North Florida Matmen staff report
PANAMA CITY BEACH — Wakulla is heading back to Osceola for Round 3 with Clay.
For the third straight year, the War Eagles have reached the 1A-Region 1 final, contested as part of the first day of the FHSAA state dual team tournament. And, for the third straight year, Wakulla will be battling the Blue Devils for the potential of contesting for a state trophy on Saturday.
This year will be the rubber match between the two titanic north Florida small-school programs; Clay won in 2018, while the War Eagles won last year en route to the championship match.
Thursday night, the War Eagles lost just one match in a pair of duals, hammering South Walton (84-0) and Suwannee (72-4) to advance to the final, which will be contested at Osceola HS on January 24.
Wakulla had max points in every match against the Seahawks, with Slade Watkins (220), Jayven Hearns (285), Raymond Hatchman (120), Jae Thaxton (126), Matthew Owen (132), Jackson Merrick (138), Noah Wilson (145), Chase Roberts (152), Cole Baggett (160), Jayvon Brown (170) and Hayden Reeves (182) all winning by fall.
Meanwhile, Suwannee got to the semis by the narrowest of margins and only in the last moment, rallying from behind to knock off host Arnold, 40-39, in the other semifinal.
The Marlins jumped out to a 12-0 lead and held it until a little more than midway through the dual; in fact, Suwannee only led at two points during the dual: at 145 midway through and then at the end.
Blaine Howard’s pin at 195 secured the Bulldogs’ advancement. Brody Boehm (106), Xander Kirkland (120), Tyson Musgrove (138), Caleb Parsons (145) and Jim King (170) also had pins for Suwannee, while Timothy Jolicoeur (126) took a 9-0 major.
Arnold answered with pins from Lucas Biddle (113), Spencer Korol (132), Nick Kendrick (152) and Max Gaylord (160), plus a 4-2 win from Henlee Haynes at 182.
That set up the rematch between District 2 opponents in the semifinal, and as they had in the quarter, the War Eagles were on point from jump, rushing out to a 21-0 lead before Jolicoeur would score Suwannee’s only points with a 12-2 major at 126.
From there it was all Wakulla, as the War Eagles won nine in a row to close out the night. George Hernandez (113), Hatchman (120), Owen (132), Wilson (145), Roberts (152), Baggett (160), Jackson Osteen (170) and Reeves (182) all won by falls, while Julian Harvey (7-2 at 106) and Merrick (3-2 at 138) both took decisions.
There isn’t much time for the four teams to rest; on Friday, three of them (Wakulla, Arnold and South Walton) all will go to Wewahitchka for the two-day Gator Brawl, where Wakulla and Pace will be the top two northern teams in the field. Suwannee also has to travel, as they head to Fivay for the two-day Falcon Duals tournament.
Complete dual results for the competition at Arnold — along with five other region-duals locations — can be found HERE.
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