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The Season 2017-18: Sandalwood

Welcome back to our annual series of season wrap-up posts, which we cleverly titled as “The Season (20xx-xx).” 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 for the first change, our next installment in the series is Sandalwood, our fourth team from this district.

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.

SANDALWOOD

You can see everything I have on the Saints in 2017-18 here –>  SANDALWOOD

Win/loss record: 3-5 in dual meets. Please review the attached document for a summary of the Saints’ performance in IBT events.

Season in a nutshell: As has been the case in the Casey Gibson era, the Saints focused predominantly on IBTs this past season, opening with top-six finishes at Terry Parker’s Arlington Optimist (third) and Bishop Snyder’s Westside Kiwanis (sixth). Sandalwood had their only duals experience in the third weekend of December, going 3-5 to finish sixth at the Bobcat Holiday Duals hosted by Buchholz. The Saints had a mid-pack finish at Lyman just before Christmas, and then were off until the Gateway Conference meet in the third weekend of January. After a tough outcome at Flagler Rotary, Sandalwood’s Pagan sisters pulled the Saints to a mid-pack finish at the girls’ state meet. From there, Sandalwood had some struggles in the FHSAA post-season series, taking eighth at the District 1 traditional meet and 34th at Region 1. The Saints have a number of kids back last year, losing just one senior with 15+ matches, but Sandalwood will need extensive off-season work to forge a return to the glories found earlier this decade.

Key returners (15+ matches this past season or post-season experience) for 2018-19 (with year in school as they’ll be next year): Gabriel Daltro (unknown year, 8-8 at 113, did not compete in post-season); Lance Owens (sophomore, 5-13 at 132, did not compete in post-season); Nakeem Murphy (junior, 4-10 at 138, 0-2 at districts); Blake Friend (junior, 7-17 at 145, 1 match from regions); Layza Pagan (junior, 145, 1-2 at girls’ state); Lavaughn Brown (junior, 18-12 at 152, district 3rd, 1-2 at regions); Aixanet Pagan (sophomore, 160, 2-2 at girls’ state); Leonardo Alonzo (senior, 13-8 at 182, district 4th, 1-2 at regions); Joshua Brown (sophomore, 6-16 at 195, 0-2 at districts); Joshua Newkirk (sophomore, 0-4 at 220, 0-2 at districts); Devin Smith (junior, 14-10 at 220, did not compete in post-season); Gustavo Martinez (junior, 16-11 at 285, did not compete in post-season).

Graduation losses (15+ matches this past season or post-season experience) from this year’s team: Leon Cruz (14-13 at 113, 1 match from regions).

2017-18 MVP: Sophomore Lavaughn Brown wouldn’t be quite so able to sneak up on folks after a freshman season in which he led all freshmen in the Matmen coverage area in victories. Brown had a pair of runnerup efforts to start the season, with seconds at both Arlington Optimist and Westside Kiwanis, and had a solid 6-2 weekend at Buchholz, but then struggled a bit at Lyman. Brown picked up a third runnerup finish at Gateway, adding a third at districts with a loss only to an eventual state qualifier, but ran into two solid District 2 kids at the Region 1 event. Should he get in some summer work, I could see Brown making a serious run for the state tournament in the next two seasons.

2018-19 captain: Leonardo Alonzo was probably the most capable wrestler after Brown in the Saints’ lineup this year, returning to the lineup after a solid freshman season two years ago. Alonzo took the title at Optimist and finished third at Kiwanis and Gateway, with a 2-2 tournament at Flagler Rotary, but he was not in the lineup for either the Bobcat duals tournament at Buchholz or at Lyman, and those two events might have given him just a bit more familiarity with the 3A-Region 1 field. Alonzo did qualify out of districts — something a lot of other quality kids did not do — but two very solid District 3 kids ended his post-season run on Friday at regions. Alonzo will be among the most-experienced kids in the Sandalwood lineup in 2018-19.

Heaton’s Hero: Sophomore Blake Friend wrestled all but two matches at 145, as a way perhaps to help the team, with one appearance at Flagler Rotary at 138. Friend came up with seven wins, four of those via fall, but all of his losses were also by fall as well. Still, though, Friend was a regular in the lineup at every tournament with the exception of Gateway Conference. If Friend can pull together some more off-season work, he might be able to earn himself some more success on the mats, but his determination to keep working throughout the season has earned Blake Friend the Heaton’s Hero nomination for Sandalwood.

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