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Battle of the Border Recap: Eleven Area Champions Crowned

By SHANNON HEATON
North Florida Matmen
YULEE — Space Coast might have won the team competition in last weekend’s Battle of the Border, but 11 Matmen-area individuals walked away with titles in the two-day IBT.

Space Coast, behind 12 individual medalists, outpointed Yulee and Suwannee for the team title. The Vipers finished with 151 points, to Yulee’s 121 and Suwannee’s 103. Ridgeview was fourth with 92.5, edging out Baker County (90). South Walton (88.5) was sixth, followed by Victory Christian (88), Westside (77), Ponte Vedra (70), Bradford (52.5), Episcopal (48), Ed White (42), Mosley (34), Fernandina Beach (18) and FSDB (10).

Below follows a summary of the 14 weight classes in competition last weekend:

Rodriquez
Matthew Rodriquez

106 — Ridgeview’s Matthew Rodriquez dominated the field, with bonus points in every round. Those included a fall over Fernandina Beach’s Jeremy Mahoney in the quarters and a major decision in the semis over Ed White’s Bruce Harting. In the finals, Rodriquez polished off his weekend with a technical fall over Suwannee’s Xander Kirkland (fall & decisionn prior to the final). “I’ve been practicing really hard, mainly focusing on my conditioning, since I used to get tired a lot. Practicing stance, motion. It helps me keep going,” Rodriquez said. “(His offseason work) is giving me chances even with guys that aren’t so good, helps me with moves I need to work on and helps me get better. I know what I have to focus on for district/regional/state.” Space Coast’s Ryan Vite came back for third place after losing by decision to Kirkland in the semis, with a pair of decisions, the second one a 10-8 win on a last-second takedown over Harting for third place.

Hopkins
Kyle Hopkins

113 — Episcopal’s Kyle Hopkins pinned his way into the finals, with falls over Yulee’s Trevor Gladson and Ridgeview’s Gabriel Guzman in the quarters and semis. Hopkins couldn’t pick up a third fall in the final, but did set the pace in a 14-2 major decision over Ponte Vedra’s Gavin Riccobono (fall & decision prior to the final). “Seedings don’t matter, but I knew the second seed I’d pinned at (Episcopal’s Rob) Bierbaum, so I felt extremely confident, but he’s definitely getting stronger,” Hopkins said. “This time, it went a full six minutes, but I told myself I wasn’t going to lose. I won, so I’m happy.” Guzman came back to take third place with a fall in the consi semis and then a 12-7 decision over Suwannee’s Timothy Jolicoeur, who’d lost to Riccobono in the semis, for third place.

Ware
Jordan Ware

120 — Like his predecessors at 106 and 113, Suwannee’s Jordan Ware had bonus points in every round, with a major decision in the quarters over Yulee’s Bryce Bees and a fall in the semis over Ponte Vedra’s Preston Turner. Ware used his extra length for full advantage in picking up a couple of turns in the championship match against Westside’s Demarcus Wilson (fall & decision prior to final), winning with an 11-3 major. “I wrestled a lot of good people; I just had to remain aggressive,” Ware said. “Be aggressive and do what my coaches are telling me to do. (Winning an IBT) is a big step for me. I want to work on my pinning combinations; I wanted a pin for the finals. But overall I think I did good, and now I’ll get ready for next weekend.” Turner came back to finish third with two decisions, the second of those a 6-4 win over Bees, who had to win twice at the back to earn a medal.

Pickren
Ethan Pickren

126 — South Walton’s Ethan Pickren pinned his way into the finals, with pins over Ponte Vedra’s Rett Maritato in the quarters and Yulee’s Orion Duffy in the semis, but found slower going in the final against Suwannee’s Chase Clark (fall & decision prior to final). Pickren kept Clark off the scoreboard, but couldn’t find a turn that was fully effective, taking a 7-0 decision. “He’s a real strong, kid, stronger than most kids I’ve ever wrestled. It’s hard to get in on strong kids, so you have to have to work from out at a distance,” Pickren said. “A really tough opponent; that will be a real tough match at regionals. (Coming back to South Walton) has been pretty easy, a close change, not much of a real difference. I had friends on the team, and everyone in the room knows how to wrestle.” Space Coast’s Thomas Driscoll, who’d lost to Clark in the semis, came back for third, with a major and then a 5-1 third-place decision over Duffy.

