The Seasons will start up later today with at least one (Westside), maybe two (Oakleaf) and I still hope to have the rest done by the end of the month. Could be a tall order…or a full day of writing Saturday.

Right now, though I want to see who’s #NextLevel for the 2015-16 season. We just recently learned that Tristain Sichmeller (Clay ’15) will be wrestling at Concordia (NE) College, so here’s my updated list. This is something I want to re-introduce as a regular update next season:

Josh Fox (University Christian ’12)….Ohio State. Was 7-5 for the Buckeyes this past season as a redshirt sophomore at 184.

Robert Parland (University Christian ’13)….Coker College. Had 22 wins for the Cobras this past season as a sophomore at 197.

Corey Van Dorn (Orange Park ’14)….Nebraska-Kearney. Was 9-8 for the Lopers this past season as a true freshman at 285.

Myckel Hutchinson (Buchholz ’15)….Signed to attend Southeastern University in Lakeland and wrestle.

Josh Calhoun (Bolles ’15)….Signed to attend Edinboro and will be looking to secure spot on wrestling roster.

Zach McClinton (Middleburg ’15)….Signed to attend Hannibal-LaGrange University and wrestle. Not sure about his brother Kyle McClinton’s status (Middleburg ’13).

Alfred Shavers (Palm Coast ’15)….Signed to attend Shorter University (D-II) and wrestle.

Tristain Sichmeller (Clay ’15)….Signed to attend Concordia (NE) and wrestle.

Kaleb Warner (Columbia ’15)….Signed to attend Campbell (NC) and wrestle.

Not as sure about the status of Kyle McClinton (Middleburg ’13) and continued presence on Hannibal-LaGrange roster, or if Charles Cuthbert (Fleming Island ’14) will crack the roster at the Naval Academy. I know he had some good intrasquad results early, but just getting through the academy is grind enough for most people.

Also, I would guess Travis Laxton (Suwannee ’10) would have used his last year of eligibility at Coker this past season. As for the possibilities from this year’s class, I haven’t heard anything on Adam Breindel (Clay), Sasha Key (Suwannee), Jake Trivett (Palm Coast) or Daniel Folkner (Sandalwood).

I believe Michael Dudzinski (West Nassau) and Alexander Condoroteanu-ororveanu (Bishop Kenny) are going for football, Nathan Cleland (Bishop Snyder) was weighing a military option (not sure about Nick Cleland), am not sure if David Trigg (UC) or Max Cobb (Providence) are looking at football instead. I had heard that Jared Langdo (Creekside) at one point was considering an NAIA option, not sure about Austin Wynn (also Creekside) either. Torry Williams (Paxon) did communicate to me that he is going to Coker and may attempt to walk-on in some capacity to the Cobras’ team. There might be a few surprises out there yet.


Southeast Regional — Freestyle

At World Congress Center, Atlanta

SE Regional Freestyle


120: DNP — Chris Griffin (Oakleaf): p. BY Xavier Williamson (North Carolina), 2:19; ID against Jahaan Rasheed (Florida).

145: DNP — Delmontae Davis (Westside): d. David Gachuz (Georgia), 11-10; p. BY Christopher Leatherman (Alabama), 1:03; tf. BY Noah Fayard (Georgia), 15-3.

160: DNP — Caleb Gibbs (Westside): d. BY Reid Singles (Alabama), 9-6; tf. BY Micheal Nelson (North Carolina), 10-0.

182: 5th-6th — Jonathan Shoen (Middleburg): p. Sterlin Fullerton (North Carolina), 2:42; p. Jeffrey Burton (North Carolina), 1:14; (semifinal) p. BY Ellis Herring (Louisiana), 2:32; (consi semi) p. BY Trevor Byram (Iowa), 1:07.

182: DNP — Sean Tairovski-Romeu (Oakleaf): p. BY David Jackson (North Carolina), 2:50; tf. Pablo Chavarria (Georgia), 16-6; p. BY Tre’quan Turnage (North Carolina), :16.


152: DNP — Isaiah Graham (Oakleaf): p. BY Parker Holcomb (North Carolina), 1:54; tf. BY Xavery Washington (Virginia), 10-0.


98: 5th — Kyle Tairovski-Romeu (Oakleaf): d. Drew Mizell (North Carolina), 6-4; d. BY Julian Hernandez (Florida), 13-7; tf. BY Allen Stone (Georgia), 14-2; fft over Dylan Kohn (Florida).


