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TurkeyNWrestling2019-20: 3A-District 1

At long last, the hour has come. It’s time to strike while the iron is hot.

For three seasons — you can see it in their capsule — the song has remained the same for Fleming Island over the past three seasons. District champ. Region champ. State runnerup. Each time, the Golden Eagles have edged closer, and closer, and closer, to 3A state kings South Dade. Is 2020 the year that Fleming Island pushes past the Buccaneers and brings the 3A title (or both 3A titles) to Clay County?

With a group that lost just two 2019 seniors to graduation — but both were state qualifiers and included two-time state champion Briar Jackson — the Golden Eagles aren’t willing to settle for northern supremacy.

Fleming Island has as many as 19 key returners back from last year’s team — yes, nineteen, as even the Golden Eagle backups saw enough varsity mat time to qualify.

Of those 19 returners, 11 of them are returning district champions. Ten of them qualified for states. And four of them were medalists, led by seniors Luke Chop (3rd last year), Chad Nix (2x 3rd, with an additional third in 2018 in 2A), and Gannon Janssen (6th, after first-day injury), along with junior Gavin Smith (5th last year).

While I don’t expect anyone else in the district to come close to the Golden Eagles, I do expect a pair of 2A migrants — recently jumped up to 3A — to be the strongest challengers for the runnerup spot. Based on the group of returners coming back versus the seniors that have moved on, I look for Bartram Trail to just have enough back to serve as the early favorite for that runnerup spot. The Bears do lose four seniors, including three 2019 state qualifiers (among them two-time medalist Nicholas Vugman), and that’s significant.

But Bartram will bring back 11 key returners, including a good batch of lowers and a nice 1-2 punch at 220/285, with one returning 2A state qualifier from last year’s team. The Bears also might have one of the best girls wrestlers in the area, with senior Talia Megas hoping to better her fourth-place girls’ state finish in 2019.

If Bartram falters in any way, though, I will not be surprised to see Creekside in the runnerup spot. The Knights have had more past success than the Bears — even when Bartram was favored — and return 10 starters, including one 2019 district champ and one state qualifier, again in 2A.

The downside that the Knights face heading into the season is the loss of a really solid senior class. Creekside lost seven seniors, including a pair of region champions up top, and that kind of leadership loss is going to be a challenge to overcome.

I think Sandalwood is the solid fourth in this district. The Saints have, after Fleming, the most possible projected returners back in the district, with 13 kids that either started the post-season or had 15 matches during the regular season.

As well, Sandalwood’s stronger kids spent some time at the heavily Fleming Island-influenced North Florida Wrestling Academy this offseason, and that will certainly be a benefit. The Saints only lost two key seniors to graduation

Of the bottom half of the group, I think Oakleaf has the most to work with, with a couple of kids that are legitimate state-qualifier threats. While the Knights need to find some bigs, they’ve got experience in the lowers. Mandarin has been the sleeping giant among big schools in the area for years now, and while 2020 might not be the year the Mustangs finally qualify someone out for states, I would be very surprised — after a year of #DayTrained work — if it did not happen in 2021. Nease has a rebuilding job in play after losing two former state qualifiers to graduation; the Panthers’ supporting cast in prior years has to step forward. For the fourth time in as many years, Atlantic Coast has a new head coach, but the biggest issue the Stingrays face is that only one projected returner from last year’s team even saw the region tournament.

Projected finish: 1. Fleming Island. 2. Bartram Trail. 3. Creekside. 4. Sandalwood. 5. Oakleaf. 6. Mandarin. 7. Nease. 8. Atlantic Coast.