Weinthal
Seth Weinthal

132 — The Seahawks’ Seth Weinthal made it back-to-back titles for South Walton, taking a fall in the quarters over Victory Christian’s Zeek Lemmond, then decisioning Suwannee’s Caleb Parsons in the semis, following that up with a 4-1 win over Space Coast’s Legend Newsome (fall & decision prior to final) for the title. “I think I could have wrestled better, but I’m happy with the outcome,” Weinthal said. “Happy to be here and compete and get the gold medal. (On the South Walton room and Pickren’s addition) He brings a lot of energy, helps a lot with all of us, especially me. It’s made me a better wrestler, and I’m sure everyone else. In the past, we weren’t much of a dual team, but the guys we did have were all solid. Now we moved up at districts and that (qualifying for dual regions) was an awesome experience.”

Ejmali
Saeid Ejmali

138 — Ridgeview’s Saeid Ejmali controlled the pace of the bracket throughout the weekend, with pins in the quarters over Mosley’s William Carmichael and semis over Baker County’s Devon Cole. In the final, against a very good Jason Amato (fall & decision prior to final) of Space Coast, Ejmali shut down Amato’s attacks, putting together enough of his own for a 9-0 major. “We’ve got three really great coaches and kids; we only had eight here, kids have been hurt or had the flu, but six of them placed,” Ejmali said of his team. “I didn’t want to pin my way through, but the last kid was good. I wanted to go out, hustle, finish and do it dominating fashion. That’s what I came here to do, and I did it.” Episcopal’s Reid Hampton, who lost to Amato in the semis, came back for third with a fall in the consi semis and then a 5-2 win over Cole for third place.

145 — Anthony Minacapelli of Space Coast had to win just two matches to take his bracket title, with a fall in the semis over Baker’s James Knabb, and then a 12-3 major in the finals over Ponte Vedra’s Evan Merry (two falls prior to the final). Bradford’s Dylan Mead, who’d lost to Merry in the semis, was third behind a walkover in the consi semis and second-period fall in 3:25 over Knabb for third place.

Williams
Terrell Williams

152 — Suwannee’s Terrell Williams gave the Bulldogs their second title on the day, with a win by default in the quarters, followed by a pair of wins, both decisions, over two solid wrestlers, first Westside’s Angelo Philpot in the semis and then an 11-5 victory over Space Coast’s Reggie Bradley (pin prior to final) in the championship. “So much difference (from 2 years ago. I didn’t make it to state two years ago (after qualifying), and now I’m 10th in the state,” Williams said. “I wish I’d had more matches; I came to get all the matches I can and get better. Having all the guys I’ve had in the room (in the middle of the Suwannee lineup, both this year and in prior seasons) has helped a lot. It makes me work hard on my shots. I want to be the best at Suwannee; as soon as you put that S on your chest, you’re a part of something big. We still have alumni kids and other coaches who went to Suwannee that come in and help, and it makes me very proud to be a part of it.” Yulee’s Tyler Berrier, who’d lost to Bradley by fall in the semis, came back for third with a fall and 10-5 third-place decision over Philpot.

Montemurro
Logan Montemurro

160 — Bradford’s Logan Montemurro had bonus-point wins prior to the final, with a major over FSDB’s Liam Von Mahr in the quarters and a tech fall over Victory Christian’s Ashton Gehret in the semis, but had to tighten up in a potential region rivalry matchup in the finals, overcoming Mosley’s Jarred Pitts (fall & decision prior to final) by an 8-6 count to take another tournament title. “Just getting ready for districts; I’ve got a lot to work. Need to work on getting better, just overall,” Montemurro said. “We’re a young team, we’ve got a young coach, but our coach is very dedicated to us.” Westside’s John Jones, who’d lost to Pitts in the semis, came back for third with a pair of falls, pinning Yulee’s Gunner Harrison in the third-place match.