75: DNP — Tucker Thrift (Jacksonville): d. BY Aaron Riner (Georgia), 11-10; d. BY Liam O’Connor (Louisiana), 5-4.

87: 2nd — Cade Newton (Oakleaf): tf. Emil Necula (Georgia), 10-0; tf. BY Bray Emerine (Georgia), 21-8.


Southeast Regional — Greco-Roman

At World Congress Center, Atlanta

SE Regional Greco-Roman


120: DNP — Chris Griffin (Oakleaf): tf. BY Austin Neal (North Carolina), 14-4; tf. BY Aslan Kilic (Georgia), 13-2.

145: DNP — Delmontae Davis (Westside): tf. BY Joseph Clemente (New York), 12-2; tf. BY Jaquan Rhodes (Alabama), 10-0.

160: DNP — Caleb Gibbs (Westside): p. BY Salaam Banish (Virginia), 5:21; p. BY Austin Kennon (Georgia), :29.

182: DNP — Jonathan Shoen (Middleburg): tf. Pablo Chavarria (Georgia), 11-1; tf. BY Jeffrey Burton (North Carolina), 10-0; tf. BY Sterlin Fullerton (North Carolina), 12-2.


152: DNP — Isaiah Graham (Oakleaf): tf. BY Skylar Shuman (Georgia), 12-2; p. BY Derek Spears (Ohio), 1:18.


75: DNP — Tucker Thrift (Jacksonville): tf. Grason Belton (South Carolina), 11-0; tf. BY Creed Thomas (Georgia), 14-2; tf. BY Aaron Riner (Georgia), 16-6.

87: 2nd — Cade Newton (Oakleaf): tf. BY Bray Emerine (Georgia), 11-0; p. BY Emerine, :21.


River City Saturday

I’ve seen more than a few Twitter posts from wrestlers saying, more or less, how much they’re missing the sport right now. I may not have the answer for them, but River City Wrestling Factory leaders Lance and Brendan Day might.

I went to their open-mat Saturday at Episcopal. The numbers were a bit off, but I’ll chalk it up to the holiday weekend and to the lateness of the notice. Still, by the time I got there around 11, there were about 20 kids there, including high schoolers Christian Rickey of Episcopal, Erik Sirmans of First Coast, Fletcher’s Julian Fix, Oren Punnett and Bryce Bednarski, Ryan Timmons from Bishop Kenny, Max Patterson from Creekside and Marshall Frye of Ponte Vedra, plus some younger kids and a nice-looking middle-schooler from the Ponte Vedra area, who I was told later was former Nease coach Rich Maritato’s son.

The kids were being pushed hard in situational work. I’m seeing little six-year-olds hitting double legs, working for cow catchers and always MOVING. The high schoolers were gassed by the end. Some of that might be the off-season; I’ll chalk it up to the pace that the Days were setting.

These kids gave up their Saturday to get better. Are you?

The Days don’t have a monopoly on good ideas, but in putting this together, they’ve got the right idea. If you want to take advantage of that idea, I’d suggest signing up for the June 6 open mat. Lance Day’s email is in my offseason page if you want to learn more, sign up, or bring some kids. You’ll be done and out by 1 p.m. You will get some instruction, some motivation and some new approaches. And you will get gassed.


The Season: Bradford, 2014-15

Next up: Westside


Season record: 4-12 in duals.

Tournament record: 9th at 1A-District 4 meet February 28, 30th at 1A-Region 1 meet March 6-7.

Season in a nutshell: This is one of the harder recaps for me to write, because I just never got to see the Tornadoes live until districts. I know that being a first-year coach is always difficult in a state where — from everything I can tell — the coach is responsible for scheduling all meets. Coaches up north would shake their heads at that. But it just didn’t seem like Bradford got a lot of diversity in its schedule. Case in point — the Tornadoes faced Eastside four times. I understand how teams can meet up twice in a year, but four times seems to be a bit much. There’s enough competitions in Jacksonville, and I would think in the Gainesville area too, that Bradford could diversify its scjedi;e. Also, the Tornadoes needed more IBTs. Just having the post-season experience, for reasons that should be clear, doesn’t prepare wrestlers for the post-season experience, and there might have times where that lack of experience worked against Bradford, at both districts and regions.