ATLANTIC COAST (Jacksonville)
Coach: Hector Zayas, 1st year.
2018-19: 10-8 in duals. 12th at Westside Kiwanis, 6th at Gateway Conference, 22nd at Flagler Rotary, 5th at Bell-Raulerson.
Post-season stats (last 3 years): 2019 — Duals: Did not compete; Traditional: 10th at district, 30th at region. 2018 — Duals: Did not compete; Traditional: 10th at district, 33rd at region. 2017 — Traditional: 9th at district, 22nd at region, T-58th at states.
Projected key returners (15+ matches or post-season experience this past season, with 2018-19 weights): Cameron Courtenay (senior, 21-12 at 106, 1 match from regions); Eric Harper (junior, 17-13 at 113, district 4th, 1-2 at regions); Nick Shay (junior, 6-11 at 120, 1 match from regions); Joel Dudley (sophomore, 8-16 at 132, 1 match from regions); Noah Gambrell (junior, 7-10 at 132, did not compete in post-season traditionals); Tyler Exum (junior, 4-16 at 138, 0-2 at districts); Aryam Gholinezhad (sophomore, 4-19 at 145, 0-2 at districts); Zach Crawford (senior, 15-17 at 285, 1 match from regions).
Key losses (graduation): Kevin Thompson (24-10 at 126, district 3rd, 1-2 at regions); Seth Stratton (22-16 at 160, 1 match from regions); Quintin Donald (11-8 at 195, 0-2 at districts); Seth Miller (30-11 at 220, district 4th, 1 match from states).
Matmen’s take: Biggest issue is simply taking the elementary steps toward building a program; most of the Stingrays’ most-experienced wrestlers graduated. A top-half showing in the Gateway, once again, isn’t out of the realm of possibility, though.

BARTRAM TRAIL (St Johns)
Coach: Chad Parker, 6th year.
2018-19: 24-9 in duals. T-5th at Rob Bierbaum, 4th at Trojan, 8th at Flagler Rotary, 17th at Green Cove Springs Rotary, T-26th at Girls’ State.
Post-season stats (last 3 years): 2019 — Duals: 3rd at 2A-District 4; Traditional: 3rd at 2A-District 4, 4th at 2A-Region 1, 23rd at 2A states. 2018 — Duals: 3rd at 2A-District 4; Traditional: 4th at 2A-District 4, T-6th at 2A-Region 1, T-16th at 2A states. 2017 — Traditional: 2nd at district, 6th at region, T-44th at states.
Projected key returners (15+ matches or post-season experience this past season, with 2018-19 weights): Vincent DeLeo (sophomore, 26-25 at 106, district runnerup, 1-2 at regions); Michael Moore (senior, 28-21 at 113, district runnerup, 1-2 at regions); Trevor Tagarelli (junior, 15-13 at 120, district 3rd, 2-2 at regions); Gregory Memory (senior, 22-19 at 120/126, did not compete in post-season traditionals); Cathan Simpson (junior, 14-10 at 126/132, did not compete in post-season traditionals); Emmanuelle Sutherland (senior, 5-3 at 128, 2-2 at girls’ state); Talia Megas (junior, 8-3 at 134, girls’ state 4th); Stephen Ferris (senior, 15-23 at 152, 1 match from regions); Elijah Sutherland (sophomore, 17-20 at 170, district 4th, 0-2 at regions); Dominick Fields (sophomore, 26-13 at 182/195, did not compete in post-season traditionals); Troy Craven (junior, 5-19 at 195, district 4th, 0-2 at regions); Clarke Hamilton (junior, 28-12 at 220, district champ, region runnerup, 1-2 at states); Ryan Piersza (junior, 26-19 at 285, district 3rd, 2-2 at regions).
Key losses (graduation): Jerry Gomer (28-11 at 126, district champ, region champ, 0-2 at states); Nicholas Vugman (55-4 at 132, district runnerup, region champ, state 3rd); Joseph Governara (27-19 at 138, district 3rd, 1-2 at regions); Luis Parrales (37-10 at 160, district champ, region champ, 1-2 at states).
Matmen’s take: If the Bears can shore up the middle of their lineup, they could be in pretty good shape by January duals time. This team might be stronger in duals than it otherwise shows in IBTs, which will be different compared to last year, but with seven returning region qualifiers, they’re still solid.

