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: Choctawhatchee HS
When: Saturday, February 22 (8 a.m. weighin start, 10 a.m. wrestle start, times as local).
Projected team finish: 1. Pace. 2. Ft Walton Beach. 3. Gulf Breeze. 4. Niceville. 5. Crestview. 6. Choctaw. 7. Tate. 8. Milton.
The skinny: Along with 1A-1, this district is usually the hardest to project, and I’m sure that will be seen in the individual weights (particularly with many teams in the district not competing after the first weekend of February), but one almost-certainty is that Pace will repeat as 2A-1 team champion. The Patriots will be favored in nearly half the weight classes, and should qualify almost their entire team out for the Region 1 tournament at Chiles next week. Ft Walton Beach should be favored for second over Gulf Breeze. The Vikings have the upper hand in the uppers, while Gulf Breeze’s strength is in the lowers, so how the middles fare could determine that. I didn’t get results from the Niceville-Crestview dual from last Friday, and that might have helped, but the Eagles (who won at district duals) and Bulldogs should be in the middle of the pack, one way or the other, and will factor into grabbing a title here or there. Choctaw’s fuller lineup and a projected champion should carry the Indians past Tate and Milton for sixth; the Aggies and Panthers should get their stronger kids out, but individual titles will be a tall order.
Matmen’s projected region qualifiers (along with dark horses if applicable and a BRIEF note):
106: 1. Nate Weber (Gulf Breeze). 2. Reid Gannon (Ft Walton Beach). 3. Natalie Lugo (Pace). No 4th. Note: Looking like there will at most be three in the weight class, perhaps only two if Weber — who took our top spot based on early results — is not in the lineup, as he’s missed some time through the end of January.
113: 1. David Tambula (Choctaw, 13th statewide). 2. Ethan Pinto (Niceville, 11th statewide). 3. Jacob Hobbs (Pace). 4. Elijah Johnson (Gulf Breeze). Dark horse: Santiago Mayic (Ft Walton Beach). Note: Tambula-Pinto should be the final, I’m going with Tambula due to the experience factor (senior v freshman) and the home mat factor. Could see the 3-4 going the other way.
120: 1. Derrick Lancero (Pace, 3rd statewide). 2. Brandon Mallin (Ft Walton Beach, 18th statewide). 3. Logan Merritt (Gulf Breeze). 4. Deagan Kilpatrick (Choctaw). Dark horse: AJ Richardson (Crestview). Note: Pretty good group moving forward to Chiles, could be one or even two decent kids left home next week. Should be at least one good semifinal and two solid medal-round matches.
126: 1. Ethan Billhimer (Pace, 9th statewide). 2. Colson Elliott (Gulf Breeze, 20th statewide). 3. Weston Burbidge (Ft Walton Beach). 4. Marcus Virgin (Tate). Dark horse: 5Ethan Bueno/Andrew Randolph (Niceville). Note: Top three I’m pretty settled on; Virgin has been in and out of lineup in the times I’ve closely reviewed Tate results. Guessing Bueno will go for Niceville.
132: 1. Atticus Waters (Pace). 2. Jayden Pinto (Niceville, 15th statewide). 3. Kelly Scanlon/Ian Daily (Gulf Breeze; Daily 13th statewide). 4. Easton Flamand (Crestview). Dark horse: Steven Banfield (Choctaw). Note: I think the four schools are set to go; not sure what Gulf Breeze is going to do with this weight. They don’t really have the ability to have both in the lineup, with one elsewhere.
138: 1. Dylan Lawrence (Gulf Breeze, 16th statewide). 2. Seth O’Gara (Pace). 3. Brandon Nicholson (Milton). 4. Martin Muniz (Ft Walton Beach). Dark horse: Ty Hawkins (Niceville). Note: This group feels right to me as far as who gets out, but none of them should feel abnormally safe about their position. A hard-charging run could send any of them to the title.
145: 1. Keane Creager (Niceville, 13th statewide). 2. Malachi Santiago (Ft Walton Beach). 3. Michael Burgess (Pace). 4. Wyatt Sise (Gulf Breeze). Dark horse: Devonte Knox (Choctaw). Note: Creager is safely ahead of the rest of the class, and Santiago’s experience should see him through to the final. Some possibilities for that bronze-medal match, though.
152: 1. Jean Maldonaldo (Ft Walton Beach). 2. Joseph Cortez (Pace). 3. Garret Rudick (Gulf Breeze). 4. Sherman Fuller (Choctaw). Dark horse: Daniel Wellborn (Crestview). Note: Maldonaldo’s district-duals wins over Cortez and Rudick put him in as the favorite, but Rudick’s had a lot of good wins this year and Fuller has made a lot of progress. Not going to be easy outs.
160: 1. Caleb Tourgee (Ft Walton Beach). 2. Brody Andrews (Pace). 3. Daniel McDonal (Milton). 4. Mason Bourgeois (Gulf Breeze). Dark horse: Martin Black (Niceville). Note: There’s a LOT of possibilities in this bracket; the #7 kid has a very good chance of getting out. Black hasn’t been in the lineup in Niceville’s recent tournaments, or otherwise he wuold have been at least top three.
170: 1. Hunter Dupont (Gulf Breeze). 2. Bryce Travis (Niceville). 3. Michael Higgins (Tate). 4. Aidan Bryan/Jacob Stokes (Pace). Dark horse: Carter Tobik (Ft Walton Beach). Note: Probably the most open weight class of the 14; in that instance barring a particular standout, I tend to go with experience, which Dupont and Travis do have.
182: 1. Gabe Jacobs (Pace, 6th statewide). 2. Patrick Adams (Ft Walton Beach). 3. Julio Fernandez (Crestview). 4. Ashtyn Allen (Tate). Dark horse: Samuel Santos/Gamaliel Harris (Choctaw). Note: I don’t know if I’d make Jacobs the most overwhelming favorite of the 14 favorites, but he’s close if not the guy. I could see Adams-Fernandez going either way in the semi. Allen’s good enough to get out after a two-year absence, but he hasn’t always been in lineup.
195: 1. Wyatt Dillon (Pace. 11th statewide). 2. Eddie Alexis (Ft Walton Beach, 15th statewide). 3. Sean Ripley (Niceville, 8th statewide). 4. Julian McCully (Gulf Breeze). Dark horse: Caden Nimmo (Choctaw). Note: Top three are pretty well set. Ripley’s got the ranking upperhand but hasn’t had consistency in results down the stretch. Good chance for all three to take the title.
220: 1. Kaleb Williams (Ft Walton Beach, 7th statewide). 2. Kennard Madden (Crestview, 8th statewide). 3. Ramsey Kidder (Niceville). 4. Gabriel McKinley (Tate). Dark horse: Krystopher Collins (Pace). Note: Lock in Williams and Madden for the top two spots, but after that, there’s some room. Some. Collins certainly has a chance, and the class could have anyone of six kids make it to Chiles.
285: 1. Cameron Goodenow (Pace, 15th statewide). 2. Cameron Anderson (Gulf Breeze). 3. Rolando Hernandez (Crestview). 4. Spencer Mackenzie (Ft Walton Beach). Dark horse: Alec Cavazos (Milton). Note: There’ll be at least one solid region-capable wrestler left home next week. About the one certainty I have is that Goodenow should be the class of the field.
JOIN us on Facebook at North Florida Matmen (you can also friend me on my personal page) or on Twitter at @NorthFLAMatmen.
The season is done and champions are crowned in eight classes in Georgia! We have 8 stories up from Saturday’s finals on our affiliated site at http://sgamatmen.wordpress.com
Please support our independent journalism!