2014-15 MVP: A loss along the lines of a Jarraid Forsyth — a district and region champion, and a state placer in 2013-14 — just is almost impossible for fledgling programs to overcome. By far, the best season in 2014-15 belonged to 120/126-pounder Jason Griffis, who was state-ranked for most of the season after qualifying for states with a third-place finish at 113 in 2014. Griffis had 35+ matches that season. This year, he got 23, with seven of those coming in the post-season. He did fairly well with the schedule he had, losing only to state qualifiers during the regular season, but 16 matches just don’t provide enough opportunity and enough different experience to be ready for kids that have wrestled 35-40, or more, matches in a year. Going up two weights, from last year’s post-season weight of 113 up to 126, for this past post-season probably meant he didn’t have to suck back too much, but also meant he might have given up some strength advantages. He certainly ran into some difficult competition at regions, although he did make it to Saturday. Hopefully his schedule will be better enough to prepare him for a second trip to states next year.

Returning starters for 2015-16: Antonio Urolia (sophomore in 15-16, Trackwrestling had him at 6-2, I had him at 11-7 at 106), Dalton Marroletti (senior in 15-16, Track had him at 0-2, I had him at 2-5 at 120), Griffis (senior in 15-16, Track had him at 4-3, I had him at 16-7 at 126), Jesse Burch (sophomore in 15-16, Track had him at 1-2, I had him at 6-8 at 138), Andrew Sadler (junior in 15-16, Track had him at 0-2, I had him at 6-8 at 195), Eddie McCormick (junior in 15-16, Track had him at 1-6, I had him at 5-11 at 220), Jordan Luke (sophomore in 15-16, Track had him at 1-8, I had him at 8-9 at 285), plus Lane Gillenwaters (sophomore in 15-16, I had him at 3-8 at 126/132), Ryan Fishburn (sophomore in 15-16, I had him at 2-13 at 152/160).

2015-16 captain: While Griffis should certainly be the captain in fact for the Tornadoes, I always like to look to a second wrestler that will need to step up for his team in the year ahead, and I’ll look to the upper weights for that. Of the three returning kids in the uppers, I think Andrew Sadler probably had the most success on the mats, with five contested victories by fall, including one over an eventual region qualifier. For Bradford to have more success next season, the upper weight guys will have to make an impact not just via the forfeit victories but in winning matches on the mat. Sadler could be key in showing the way on that front.

Heaton’s Hero: It’s not often that I’ll list a senior in this space, but only two 12th graders were in the lineup for the Tornadoes with any regularity this season. Of those, one enjoyed a near-MVP level of success. The other that did not also finished the season, however, and that was 132-pounder Dustin Laricsey. Laricsey did get a fall in the Tornadoes’ first quad of the season, when he was up three weight classes above what his end-of-season weight would be, but then saw his record fall to 1-9 at one point. Still, however, Laricsey did get three contested victories, all by fall, and the last one proved to be enough to get him into regions. He finished the year still in the lineup for Bradford, battling away, going six minutes in the final match of his high school career. Gotta like that. Dustin Laricsey is the Bradford representative for the Heaton’s Hero nomination.



The Season: Middleburg, 2014-15

Next up: Bradford


Season record: 20-6 in duals.

Tournament record: 6th at Westside Kiwanis December 12-13, 3rd at St. Cloud Bulldog Brawl December 19-20, 4th at St Johns River Conference IBT February 7, 12th at Green Cove Springs Rotary February 13-14, 2nd at 2A-District 3 meet February 27, 2nd at 2A-Region 1 meet March 6-7, T-17th at 2A State meet March 13-14.

Season in a nutshell: The Broncos made it clear right from the start that it was going to take a very strong team to knock them off, and it was not until January in a dual format before anyone did, as the Broncos had a pair of nine-win dual streaks during the season. Middleburg finished tied for fourth in our final team rankings, and only one team ranked below the Broncos did beat them — and it was, essentially, an away dual. But Middleburg was also very solid in IBTs, with three top-10s and just missing out on a fourth one at Clay. The Broncos finished just behind 2A Clay rival Orange Park at districts, but just ahead of the Raiders at regions, and had three placewinners en route to a top-20 team finish at states. With eight starters returning, including three hammers and three solid guys up top, Middleburg will be a force next season, too, particularly if it can find — or grow — some middles to fill in the center of the lineup.