CREEKSIDE (St Johns)
Coach: Richard Marabell, 12th year.
2018-19: 21-5 in duals. 2nd at Rob Bierbaum, 2nd at Westside Roundrobin, 14th at Green Cove Springs Rotary.
Post-season stats (last 3 years): 2019 — Duals: 2nd at 2A-District 4, 2A-Region 1 semifinalist; Traditional: 2nd at 2A-District 4, 5th at 2A-Region 1, T-42nd at 2A states. 2018 — Duals: 2A-District 4 champ, 2A-Region 1 champ, 2A state semifinalist; Traditional: 2A-District 4 runnerup, 4th at 2A=Region 1, 21st at 2A states. 2017 — Traditional: 2A-District 4 champ, 5th at 2A-Region 1, 32nd at 2A states.
Projected key returners (15+ matches or post-season experience this past season, with 2018-19 weights): Cody Smith (sophomore, 25-10 at 106, district champ, 1 match from states); Andrew Feek (sophomore, 3-3 at 113, district 4th (injured), did not compete at regions); Hunter England (junior, 14-7 at 113, did not compete in post-season traditionals); Michael Galiani (senior, 11-11 at 132, district 4th, 0-2 at regions); Hunter Brown (junior, 21-17 at 145, district 4th, 0-2 at regions); Jose Barrera (senior, 7-10 at 145, did not compete in post-season traditionals); Josh Benavides (senior, 12-14 at 152, 1 match from regions); Jalen Hines (senior, 33-15 at 160, district runnerup, region 4th, 0-2 at states); Antonio Carter (sophomore, 16-9 at 170, district 3rd, 2-2 at regions); Bryan McKnight (junior, 18-8 at 220, district 3rd, injured at regions).
Key losses (graduation): Colin Brown (35-10 at 120, district runnerup, 1 match from states); CJ Sexton (31-10 at 126, district 4th, 1 match from states); Jake Summers (17-14 at 138, district runnerup, 2-2 at regions); Jack Tellin (15-9 at 170, did not compete in post-season traditionals); Caleb Dickens (25-16 at 182, district 4th, 0-2 at regions); Trey Chesser (33-8 at 195, district champ, region champ, 1-2 at states); Saul Storey (25-6 at 285, district runnerup, region champ, 1 match from state medal).
Matmen’s take: Injuries affected a few of the Knights’ projected key returners for this year, but a couple of those kids showed some real promise. We typically see Creekside at their best by post-season time in late February; with better health in 2019-20, it’s a solid runnerup threat.

FLEMING ISLAND (Orange Park)
Coach: PJ Cobbert, 6th year as HC, 13th year at school.
2018-19: 17-1 in duals. 3rd at Danny Byron, 3rd at Bill Scott Memorial, T-26th at Knockout Christmas Classic, 1st at Keystone Memorial, 2nd at Ships N Duels, 2nd at MyHOUSE Tri-County, 1st at Green Cove Springs Rotary.
Post-season stats (last 3 years): 2019 — Duals: District champ, region champ, state runnerup; Traditional: District champ, region champ, state runnerup. 2018 — Duals: District champ, region champ, state runnerup; Traditional: District champ, region champ, state runnerup. 2017 — Traditional: District champ, region champ, state runnerup.
Projected key returners (15+ matches or post-season experience this past season, with 2018-19 weights): Hunter Herrington (junior, 39-14 at 106, district champ, did not compete at regions); Riley Holton (junior, 46-15 at 113, district champ, region runnerup, 1-2 at states); Ryan Hobson (senior, 39-23 at 126, district champ, region runnerup, 0-2 at states-injured); Isaac Padgett (sophomore, 16-7 at 126/132, did not compete in post-season traditionals); Dalton Baysinger (junior, 22-15 at 132, district champ, region 4th, 1-2 at states); Garrett Cole (junior, 23-14 at 132, did not compete in post-season traditionals); Dalton Williams (senior, 37-14 at 138, district champ, region runnerup, 1-2 at states); Gannon Janssen (senior, 48-12 at 145, district champ, region 3rd, state 6th); Braden Hill (senior, 6-9 at 145/152/170, did not compete in post-season traditionals); Hunter Williams (sophomore, 14-4 at 145, did not compete in post-season traditionals); Connor Rogers (senior, 23-6 at 145/152, did not compete in post-season traditionals); Luke Chop (senior, 55-6 at 152, district champ, region 3rd, state 3rd); Tanner Hill (senior, 52-11 at 160, district champ, region 3rd, 1-2 at states); Gavin Smith (junior, 48-17 at 170, district champ, region 3rd, state 5th); Nick Janssen (senior, 30-16 at 182, did not compete in post-season traditionals); Chad Nix (senior, 53-7 at 195, district champ, region champ, state 3rd); Robert Tyre (sophomore, 15-1 at 195/220/285, did not compete in post-season traditionals); Jeffrey Lascano (senior, 45-7 at 220, district champ, region 3rd, 1-2 at states); Raul Gonzalez (junior, 36-14 at 285, district runnerup, 2-2 at regions).
Key losses (graduation): Briar Jackson (57-7 at 120, district champ, region champ, state CHAMPION); Anthony Breeden (41-14 at 182, district champ, region runnerup, 1-2 at states).
Matmen’s take: Golden Eagles are a lock to repeat as district champions, this year and probably next year, but the goals are much bigger than that. Preseason work on the national stage has been something Fleming hasn’t done before, and it could pay substantial dividends in January and March.

