Welcome back to our annual series of season wrap-up posts, which we cleverly titled as “The Season (2017-18).” Your donation dollars at work, folks.
This year, we’re not following a rotation scheme. We’re keeping it a bit more random this go-round. Using a highly scientific line of inquiry, our next installment in the series is Middleburg, our second team out of 2A-District 3.
Each The Season post will have the same content as they’ve had for the past four seasons. At the request of a reader last season, we will note the accomplishments of each team’s senior class that will be moving on to new goals in May or June.
You can see everything I have on the Broncos in 2017-18 here –> MIDDLEBURG
Win/loss record: 17-9 in dual meets. Please review the attached document for a summary of the Broncos’ performance in IBT events.
Season in a nutshell: With a team that routinely — though not necessarily all season long — forfeited at least four weights, Middleburg experienced some solid success nonetheless this past year. The Broncos opened with a T-12th at the Keystone Invitational, and went 3-2 at Orange Park’s 6-Way to start the season. Middleburg had a solid tournament at St Johns River Conference just before Christmas, going 6-2 with losses only to Fleming Island and Matanzas, and then had a solid 6-3 performance at Gainesville’s Category V duals tournament between Christmas and New Year’s. The Broncos were third at 2A-District 3’s inaugural duals tournament on January 4, and then focused mainly on IBTs from that point going forward. Those were a bit tougher to gain traction for Middleburg, as they were mid-pack at Lincoln’s Trojan Invitational (11th out of 17), Flagler Rotary (19th out of 29) and Clay’s Rotary (19th out of 33 teams). Still, though, the Broncos were solid at districts (third) and took 11th at 2A-Region 1, with a couple of state qualifiers. The Broncos are pretty power-packed from 106 through 152, with a total of 11 returning wrestlers with 15+ matches, so if Middleburg can grow a couple of their kids into the upper weights, watch out. The Broncos will lose just one senior with significant 2017-18 experience.
Key returners (15+ matches this past season or post-season experience) for 2018-19 (with year in school as they’ll be next year): Tazz Hampton (junior, 35-12 at 106, district runnerup, region runnerup, 1-2 at states); Gabriel Burch (sophomore, 21-9 at 106/113, did not compete in post-season); James Benton (sophomore, 25-15 at 113, district runnerup, region 4th, 0-2 at states); Logan Kline (senior, 11-10 at 126, did not compete in post-season); Chris Burch (senior, 37-17 at 132, district champ, region 4th, 0-2 at states); Storm Mercado (senior, 37-15 at 138, district runnerup, 1 match short of states); Dustin Tollison (junior, 29-17 at 145, district champ, 0-2 at regions); Bryce Williams (senior, 30-13 at 152, district champ, 1 match short of states); Michael Higginbotham (sophomore, 8-7 at 145/152/160, did not compete in post-season); Chris Conaway (sophomore, 11-21 at 160, did not compete in post-season); Alex Nayfack (sophomore, 9-28 at 160, 1 match from regions).
Graduation losses (15+ matches this past season or post-season experience) from this year’s team: Austin Benton (20-8 at 120, district runnerup, 1 match short of states);
2017-18 MVP: As a freshman last year, Tazz Hampton put together a post-season run that outpaced expectations, as Hampton made his way into the state tournament. This year, Hampton took on solid competition for the entirety of the season and proved, by season’s end, that he could hang with the most elite of the lighter weights in the coverage area, and even the state. Hampton found some difficult early competition at Keystone and Orange Park, but then won 12 of 13 matches in a row between St Johns River and Gainesville, with the only loss coming at 113 to an eventual state champion, and the next loss after that against a 3A state placer at 113. Hampton then won nine matches in a row before falling to another 3A placer in the finals at Lincoln. After IDing out of Flagler, Hampton would return for the post-season, where he pushed Ridgeview’s Matthew Rodriquez to the brink after giving up a sizable lead early on. Hampton then repeated the feat in reaching the region finals, and was Middleburg’s only competitor to take a match at states. With a healthy junior season, he’ll be a force for the Broncos.
2018-19 captain: Of the three returning state qualifiers, just one will be a senior next year, and Chris Burch has proven himself to be right on the cusp of being one the area’s stronger middleweights for 2018-19. Burch had a slower start than he would have liked due to a strong 132 field at Keystone, but he ran the table at Keystone and was solid at St Johns River and Gainesville, winning 16 of 18 matches after a 4-3 start, and going on another 9-1 streak shortly after that. Burch ran into some snags down the stretch of the regular season, but did place at both Flagler and Clay Rotaries, no easy feat to pull off. He dominated the scene at districts, running into a pair of tough customers at the region tournament before placing fourth. At states, Burch had two placer-level opponents, losing by just one point in the first round to the Region 4 champion. He’ll be, once again, a key cog in Middleburg’s success in 2018-19.
Heaton’s Hero: While the Broncos typically had coverage at 160 and 170, the freshmen in place at those weights were at a significant strength and experience disadvantage compared to their opponents throughout the season. The one of those freshmen who completed the full season in the Bronco lineup was Alex Nayfack, who spent most of his early time of the season at 160, but split time between there and 170 at St Johns River Conference and wrestled almost every event in January forward at the higher weight. While Nayfack had some early falls at 160 (one at Keystone, two at Orange Park), those got harder to find at 170 as the season wore on; in fact, there might have been just one, at Trojan Invitational (and that would have been at 160). But Nayfack stuck it out the whole season for the Broncos, and for that, Alex Nayfack is the Heaton’s Hero for Middleburg.
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