2014-15 MVP: I could go in a few different directions for this one, but ultimately a choice has to be made, and I have to go with the guy who was ranked the highest in his weight class all season, and that would be 2015 graduate Zach McClinton. After a year away from the mats in 2013-14, McClinton (Trackwrestling and I had him at 45-8 at 138 pounds) returned to his starting role for Middleburg bigger, stronger and probably wiser. He was a top-3 pick in the weight class even before 2A rival Kaleb Warner moved up for the post-season, and by the end of the year was at least the #2 at the weight, with a claim for the top spot thanks to his state medal. McClinton dominated District 3 and Region 1 (where he pinned his way through the bracket without having to go to the second period). Before states, his only losses were to either state champs or 3A wrestlers. I wish I’d had more than one year to get a look at him, but anytime you can close out your career on the state podium, it’s a success.

Returning starters for 2015-16 (it should be noted that there were two wrestlers who had results at the SJR dual portion of the conference meet that were not reflected in the official results — as the host was also an area team, and they were not corrected on official, I kept the official result. You’ll see them if you click the link and scroll enough): Dylan Rossetti (senior in 15-16, Track had him at 39-7, I had him at 38-8 at 106), Joel King (sophomore in 15-16, Track had him at 10-14, I had him at 9-14 at 113), Bailey Custer (sophomore in 15-16, Track had him at 2-5, I had him at 19-22 at 120), Keath Sawdo (junior in 15-16, Track had him at 33-10, I had him at 32-11 at 145), Jonathan Shoen (senior in 15-16, Track had him at 39-10, I had him at 38-10 at 170), Kurt Jackson (sophomore in 15-16, Track had him at 24-17, I had him at 25-16 at 182), Ammon Meeks (senior in 15-16, Track had him at 32-17, I had him at 33-17 at 195), plus Robert Sheridan (senior in 15-16, I had him at 8-6 at 106/113), Austin Benton (sophomore in 15-16, I had him at 4-3 at 120), Cody Eastwood (sophomore in 15-16, I had him at 2-5 at 160/170) and Dylan Hanna (junior in 15-16, I had him at 18-5 at 170/182).

2015-16 captain: There’s no way to pick between them, so I’m going to — as I have for a couple of other teams — list two captains for the Broncos next year. Dylan Rossetti eats, breathes and sleeps wrestling. Everywhere I go, in-season or off, Dylan and his dad are there, unless Middleburg has a competition the same night and I’m not at it. The scouting one can pick up with that kind of mindset is a valuable asset that can’t be overlooked. Rossetti won his first 16 matches of 2014-15 and was ranked #1 at the weight for a good chunk of the season before winning districts and finishing second at regions. Combine Rossetti’s savvy with the physical skills of a Jonathan Shoen, and you have a fantastic combination. Shoen went 17-2 down the stretch between a loss to Palm Coast MVP Jake Trivett at the Flagler Duals and states, going 13-10 with Suwannee MVP Sasha Key. He dominated District 3, pinning his way through (including Ridgeview’s MVP) and then had four bonus-point wins, with none of them terribly close, at regions. Rossetti and Shoen, in different ways, should be excellent leaders for the Broncos next year.

Heaton’s Hero: While Eastwood is always going to be a HoF member (along with Columbia’s Christian Thompson) of this group of great kids, we’ll take a different direction for this season. As we mentioned above, the Broncos’ season accelerated in competitiveness as it got further along, and (other than the aces, of which are there many in the Middleburg lineup) most of the Broncos’ records took a little bit of a hit. Not so for freshman Joel King, who struggled early, but finished, by comparison, far stronger. He got his first cut in the lineup at St. Cloud, but was only 2-6 through the Orange Park 10-Way Duals in mid-January. From there, though, his record improved significantly, as he was either 7-8 or 8-8 down the stretch, qualified out of the strongest district in the region, and won two matches at regions. More work with the Broncos’ solid lower-weight crew and good off-season time should only help him get experience. For a strong finish when he needed it, Joel King is the Middleburg representative for the Heaton’s Hero nomination.



The Season: West Nassau, 2014-15

Next up: Middleburg

West Nassau

Season record: 5-11 in duals.

Tournament record: 6th at Bierbaum Invitational January 17, 7th at Raines 5 Star February 6-7, T-27th at Green Cove Springs Invitational February 13-14, 5th at Westside Roundrobin February 14, 4th at 1A-District 3 meet February 28, T-12th at 1A-Region 1 meet March 6-7, 25th at 1A State meet March 13-14.

