Christmas has nothing on this. THIS is the most wonderful time of the year.
Just remember before you read. It’s not personal, but you’re allowed to take it personally if you want. Prove me wrong. Or prove me right. I like both.
Where: Wewahitchka HS.
When: Friday, February 21 (3 p.m. weighins, 5 p.m. wrestle start).
Projected team finish: 1. Arnold. 2. Rutherford. 3. South Walton. 4. Rocky Bayou. 5. North Bay Haven. 6. Bozeman. 7. Bay. 8. Wewahitchka.
The skinny: This has always been the hardest one for me to preview, because teams are built and then re-formed, almost from whole cloth, mid-season. This year, adding into the equation is that there was no Bay County tournament at year-end (the Milligan IBT served as that in late January), and, most teams have been off the mats for three weeks to a full-on month. Arnold has the broadest experience and most returning kids back, and that usually tends to be a big deal at this round. Rutherford and South Walton have decent numbers, but Rocky Bayou has been making a bit of a charge and could finish in the top half. I also like the numbers out that I’ve seen for North Bay Haven. Bozeman, Bay and Wewa all have talented kids, but just not very many of them, making bigger point-totals difficult to generate.
Matmen’s projected region qualifiers (along with dark horses if applicable and a BRIEF note):
106: 1. Porter Beach (Arnold). 2. Brett Canut (South Walton). 3. Zander Stillgess (Rutherford). 4. William Lundgren (North Bay Haven). Dark horse: Justin Johnson (Wewahitchka). Note: Could be the most open weight class of the group; everyone mentioned in this paragraph has a fair shot at winning here.
113: 1. Lucas Biddle (Arnold; 19th statewide). 2. Elijah Stillgess (Rutherford). 3. CJ Inman (South Walton). 4. Joshua vonKeyserling/Logan Jamison (Bozeman). Dark horse: Thomas Pluhar (Rocky Bayou). Note: Biddle’s experience should see him through to the title here, but this looks like a weight class where there’s room for a hard-charger to defy expectations.
120: 1. Jamie Balmeceda (Bay). 2. Will Ashby (Arnold). 3. Conner Roberts (Wewahitchka). 4. Calvin Williams (Rutherford). Dark horse: Nicholas Simental (Bozeman). Note: This should be the most hotly-contested weight class; any of the top three competitors could win this, and Williams will put a charge into his matches.
126: 1. Spencer Korol (Arnold). 2. Colin Dutton (Rutherford). 3. Luke Latham (Rocky Bayou). 4. Corban Cherry (Bay). Dark horse: Kaylee Easter (Wewahitchka). Note: Korol’s been out of the lineup a short bit, but even upon return should be favored. Pretty good group 1-4 getting out here.
132: 1. Jaden Moseley (Wewahitchka). 2. Canyon Dart (South Walton). 3. Helmut von Knoblauch (North Bay Haven). 4. Joseph Beggs/Konstantin Lekov (Arnold). Dark horse: Brandon Hermes (Bay). Note: The final could be a good one, but I foresee Moseley coming back to win his second district title and first since 2017.
138: 1. Kyle Roper (Bay). 2. Michael Esquivias (North Bay Haven). 3. John Starling (Arnold). 4. Ryan Kurfirst/Shane Lane (South Walton). Dark horse: Kincade Lassiter (Bozeman). Note: A number of kids have had some measures of success this year, but Roper has been a consistent level of quality for the Tornadoes for four years now.
145: 1. Wyatt Kirkpatrick (Rocky Bayou). 2. Trevyn Slik (Arnold). 3. Ashton Nunes (South Walton). 4. Trenton Wood (Bay). Dark horse: Ricardo Esquivias (North Bay Haven). Note: Kirkpatrick the clear choice here, but lots of options here from 2 on down to around 6 for an enterprising kid on a momentum streak.
152: 1. Nick Kendrick (Arnold; 11th statewide). 2. John Lopez (South Walton). 3. Calvin Wells (Rocky Bayou). 4. Christopher Weatherspoon (Rutherford). 5. Dark horse: Darryll Taylor/Bradley Garner (Bozeman). Note: Kendrick has a substantial advantage over the rest of the group, and Lopez should have a leg up for second.
160: 1. Max Gaylord (Arnold). 2. Sam Brewer (Rocky Bayou). 3. Zach Duncan (Rutherford). 4. Seth Marshall (South Walton). Dark horse: Caleb Pippin (Bay). Note: Gaylord’s experience should carry him through; I had planned to make Duncan the 2 until I saw Brewer had pinned him last time out.
170: 1. Chad Allgood (Rutherford). 2. Dylan Garner (South Walton). 3. Jaden Scruggs (Rocky Bayou). 4. Jackson Savell (North Bay Haven). Dark horse: Walter Anderson (Bozeman). Note: Allgood-Garner had a good six-minute matchup last time they faced each other, and I think they’ll repeat it Friday evening.
182: 1. Ethan Cole (North Bay Haven). 2. Noah Gabbard (South Walton). 3. Henlee Haynes (Arnold). 4. Marco Mejia (Rutherford). Dark horse: Dylan Swearington (Bozeman). Note: Cole and Gabbard are ahead of the rest of the group; I could see the 4-5 go either way, with maybe one or both ahead of girls’ state champ Haynes, but she impressed at Dr Phillips.
195: 1. Xavier Stillgess (Rutherford; 9th statewide). 2. Tyler Lewis (Arnold). No 3rd or 4th: Note: Teams that have a 182 and aren’t Rutherford or Arnold are going to be looking at scouting and maybe seeing if a move up is worth it. But these two should be 1-2. Stillgess a massive favorite here, as the highest-ranked wrestler in the district.
220: 1. Nick Lee (South Walton). 2. Justin Harry (Arnold). 3. Jacob Parry (Rocky Bayou). 4. Dexter Anderson (Bay). Dark horse: Patrick Kelley (North Bay Haven). Note: I think Lee is a bit ahead of the rest of the group, and Harry is a bit ahead of the rest of the rest, but I could see 3-5 going a number of different ways.
285: 1. Cole Galbreath (Bozeman). 2. Kyle Burden (Rocky Bayou). 3. Tanner Lewis (Arnold). 4. Layton Simmons (North Bay Haven). Dark horse: Jonathan Heller (Bay). Note: I am only putting Heller as a dark horse because he hasn’t wrestled since December, but if he competes, and I KNEW he was competing, he would be the 1 seed. Galbreath has had a solid first season for the Bucks, though.
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