Barton
Harris Barton

170 — South Walton picked up its third title of the day here, as the Seahawks’ Harris Barton — a first-year wrestler but one coming in with plenty of junior-level experience — bonus-pointed his way through the tournament. Barton pinned Yulee’s Victor Jansen in the round of 16, Space Coast’s Marcos Santos in the quarters and majored Ed White’s Jackie Dinh in the semis. In the final against Baker County’s Tyler Barnett (fall & major prior to final), Barton got back to his pinning ways, with a fall in 2:52 for the title. “I wrestled for Back in Black (a Panama City Beach club) in sixth and seventh grade but left because I liked baseball. But I’ve always had a thing for one-on-one competition, I got the itch to compete again, and it’s awesome. Improvement is coming so fast, it’s great,” Barton said. “I just didn’t want to be over-aggressive i nthe final, be technical and meticulous with my moves.” Bradford’s Jesse Burch, who’d lost in the quarters, won four matches at the back to take third, with a decision and three pins, the third of those in 1:51 over Santos for third place.

182 — Victory Christian’s Zach Wendle had two wins for this title, with a fall in the semis over South Walton’s Mason Levasseur and then a shutout 7-0 decision over Westside’s Calvin Altman (fall and walkover prior to final). Levasseur’s tech fall in the consi semis over Space Coast’s Isaac Lenhart was enough to assure third, as he had a walkover in that match.

195 — In the wildest and most competitive final of the tournament, in a matchup that may eventually see two state placers come out of it, Victory Christian’s Stetson Smith overcame a sizable early deficit and shoulder injury, coming back with a vengeance in the third period to fall Space Coast’s Johnathan Pankow (2 falls prior to final). Smith had pinned Westside’s Samir Thompson in the quarters and Ed White’s Landon Wilder in the semis. Ridgeview’s Nick Siemenof had to win three matches on the bounce in the consis to take third, decisioning Yulee’s Michael Crawford, 8-5, in another fairly tense match there.

Jones
Anthony Jones

220 — Ed White’s Anthony Jones got more confident as the tournament went along, with decisions in the quarters over Baker County’s Blake Dicks and in the semis over Fernandina Beach’s Robbie Elefterion, but then cranked up the offense in the title match, with several turns en route to a 17-5 major over Yulee’s Bradley Durrance (fall & walkover prior to final). “It feels good. Lot of hard work, a huge six minutes. Felt good,” Jones said. “It always happens when I wrestle that if my move is there, I hit them, but I move too fast and I might end up on my back. Really had to slow down and listen to my coaches. This feels great; hopefully I can show the state of Florida some more.” Dicks came back for third behind a walkover in the consi semis and then an 8-0 major over Space Coast’s T-Jay Mitchell for third.

Lewis
McKenzie Lewis

285 — Yulee’s McKenzie Lewis got the host Hornets on the board in terms of champions, pinning his way through the bracket, with pins over Ridgeview’s Nai Rousseau in the quarters and Westside’s Ray Bolden in the semis, then finishing off with a fall in 1:11 over Victory Christian’s Marquis Holloway in the final. “When Bradley lost, it really pushed me to win my next match, and when I went out there, I was telling myself in my mind, I can do this, and I pulled out the win,” Lewis said. “I’ve been putting in a lot of work. Just straight dogging it out in the wrestling room. I’m ready to place this year. Ready to see what I’ve really got. They will put up a good fight, and so will I.” Baker County’s Jaquez Elliott, who’d lost in the quarters, won three matches at the back for third, with two pins and a 9-2 decision over Rousseau in the third-place match.

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