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.