Season in a nutshell: As I was often reminded when I would see Coach Avery, this was a pretty young team — not always in terms of year in school, although that was often the case, but in terms of mat experience. Only three wrestlers had been on my radar from a year ago, a year that I had thought could be West Nassau’s best chance to shine. The Warriors did struggle early in duals and in IBTs as well, but finishing in the top half at districts — with only eight wrestlers in the lineup (only three between 106 and 152) — was probably the team’s highlight moment of the season, and, in my view, could provide West Nassau with a good jump-off point going into 2015-16, particularly with seven regular-season starters potentially returning. However, the Warriors will have to work harder to find “guaranteed” points, with their top two stars graduating this month.

2014-15 MVP: Michael Dudzinski put himself on my radar early in the summer of 2013, when this website was still in the idea stages and hadn’t even been booked on WordPress yet. Here was this guy, going everywhere and trying to wrestle everybody. He got to states as a junior, but wound up not placing in what was a loaded 160-pound weight class. This year at 170, particularly in 1A, wasn’t going to be any easier. Still, though, Dudzinski (both Trackwrestling and I had him at 28-4) wrestled everybody. He didn’t take a loss in the regular season until the Clay Rotary tournament, and had he not gotten hurt, he might not have lost there. Wish I could have been there for his 1A-Region 1 final matchup with Suwannee MVP Sasha Key, a match we’d been hoping for all season. The loss there threw him into the same side at states with 1A’s top-ranked Dontae McGee. But Dudzinski isn’t afraid to go with anybody. He went 8-6 with McGee and gave him his closest match of the state tournament, going on to finish third with four wins on the back side. I know he enjoys football a great deal, but I was hoping to maybe see him in a Coker (or some other such Division II or III program) singlet for college. He’s another one that’s going to be missed in my book.

Returning starters for 2015-16: Jake Blount (sophomore in 15-16, Track had him at 15-10, I had him at 16-10 at 106), Brandon Bostick (senior in 15-16, Track had him at 9-16, I had him at 8-16 at 120), William Tharpe (sophomore in 15-16, Track had him at 17-15, I had him at 14-16 at 126), Daniel Hill (senior in 15-16, Track had him at 10-13, I had him at 8-19 at 160), Daniel Boylan (sophomore in 15-16, Track had him at 2-15, I had him at 5-15 at 182), JohnOwen Evans (senior in 15-16, Track had him at 4-12, I had him at 5-13 at 195), plus Caleb Aide (senior in 15-16, I had him at 10-12 at 152), Chance Terrell (sophomore in 15-16, I had him at 5-7 at 160), Joshua Gaus (senior in 15-16, I had him at 2-8 at 170).

2015-16 captain: If it’s a young team truly, then it should not be too surprising that a young guy could lead them. There were a lot of good 106s in the area this year, and not much room for solid 1A lights to break into that mix. Jake Blount was on the outside just looking in, but he had something that two ranked kids didn’t — state experience this year. Blount was the dominant 106 in District 3 and went 5-3 with area #6 Brandon Trask of Suwannee in the region quarters. From there, Blount won four matches to punch his ticket for states. That was a whirlwind experience for the Warrior freshman, who had to face two 40-match winners in his first two matches. The first didn’t go so well. The second was a fall in 1:23 for Blount, who then fell 4-2 in a bid to extend his season to Saturday. Getting a match win at states as a freshman will be huge in terms of experience and self-confidence for Blount.

Heaton’s Hero: Sometimes the start of a season can look very promising, when one looks at other teams’ wrestlers and how they do in the post-season and think “Hey, I pinned a 3A region qualifier.” Sometimes, though, the highlight of a season can come in the first week, and that’s a bit more of a sobering thought. In this space we have another freshman upper-weight wrestler (seems to be a theme here) that started the year and also finished the year as the starter. In this case, it’s Daniel Boylan, the Warriors’ 182 this past year. He only had one contested victory prior to the final week of the regular-season, but it did come against a 3A region qualifier (and, it should be noted, a fellow HH). Every loss Boylan took in 2014-15 was by fall, but he did pick up two falls at the Westside roundrobin. Boylan will look for a happier post-season experience after going 0-4 at districts and regions, but of nine teams in District 3, only four had 182s, and Boylan could have quit and played video games like a lot of 182-pound kids that don’t wrestle at all. But no. He went to practice, made weight and gave it his best. Daniel Boylan is the West Nassau representative for the Heaton’s Hero nomination.