MANDARIN (Jacksonville)
Coach: Lance Day, 1st year.
2018-19: 8-13 in duals. 9th at Arlington Optimist, 7th at Gateway Conference, 20th at Flagler Rotary, 22nd at Green Cove Springs Rotary.
Post-season stats (last 3 years): 2019 — Duals: Did not compete; Traditional: 7th at district, T-19th at region. 2018 — Duals: Did not compete; Traditional: 7th at district, 30th at region. 2017 — Traditional: 7th at district, T-23rd at region.
Projected key returners (15+ matches or post-season experience this past season, with 2018-19 weights): Nathan Bremer (junior, 34-8 at 106, district 4th, 1-2 at regions); Ethan Harvey (junior, 4-19 at 120, 0-2 at districts); Xaine Evans (junior, 12-16 at 138, 1-2 at districts); Jaden Rosario (junior, 5-14 at 138/145, did not compete in post-season traditionals); Caleb Thompson (sophomore, 11-14 at 182, 1 match from regions); Zachary Kellar (senior, 3-12 at 170/182, did not compete in post-season traditionals); Nick Wilbur (junior, 24-14 at 285, district 3rd, 1 match from states).
Key losses (graduation): Jamison Harris (30-10 at 132, district runnerup, 1 match from states); Zach Nelson (21-13 at 152, 1 match from regions); Kevin Castro (26-16 at 220, 1 match from regions).
Matmen’s take: Mustangs have wanted to be big fish in a small pond, only to take lumps against teams with a different vision for themselves. I don’t see the Days being willing to accept that limitation for Mandarin, so if the kids buy in quickly, the progress will be noticeable from the jump.

NEASE (Ponte Vedra Beach)
Coach: Bradley Lucas, 1st year.
2018-19: 16-14 in duals. 2nd at Westside Kiwanis, 3rd at Rob Bierbaum, 6th at Bell-Raulerson.
Post-season stats (last 3 years): 2019 — Duals: 4th at 2A-District 4; Traditional: 6th at 2A-District 4, 16th at 2A-Region 1, T-50th at 2A states. 2018 — Duals: 4th at 2A-District 4; Traditional: 3rd at 2A-District 4, 12th at 2A-Region 1, T-69th at 2A states. 2017 — Traditional: 3rd at district, 4th at region, T-62nd at states.
Projected key returners (15+ matches or post-season experience this past season, with 2018-19 weights): Jalon Lumar (senior, 17-3 at 120/126, did not compete in post-season traditionals); Chad Severt (sophomore, 8-10 at 132, 1 match from regions); Leroy Heard (senior, 9-17 at 138, 1 match from regions); Peter Simon (sophomore, 13-18 at 145, 1 match from regions); Colin White (senior, 23-16 at 160, district 4th, 1-2 at regions); Anthony Tanza (junior, 11-9 at 160/170, did not compete in post-season traditionals); Conner Holmes (sophomore, 12-17 at 182, 1 match from regions).
Key losses (graduation): Gavin Riccobono (41-4 at 126, district 3rd, region runnerup, 1-2 at states); Jacob Satterfield (23-3 at 152, district champ, 2-0 at regions, injured); Kirill Kim (32-13 at 170, district runnerup, 1-2 at regions); Angel Rodriguez (20-16 at 195, district 3rd, 1-2 at regions).
Matmen’s take: Lucas, who lives in St Johns, was the long-time assistant at Terry Parker before coming to Nease, which has been ravaged by graduation and transfer losses over the past two seasons. It could take some time, but Lucas will be in for the long haul and build from the ground up if need be.

