Team synopsis: Still comes down to a test of Wakulla’s star power vs. Florida High’s depth. The War Eagles have some superstars returning to the lineup, while Florida High maintains a consistency across the board. Will the War Eagles’ second group provide enough depth to carry it over the top? Will the Seminoles find a star or two that can be a state podium threat?
I don’t know that Wakulla will repeat as region champion — having Clay back in Region 1, plus Arnold — will make things difficult for the War Eagles — but I maintain, as Ric Flair might say, that to be the Man, you got to beat the Man. And Wakulla, in this district, still seems to be the Man.
Then there is Suwannee. A year ago, the Bulldogs — based solely on 2014 Expected key returners — had the lineup to challenge Wakulla. Then two Expected key returners (one a state qualifier, who left mid-season) didn’t come back out. Add back-to-back new coaches in the past two seasons, with Suwannee JHS coach Paul Horne taking over the reins this year, and the Bulldogs continue to be a team experiencing, and doing its level best to try to overcome, a state of flux.
That is the case again this year, with 2015 state placer Tyler Foster, a three-time district champion and Scout’s top-ranked 182-pounder in Class 1A, reportedly no longer in school. Even without Foster, Horne has kids long on potential; still, numbers issues, in terms of filling out a full lineup, will be challenging, and keeping everybody in singlets is already difficult enough as it is. That being said, unless there’s a major influx of move-ins, I wouldn’t project the Bulldogs falling below third in this district, and they certainly know when to peak at the right time, finishing a stunning 3rd at regions last year.
Projected finish: 1. Wakulla. 2. Florida High. 3. Suwannee. 4. Godby. 5. North Florida Christian. 6. Rickards.
Coach: Paul Horne, 1st year.
2014-15: 3-2 in duals. 14th at Border Wars, 10th at Capital City Classic, 13th at Soddy Daisy (TN) Showdown, 6th at Billy Saylor Invite, 7th at King of the Ring, 5th at Raines 5 Star, 16th at Clay Rotary. 3rd at district, 3rd at region, T-15th at states.
Expected key returners (post-season competitors and others with 15 matches):
Seniors: Michael Santangelo (16-11 in 2014-15, district runnerup, region 4th, 0-2 at states); Rossie Williams (10-26 in 2014-15, district 4th, 1 match from states).
Juniors: Joseph Borrell (9-7 in 2014-15, district runnerup, region 4th, 0-2 at states), Tanner Clark (16-28 in 2014-15, district 3rd, region 4th, 0-2 at states), Kenneth Foster (14-34 in 2014-15, district 3rd, region 4th, 0-2 at states), Brandon Trask (35-16 in 2014-15, district runnerup, region runnerup, 0-2 at states).
Sophomores: Robert Fletcher (10-18 in 2014-15, did not compete post-season).
Matmen’s take: Should Foster return to school and be able to compete, even on a half-season’s basis, he’s solid enough to get back to the state podium, although the time away would be a damper to a title run. If he doesn’t, don’t fret too much for the Bulldogs, as there’s five other returning qualifiers with states experience. Borrell and Trask, in particular, would have good chances to podium this year.