The Season: Bolles, 2014-15

Next up: West Nassau


Season record: 9-10 in duals.

Tournament record: 15th at Westside Kiwanis December 12-13, 22nd at Palm Coast Rotary January 9-10, 4th at Bierbaum Invitational January 17, 17th at Green Cove Springs Rotary February 13-14, 2nd at 1A-District 4 meet February 28, 8th at 1A-Region 1 meet March 6-7, T-32nd at 1A State meet March 13-14.

Season in a nutshell: Bolles is a team that — because of the nature of the school’s justifiable emphasis upon football — can be a team that begins the year with higher expectations and few early results to match them, but by the end of the season the Bulldogs can be a freight train. That’s why the dual results are a little bit all over the place, but Bolles also wrestles a few stronger teams on its docket in local competitions, and got a bit of the state’s best at the two Rotary tournaments it attended at Palm Coast and Clay. The only negative to their schedule this past season is that they didn’t travel out of town much. They didn’t have their strongest showing at districts, but I would say for the Bulldogs to have a top-eight team finish at regions, and three individuals to states, was a good team effort. It’s a solid future for the Bulldogs, with 11 returning starters coming back in 2015-16. If they ever hit the ground running at the intensity with which they finish seasons, watch out.

2014-15 MVP: One of the easier choices out there, as over the past six years Josh Calhoun has established himself as one of the coverage area’s elite wrestlers at any weight class, and recently was recognized for the hard work he’s put in — both in folkstyle and in Greco-Roman, perhaps his best style — with an opportunity to wrestle at Edinboro University, a Division I program and top-five nationally-ranked team last year. Calhoun (I had him at 33-5 during the course of the season) lost just three times in the regular-season (5-2 to the Palm Coast 2015-16 NEFLM captain’s pick and 3A state finalist, by injury default in the semis of the Bierbaum Invitational, and 10-0 to the eventual 3A state champion from Winter Springs). States didn’t go well; last year, states probably went better than expected. But the end goal, even without a state title, of getting the opportunity at a nationally-elite program was still achieved. While it will be enjoyable to see where Calhoun takes his abilities at the #NextLevel, he’ll be missed here.

Returning starters for 2015-16: Josh Bono (8th in 15-16, I had him at 4-8 at 106), Dalton Posick (8th in 15-16, I had him at 5-8 at 113), Bennett Zimmerman (sophomore in 15-16, I had him at 13-15 at 120), KJ Fagan (freshman in 15-16, Trackwrestling had him at 19-13, I had him at 13-13 at 126), Gray Creed (senior in 15-16, I had him at 19-17 at 132), Conner Cronk (senior in 15-16, I had him at 30-12 at 138), Michael Surenyan (senior in 15-16, I had him at 29-10 at 152), Rushton Roberts (sophomore in 15-16, I had him at 5-16 at 160), Forrest Andrews (junior in 15-16, I had him at 10-12 at 170), Caleb Calhoun (junior in 15-16, I had him at 22-15 at 195), Justin Mitchell (junior in 15-16, I had him at 7-15 at 220).

2015-16 captain: There’s three solid seniors in the Bolles lineup that should be coming back, seniors who learned well under some recent great Bulldog examples, with Josh Calhoun just being the latest great one. There’s no substitute for winning locally and also gaining experience on the state’s biggest stage, however, and that’s why I would lean toward Michael Surenyan as a captain choice to start the year. Surenyan was a district champion this past season, and overcame a quarterfinal district loss against Godby’s Andrew Thaxton to punch his ticket for states with three wins on the back end. His state experience was a quick one, going 0-2 and losing to a senior in the consi first round, with said senior going on to make the podium. It will be a good learning experience for Surenyan to take into his senior season. With 11 starters returning in the Bolles lineup, he’ll be leading a Bulldog team that has a good deal of returning experience.

Heaton’s Hero: Being an underclassman, Rushton Roberts didn’t have standardized tests taking him out of the lineup on occasion during the course of the season, but as so many freshman upper-weights do, he had a steep learning curve to climb this year. Roberts was a year-long presence in the lineup, wrestling mostly at 160, and he did come up with four falls along the way. There were plenty going the other way, too, as not a single match — up or down — went the whole six minutes. There’s a full stable of good coaches in the Bolles arena for him to work on his skills, but one thing that’s not so easily taught is stick-to-itiveness, and Roberts certainly displayed that this year for the Bulldogs. It’ll pay off one day, and hopefully on the mats soon. Rushton Roberts is the Bolles representative for the Heaton’s Hero nomination.