OAKLEAF (Orange Park)
Coach: Marcus Miller, 1st year.
2018-19: 7-15 in duals. 8th at Westside Kiwanis, 5th at Keystone, 14th at Fandetti-Richardson Brawl, 10th at Trojan, T-24th at Green Cove Springs Rotary, T-79th at Girls’ State.
Post-season stats (last 3 years): 2019 — Duals: T-5th at district; Traditional: 5th at district, 24th at region. 2018 — Duals: 4th at district; Traditional: 4th at district, 12th at region, T-34th at states. 2017 — Traditional: 6th at district, 19th at region, T-70th at states.
Projected key returners (15+ matches or post-season experience this past season, with 2018-19 weights): Marcus McGee (sophomore, 34-12 at 106, district 3rd, 1-2 at regions); Daniel Crisostomo (sophomore, 6-15 at 113, 0-2 at districts); Chantel Lania (Gilbert) (sophomore, 0-2 at girls’ state); Logan Gilbert (junior, 31-22 at 132, district 4th, 1-2 at regions); Landon Hillman (sophomore, 6-35 at 138, 0-2 at districts); David Parkes (junior, 39-15 at 145, district runnerup, 2-2 at regions); James McClintic (junior, 12-22 at 152, 1-2 at districts); Jaden Bono (sophomore, 2-38 at 160, 0-2 at districts); Gabe Castro (sophomore, 6-31 at 170, 0-2 at districts).
Key losses (graduation except as noted): Avery Miller (junior, 12-18 at 112/113, did not compete in post-season traditionals; transferred to University Christian); Abdiert Escobar (junior, 35-13 at 120, district 3rd, 1 match from states; transferred to Clay); Owen Bronson (27-21 at 126, 1 match from regions); Gabe Hecht (junior, 20-15 at 220, did not compete in post-season traditionals; transferred to Orange Park); Yawo Yovogan (6-21 at 285, 0-2 at districts).
Matmen’s take: Wrestling has been an after-thought at Oakleaf for perhaps too long, operating in the massive shadow that football casts out there, but I look for the Knights to match the passion that Miller will bring to the position. Some talent in a few spaces, that should shine this year.

SANDALWOOD (Jacksonville)
Coach: John Eldeb, 2nd year as HC.
2018-19: 13-13 in duals. 2nd at Arlington Optimist, 27th at Tournament of Champions, 3rd at Gateway Conference, 2nd at Bell-Raulerson.
Post-season stats (last 3 years): 2019 — Duals: Did not compete; Traditional: 6th at district, 31st at region. 2018 — Duals: Did not compete; Traditional: 8th at district, 34th at region. 2017 — Traditional: 4th at district, 12th at region, T-58th at states.
Projected key returners (15+ matches or post-season experience this past season, with 2018-19 weights): Hunter Milner (sophomore, 22-19 at 113, 1 match from regions); Gabriel Daltro (junior, 15-11 at 120, 1 match from regions); Juvens Augustin (junior, 29-18 at 126, district 4th, 0-2 at regions); Jermell McCall (sophomore per Track/senior per district bracket, 12-15 at 132, 1 match from regions); Theodore Tolliver (junior, 4-5 at 138, 1 match from regions); Caleb Saphave (junior, 8-7 at 138, did not compete in post-season traditionals); Lavaughn Brown (senior, 35-13 at 145, district 4th, 1-2 at regions); Matthias Comboul (senior, 2-11 at 152, 0-2 at districts); Joshua Brown (junior, 25-20 at 170, 1 match from regions); Joshua Newkirk (junior per Track/senior per district bracket, 22-15 at 182, district 4th, 0-2 at regions); Johnathan Woods (sophomore, 2-7 at 195, 0-2 at districts); Chase Whitentoh (junior, 4-14 at 195, did not compete in post-season traditionals); Devin Smith (senior, 10-9 at 220, 1 match from regions).
Key losses (graduation): Leonardo Alonzo (28-6 at 160, district 3rd, 2-2 at regions); Christian Henry (14-12 at 285, did not compete in post-season traditionals).
Matmen’s take: Saints might not be back fully to the Gateway championship years earlier in the 2010s, but a very young group was third in last year’s event. We’re seeing a bit more buy-in in terms of off-season work, with three or four kids hitting it, and that plus depth should keep Sandalwood in the top half.

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