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, our next installment in the series is FSDB, our third team out of 1A-District 4.
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 Dragons in 2017-18 here –> FSDB
Win/loss record: 6-18 in dual meets. Please review the attached document for a summary of the Falcons’ performance in IBT events.
Season in a nutshell: The Dragons opened the season with some new faces and some experienced kids not coming back, which has been something of a pattern of late. FSDB struggled some at Arlington Optimist, with a ninth-place start in that tournament, but that would be their last IBT event until the end of January. A mixed bag of dual results gave way to a larger duals tournament, Buchholz’s Bobcat Holiday Duals, where the Dragons were 3-5. FSDB were 1-2 at the St Augustine duals quad to kick off 2018, but then could not find a dual victory at Terry Parker’s Army Duals event on the second weekend in January. Being short-handed — and inexperienced — continued to plague the Dragons into the season’s end, but FSDB did take a dual win over Raines — its first in a month. Tournaments also continued to be a sticking point, with two last-place efforts at Battle of the Border and the 1A-District 4 traditional meet, but FSDB did finish a little bit off the bottom of the 1A-Region 1 heap. FSDB will have six wrestlers returning that had 15 matches or more, five of those with post-season experience and three with region-tournament experience, losing just one senior who had 15+ matches this year.
Key returners (15+ matches this past season or post-season experience) for 2018-19 (with year in school as they’ll be next year): Luke Boccuzzo (freshman, 26-6 at 106, district champ, 2-2 at regions); Lance Gardenhire (sophomore, 20-13 at 113, district 4th, 0-2 at regions); Ajani Zahira (7th, 12-19 at 120, district 3rd, 0-2 at regions); Ty Snow (sophomore, 9-16 at 126, 1 match from regions); Tayshaun Smith (junior, 13-16 at 145, 1 match from regions); Willie Noble (freshman, 4-15 at 285, did not compete in post-season).
Graduation losses from this year’s team (15+ matches this past season or post-season experience): Liam Von Mahr (18-12 at 160, did not compete in post-season).
2017-18 MVP: One of the fresh faces that made the biggest impact on the Dragons this past year was eighth-grader Luke Boccuzzo, who jumped into the season with both feet. After losing his very first varsity match, Boccuzzo won his next six, and then 13 of his next 14 to roll out to a 19-2 start. That included several wins at Army Duals, but there were a couple of losses as well. Boccuzzo became the Dragons’ first district champion since (I believe) 2015, when FSDB had three district titlists that year. After a first round bye at regions, Boccuzzo was defeated by a pair of eventual state qualifiers, one in the quarters and another in the blood round, but, assuming that he sticks with the sport, he should have a few more chances to return the FSDB program to the state tournament.
2018-19 captain: Freshman Lance Gardenhire was a regular presence in the Dragon lineup this year after a part-time role in his eighth-grade season, and the results began to start showing this past year. Although he did have a majority of his wins coming via forfeit, he was able to establish himself as more of a winning presence in the lineup, taking several falls in a few different environments, finishing third at Optimist, going 6-2 at Bobcat Holiday Classic, and picking up a few wins along the way at Army Duals. Taking a hotly-contested win over a third-year starter in the quarterfinals of districts was something of a corner turned for Gardenhire, who used that decision victory to help qualify himself out for regions. As he’ll be coming in with two full years’ worth of experience, plus some post-season success, Gardenhire will be a key part of next year’s program.
Heaton’s Hero: Sixth-graders are always up against it when trying to compete against kids anywhere from three to six years older than they are, and that was certainly the case for Ajani Zahira, who had to wrestle up at 120 in part with Boccuzzo and Gardenhire holding down the spots at 106 and 113. Zahira even wrestled up at 132 for a couple of duals and at 126 for seven matches before settling at 120 for the post-season. He had one contested win at Buchholz, but wouldn’t have another one until districts, where he won twice on the backside of the 120 bracket to take third in the weight class. Zahira had a pretty quick region tournament experience, but sticking it out the whole season despite a sizable age difference against a lot of opponents made Ajani Zahira the Heaton’s Hero on a team full of them at FSDB.
Please support our independent journalism by going here and donating to our website: https://www.gofundme.com/north-florida-matmen