The Season: Englewood, 2014-15

Next up: Bolles


Season record: 10-12 in duals.

Tournament record: 3rd at Arlington Optimist December 5-6, 11th at Gateway Conference January 16-17, 7th at 2A-District 3 meet February 27, 24th at 2A-Region 1 meet March 6-7. No state qualifiers.

Season in a nutshell: If you just look at the sub-.500 record and the back-of-the-pack Gateway and district finishes, it doesn’t look like a great season. But there was a big attitudinal shift among the Rams this year, and it showed in the competitiveness of the individual kids and in the team as a whole. There were still occasions whwre duals would be one-sided affairs against Englewood, as was the case a year ago, but that was due more to the fact that the Rams still had a few open weights during the course of the season, and had some issues with keeping kids in the lineup late because of spring sports. Hopefully the schedules rectifies some of those issues next year, because I really like the direction the Rams are taking and, most especially, the energy they’re bringing while they’re taking it.

2014-15 MVP: Look no further than senior heavyweight Derrick Mason as an example of the progress that the Rams made this year. Mason didn’t have a single varsity match in his junior season, at least as far as my records from last year indicated. So I had no idea what to expect from him this year when he came in and decisively took over the 285 spot, which three kids had held down a year ago. Mason had a win by decision over Creekside’s very solid 285 (two-year state qualiifier), and hung in there for six minutes against the eventual area #1 and Wolfson MVP on their second of what would be four meetings (the others did result in pins). He also hung in there against the area’s #7, taking two losses by decision. Mason placed third at districts, something only one other Englewood wrestler did (more on him in a bit) and won two matches at regions. Considering he had no mat time at all in 2013-14, to get to Saturday at regions this year is a pretty sizable accomplishment.

Returning starters for 2015-16: Leo Galeas (sophomore in 15-16, Trackwrestling had him at 10-17, I had him at 6-15 at 106, although I think some of his matches were put under his brother in my records), Tanner Kern (junior in 15-16, Track and I had him at 13-18 at 126), Dustin Williams (senior in 15-16, Track and I had him at 26-10 at 138), Tavian Whitehead (junior in 15-16, Track had him at 27-11, I had him at 26-12 at 145), Justin Griffis (senior in 15-16, Track had him at 14-16, I had him at 15-15 at 160), plus Jordan Roelse (sophomore in 15-16, I had him at 3-3 at 106), Archie Brown (junior in 15-16, I had him at 10-7 at 113), Jonathan Galeas (senior in 15-16, I had him at 12-15 at 120 — there were some 113 matches that I think were actually his brother’s), Josh Rutgers (sophomore in 15-16, I had him at 1-7 at 138), Michel Augustine (junior in 15-16, I had him at 6-2 at 170/182), Nicholas Wiggins (junior in 15-16, I had him at 8-9 at 220).

2015-16 captain: Captains ought to be the emotional centerpoint of a wrestling team, and I don’t think anybody takes losing harder than Dustin Williams. He transferred in this year and made a sizable impact on the middle of the Rams’ lineup, and giving teammate Whitehead a formidable practice partner — which made Whitehead significantly better as well. Williams had win streaks of nine and eight wins, as I had them recorded, during the course of the season, and just missed out on being ranked in the final polls (a loss by fall at Gateway proved to be the difference). I would not be surprised to see that change this next season. His coaches love his energy and his willingness to grind in the practice room, perfect attributes for a captain. Williams also took third at districts, going 10-8 with Ed White MVP Darien Tucker in the semis, and won a first-round match at regions.

Heaton’s Hero: There was quite a bit of movement in the Rams’ lower weights this season, but one of the anchors that was in it from day 1 to districts was Tanner Kern at 132 and, eventually, 126. His record wasn’t quite what it was a freshman, when he finished .500 at 126, but that only started to go south a little bit at the end of the season. At one point, I had him at 12-12, but then had just one win in his final six matches. The win came in Englewood’s home regular-season finale, and he opened districts with a very entertaining (probably not for the coaches) 17-10 loss before bowing out. For sticking it out through the season, Tanner Kern is the Englewood representative for the Heaton’s Hero nomination.



The Season: Raines, 2014-15

Next up: Englewood


Season record: 9-14 in duals.

