round of regions and then won a match convincingly on the backside and hung in against an experienced Marianna wrestler into the third period before losing by fall. Unlike many guys whose seasons were cut shorter than hoped for, however, what Gibbs is doing this off-season turned my head. He’s been at both the Marine Corps Ironman and at Southeast Regionals, like Davis. There aren’t a lot of Duval kids, at least among those who don’t already have a developed pedigree thus far, who are wrestling this off-season, but Gibbs is doing it. That, and being a senior next year, makes for a good captaincy combo. There’s plenty of returning guys back in the lineup for Gibbs to help lead, and I think the future could be looking up for Westside.

Heaton’s Hero: Although I’m breaking my rule for the Hero nomination, as the Westside representative, because the representative didn’t wrestle the post-season, I’m a bit hamstrung because of the sizable record disparities in play with the Westside kids. So I’ll go with the one wrestler who saw a fair amount of time and documented struggles as well. Richard Murray will be a senior next year and likely will have a shot at a full-time spot in the lineup. Murray’s two contested wins came during the Wolverines’ roundrobin events this season, with wins at Backyard Bash and at the Westside roundrobin. All of the outcomes — other than one forfeit — were wins by fall or losses by fall, with only match going into the second period. I hope Murray will stay with the sport; he’s got the opportunity for good instruction there. Richard Murray is the Westside representative for the Heaton’s Hero nomination.