By SHANNON HEATON
North Florida Matmen
LAKE CITY — The 18-team dual tournament that Columbia hoped might happen with this year’s Tiger Duals didn’t quite come to fruition.
But the Tigers had most of the pieces in place otherwise — efficient tournament management, a great parent support network, and a few competitive teams as well.
And that brick-by-brick approach from the ground up has informed the Tigers’ path on the mats as well as off, as Columbia remained class of the field, winning their home tournament for the third straight year with an average margin of victory of 47 points per dual.
“It feels pretty good to accomplish something that hasn’t happened here before,” Columbia coach Peter Whittington said. “This year included, from a competitive standpoint, we haven’t been out of the top 10 anywhere we’ve gone.
“We still have marked improvements we have to make, but this is going to spring us forward.”
The tournament served as a focusing point through the holiday for the Tigers, though a healthy infusion of alumni, now wrestling at the next level, hasn’t hurt to keep things moving.
“Luckily, some of our college guys have helped out and helped with motivational speaking, because us coaches sound like broken records after a while,” Whittington said. “I’ve always had the belief we’re a better duals team. We gameplan very well, we stick to what we do best when in the team environment.
“By the end of February we should be right where we need to be.”
Columbia rolled through seven* wins during the weekend, taking down South Walton (70-6), Belleview (72-9), First Coast (60-15), Gainesville (70-3), Robert E. Lee (49-24, their closest dual of the weekend), Westside (54-19) and nearby Georgia side Valdosta (48-16) to wrap up the weekend.
Six Tigers were undefeated with 7-0 records, with four of those six “max-pointing” (scoring 6 dual team points in every dual contested) through the tournament. Those four were lower-weight Outstanding Wrestler (OW) Brett Millard (9th-2A; 106, 6 pins), Ian McGuigan (10th-2A at 126; 132, 4 pins), Obie Smith (7th-2A; 152, 5 pins) and Shawn Raggins (195, 6 pins).
Joining them as unbeatens were Cooper Mote (126, 3 pins & major) and Alex McGuigan (5th-2A at 132; 138, 4 pins & 2 majors).
Daveyon Brown (145, 5 pins) and Jaycob Jones (285, 3 pins & decision) were each 6-1 for Columbia, while Preston O’Quinn (160, 3 pins & major) and Joseph Rice (170, 3 pins/tech/decision) were each 5-2, with Bryson Roebuck (220, 3 pins) contributing a 4-3 weekend for the Tigers.
Below follows a summary of the other Florida teams in the tournament:
Robert E. Lee: In what was the Generals’ best tournament in some time, Lee lost only to the champion Tigers on Friday night, with four wins Saturday to roar back into second place. The Generals had Friday wins over South Walton (66-6) and First Coast (42-30), then took down Westside (42-30), Valdosta (42-34, a win that all but secured second place), Belleview (45-30) and Gainesville (66-6).
“I feel great about it,” Lee coach Ricky Hicks (Sr.) said. “Especially with such a young team. We’ll be loaded with seniors, and with the type of training we do, I hope it continues. I make our football players wrestle; I have two linebackers and two defensive line(men) wrestle, it makes them better players. They’re starting to develop chain wrestling and putting everything together.
“It lets me know the kids are starting to arrive. Now we prepare ourselves for our playoffs, which is districts.”
The Generals were led by the middle-weight OW, Ahmahd Denmark (13th-2A), who max-pointed through the weekend, with six pins at 160 en route to a 7-0 weekend. Jamal Burkes (120/126, 6 pins), Ty’Juan Jones (138, 5 pins), Savion Johnson (152, 2 pins), Keshawn Waters (182, 6 pins) and Craig Harper (220, 5 pins) all were 6-1 for the Generals, while Ricky Hicks (Jr.) (106/113, 3 pins) and Jeramiah Stevens (145, 3 pins & decision) were each 5-2. Vincente Waugh (170, 3 pins) had a 4-3 weekend for Lee.
Belleview: The Diamondbacks opened with a pair of losses, but would only lose one more dual after that in finishing fourth at 4-3, with wins over Gainesville (48-22), South Walton (60-24), First Coast (45-30) and Westside (41-33) on the weekend. Mark Willis (113, pin) was the only undefeated Belleview wrestler, going 5-0 in a regular but not exclusive starting role. Christian Lewis (106/113, tech) was 5-2, while Andrew Dunn (220/285, 2 pins) was 4-2 and Michael Ventre (120/126, 2 pins & decision), Andrew Davis (120/126, decision), Morgan Cole (138/145, 3 pins) and Nathan Halstead (195, 2 pins) all were 4-3 for the Diamondbacks. Julian Flores (220/285, 2 pins) contributed a 3-3 weekend as well for Belleview.
Westside: The Wolverines were 3-4 in reported duals, with a tough second day against the eventual top half of the tournament field, taking Friday wins over Gainesville (54-9), South Walton (54-30) and First Coast (42-30). Three Westside wrestlers were 7-0 on the day, led by John Merritt (182), who not only max-pointed the tournament but also was the only wrestler on the weekend to pin every opponent he faced (in reported duals). Angelo Philpot (2nd-2A; 170, 3 pins/major/decision) and Ray Bolden (5th-2A; 285, 3 pins/major/decision) also were 7-0, with Bolden winning the OW for the upper weights. Terrance Alexander (195, 2 pins & decision) was 5-2 for the Wolverines, while Jacare Johnson (120, 4 pins), Nathan Williams (126, pin) and Kristopher Fleming (138, 3 pins) each were 4-3 for Westside.
South Walton: The Seahawks won one dual on each day of the tournament in going 2-5, with a 40-39 win over First Coast on Friday and a 41-15 victory over Gainesville in their final dual of the weekend on Saturday. Individually, two South Walton wrestlers were 4-3 on the weekend: Ryan Kurfirst (132, pin & decision) and John Lopez (152/160, pin).
First Coast: The Buccaneers didn’t pick up a win in the tournament, at least in reported duals, until their final round, where they turned back Gainesville, 36-24. Still, though, they had a max-point performance from Hakeem Culberson (220, 5 pins), who was 7-0 on the weekend. Devante Wyatt (8th-2A at 170; 170/182, 5 pins & decision) was 6-1 for First Coast, while Myles Nicco (132, pin), Payton Landon (145, 4 pins) and Dylan Lampkin (285, 3 pins) each were 4-3 for the Buccaneers.
Gainesville: The Hurricanes were 0-7 in reported duals, but three of the six wrestlers that competed during the weekend had at least four wins. Leading the charge was William Marshall (182, pin & 2 decisions), who was 5-2 for Gainesville, while Brennan Kade (126/132, pin/major/2 decisions) and Nicholas Hanson (160, 2 pins & decision) were both 4-3 for the Hurricanes.
* — One dual for each team was contested against a mix-and-match team of extra kids from a few different teams in the field, and results from those duals were not reported officially by the tournament host. Otherwise, complete duals from the tournament can be found HERE.
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