Tournament record: 20th at Capital City Classic December 12-13, 3rd at Backyard Bash December 19-20, 16th at Jensen Beach Cradle Cancer January 2-3, 14th at Somerset 1A Scuffle January 9-10, 8th at Gateway Conference meet January 16-17, 8th at Raines 5 Star IBT February 6-7, 20th at Green Cove Springs Rotary February 13-14, 7th at 1A-District 3 meet February 28, 21st at 1A-Region 1 meet March 6-7, T-70th at 1A State meet March 13-14.

Season in a nutshell: I have to say that I really loved Raines’ schedule during the year. The Vikings were another school that traveled everywhere in 2014-15. They visited my parents twice in Englewood (OK, they were five minutes away at Lemon Bay HS), went to the Diamondback Duals hosted by Belleview HS, and the Somerset Scuffle in the southeast corner of the state. Duval teams: the 50-mile radius is no longer a reality. It was two years ago, not anymore. However, there may have been some downsides to all of the competition (a couple Raines kids had 50+ matches and most of the regular starters had 30+, something very different from a lot of other Duval County public school teams’ experiences), as the Vikings only suited up four wrestlers for districts — at their home gym. Brian Gilbert knows what he’s doing, so that’s not the issue in my mind — there are some young men who need to buy in a little more deeply.

2014-15 MVP: Demonta Bell moved over from Andrew Jackson to Raines for his senior season after working with Gilbert during the off-season of 2014. Bell was another one of those seniors that I wanted to see make the state tournament. Talent, athleticism and strength — Bell had all of those things. And he had tons of mat time this year — 62 matches WITHOUT a date at states. Bell was a Gateway and 1A-District 3 runnerup, but found himself on the losing end of a quarterfinal matchup at regions, and then got back to within one match of states, only to fall short by a takedown. It’s unfortunate — Bell did everything he could do to get himself a shot at states in his final year, changing schools…even dropping weight classes to a point where he wrestled below where he did as a junior in order to find a home. I do wish it would have worked out for him. I think it’s certainly possible that his senior class could be the year that things change in an upward direction for the Vikings, however.

Returning starters for 2015-16: Jaquan English (sophomore in 15-16, Trackwrestling had him at 34-20, I had him at 35-20 at 113), Daisean Biffle (senior in 15-16, Track had him at 18-10, I had him at 16-11 at 132), Josh Bailey (senior in 15-16, Track and I had him at 4-9 at 182, plus Joseph Haynes (junior in 15-16, I had him at 22-10 at 106), Anthony Baker (senior in 15-16, I had him at 3-10 at 138), Jeremiah Prince (senior in 15-16, I had him at 17-13 at 160/170), Daiquan Buford (junior in 15-16, I had him at 6-8 at 170), Tyrann Baxter (senior in 15-16, I had him at 22-10 at 182) and Qiuan Smith (junior in 15-16, I had him at 6-4 at 285).

2015-16 captain: Not knowing what happened with the juniors and why they didn’t compete in the post-season this year, and remembering that a couple of them (Baxter, in particular) had some solid leadership characteristics, I would have to go with the Viking that went the farthest in 2014-15, and that would be English, who lost only to the eventual Gateway champ in taking third at that meet, adding a district runnerup finish and third-place finish at regions that got his ticket punched for states. As at Gateway, English only lost to the eventual region champion. While he didn’t wrestle at states (again, not exactly certain why on that one), what we did see from him was how much progress he made since the beginning of the season — first physically and later emotionally. If everybody comes back in 2015-16, Raines will be a solid team, but will need a couple of stars to show the way. English could very well be one of those stars.

Heaton’s Hero: Sometimes life presents a situation where being very solid in one sport doesn’t necessarily mean a high degree of success in another sport. Josh Bailey was the city of Jacksonville’s top shot putter this past spring (at least as far as district meet results were concerned), but of the three returners who competed at districts, Bailey was the one finding the least amount of success on the wrestling mats. Part of the problem was just getting beaten out by more-experienced teammates (Baxter and 2015 graduate Jermaine Oliver), but Bailey’s four wins did include a pair of falls along the way — including in the District 3 third-place match at 182. Getting some regions experience, however short, and yes, the boost he’ll have from track, should help in his senior year. For hanging in there (and for throwing far), Josh Bailey is the Raines representative for the Heaton’s Hero nomination.