By SHANNON HEATON
North Florida Matmen
OSCEOLA — Wakulla can win big in duals, or they can take a piece of an opponent, one little bit at a time.
An opponent like Clay requires an ability in the latter approach, and over the course of five weight classes in an hour’s worth of wrestling at Osceola Friday afternoon, the War Eagles slowly squeezed the life out of the Blue Devils, taking a 34-22 victory and repeating as 1A-Region 1 champions.
“You just don’t see a 34-22 in most dual meets anymore,” Wakulla coach William Pafford said. “Two hours long, kids getting after it, parents yelling and getting nervous.
“That’s what the whole purpose of duals is about.”
Wakulla will face Somerset Academy in a state semifinal round on Saturday morning at 10 a.m. Somerset defeated Jensen Beach, 39-29, in the Region 4 final. The other semifinal pits two-time defending state champion Lake Highland Prep (60-9 Region 2 winners over Hernando) against McKeel Academy (72-12 over Tarpon SPrings to win the Region 3 title).
Wakulla took the early lead on George Hernandez’s second-period fall at 113, but Clay would come back to take a 9-6 lead thanks to Abdiert Escobar’s first-period fall at 126 and a 7-1 win from Luke Davis at 120.
The lead went back and forth between 132 and 152, as Matthew Owen (9-0 major at 132) and Noah Wilson (8-3 decision at 152) won for the War Eagles, while Luke Boree (4-0 at 138) and Cale Hoskinson (11-2 at 152) had wins for Clay.
But from 160 through 195, Wakulla simply had all the answers, with five straight decisions from Cole Baggett (5-0 at 160), Jayvon Brown (3-1 in sudden victory at 170), Jackson Osteen (4-3 at 182), John Trevor Hinsey (7-0 at 195) and Slade Watkins (5-1 at 220) to go up 28-16 with two weights to go.
“It means everything to us. We wrestle all year for this dual,” Baggett said. “We knew it was going to be close, and every guy was going to have to wrestle off their backs, but we got a little momentum and then I thought we had a chance to put it in the bag.”
The teams traded pins at 285 and 106, with CLay’s Derrek Mosley (285) and Wakulla’s Julian Harvey (106) winning by pin.
“I thought we might have played it too close (to the vest), that we were thinking if we don’t get pinned here or don’t get pinned there. You can’t wrestle that way,” Clay coach Hunter Hill said. “Guys competed hard, but they just lacked that killer instinct.”
Below follows quick summaries of the other three region finals in bracket order:
Region 4: Somerset Academy rallied from a five-point deficit in the final three weights to take the victory, with pins from Nick Benton (220) and Elvis Solis (106), plus a decision from Matthew Jimenez (285). Darian Estevez (152) also had a fall and Chase Gillis (126), Bas Diaz (132), Darian Diaz (138) and Caleb Casas (170) all won by decisions. For Jensen Beach, Johnny Dobbs (113), Tehran Piza (145) and Luke Sopotnick won by pins and Tom Fehling (182) had a 15-0 tech fall.
Region 2: Hernando led, 6-4, but then the Highlanders won every match between 126 and 195. Danny Nini (132), Myles Griffin (138), Daniel Williams (145), Noah Castillo (152), Bailey Flanagan (170) and Hunter Brinkman (182) all had pins for LHP, while Joshua Boykin (113), Dominic Isola (160) and Matt Kaplan (285) had majors; Preston Walls (126) and Easton Tobia (195) both won by decision. Hernando got a fall from Jonathan Britton (120) and decision from Qwenton Coney (220).
Region 3: McKeel started off with a 66-0 run, with pins from Guy Yodock (113), Jean Benavidez (120), Cody McNabb (126), Cody Brown (132), Owen McNabb (138), Vish Williams (145), David Sineath (152), Wayne Campbell (160), Ashton Gehret (170) and Trevyn Burnham (106). Tarpon Springs’ lone contested win was at 220, where Miguel Santos won by pin.
Complete dual results from the day can be found HERE.
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