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#TurkeyNWrestling2020-21: 1A-District 1

I almost hate to do it to them.
Every time that I think this is the year that South Walton breaks out in order to take the reins of 1A-District 1 leadership, something happens in response to make that prediction look just a bit early.
But this year, even in a year and district where several teams have double digits of possible returners coming back to their teams, this should be the year the Seahawks make it happen.
Consider: South Walton lost just one starter from last year’s double runnerup team. In each of the last three years, the Seahawks have been the dual tournament runnerups; twice in the last three years, even with transfers in and out, it has been the traditional format runnerup. And this year’s team has enough experience to take it another step.
South Walton could bring back as many as 15 wrestlers that saw key starts for the Seahawks in 2019-20. Eleven of those 15 were region qualifiers. And it’s a young group, as none of the possible 15 returners are seniors. Junior Canyon Dart reached the state tournament (wrestling at 132) in his first year with the team last year, and could be a podium threat.
I’m thinking Rutherford, which was fourth at districts, could push up a couple of spots in 2021 (particularly if some kids that still have some eligibility left return to the team).
The Rams did not lose a single wrestler to graduation in 2019-20. And, this year’s group could run 10 deep in terms of significant returners.
Leading that charge — which includes four additional region qualifiers — would be senior Xavier Stillgess, a state qualifier at 195 in March and the area’s top returning 195 heading into this season.
If either the Seahawks or Rams falter, look for perennial small-small Panhandle power Arnold to be in the mix. The Marlins have a new coach again this year, but one of the toughest obstacles they’ll have to overcome is the loss of four post-season starters, including 2020 state qualifier Nick Kendrick, who transferred.
But Arnold has 12 regular-season starters back, five of them with Region 1 experience. While none made it to Kissimmee on the boys’ side, sophomore Henlee Haynes — a region qualifier at 182 in 2020 — won the girls’ 182 state title in her freshman season.
Look at North Bay Haven as an intriguing prospect in 2020-21. The Buccaneers lost just one starter — who did not see the post-season — in 2019-20 to graduation.
This coming year, NBH will have as many as 15 key returners rotating into the lineup, including a solid number of five girls. It’s still a very young lineup in terms of matches — as seen by last year — but if the Buccaneers are able to get more mat time, they’ll certainly be in the mix.
Bozeman and Rocky Bayou Christian could jump into the top half if anybody falters. The Bucks lost their top wrestler from last year to graduation, and Bozeman will return as many as 12 kids that saw good amounts of time in 2019-20, but none of them got to Saturday at Wakulla.
That’s also the case at Rocky Bayou, which was the pleasant surprise of the district last year in taking third. That would be a tall order for the Knights, who graduated two wrestlers from last year’s team — including their top competitor over the past four seasons. RBCS has as many as eight key contributors coming back, all of them with post-season experience.
Bay won the district three years ago, and this year’s seniors were a part of that group, but the Tornadoes and Wewahitchka just are lacking group numbers to be able to push into the top half of the district. Bay graduated two seniors from last year’s team, and the Tornadoes have as many as four returning key contributors (all with Region 1 experience), but filling the bookends is the first priority. We could see some individual successes at Wewa, but the Gators had just four kids last year. Three of them are back, all with post-season tournament experience.
Projected finish: 1. South Walton. 2. Rutherford. 3. Arnold. 4. North Bay Haven. 5. Bozeman. 6. Rocky Bayou Christian. 7. Bay. 8. Wewahitchka.
ARNOLD (Panama City Beach)
Coach: Michael Allison, 1st year.
2019-20: 9-11 in duals. 15th at Border Wars VII, 21st at Capital City Classic, 11th at Keystone Memorial, 7th at Gator Brawl, T-4th at George Mulligan Memorial, 11th at Wakulla IBT, 21st at Clay Rotary, 26th at Girls’ State.
Post-season stats (last 3 years): 2020 — Duals: District champ, region quarterfinalist; Traditional: District champ, 12th at region, T-56th at states. 2019 — Duals: District champ, region semifinalist; Traditional: District runnerup, 11th at region, 26th at states. 2018 — Duals: Did not compete; Traditional: 5th at district, 15th at region, 24th at states.
Projected key returners (15+ matches or post-season experience last year, with 2019-20 weights): Porter Beach (junior, 20-17 at 106, district champ, 2-2 at regions); Alex Starling (sophomore, 16-19 at 106, did not compete in post-season traditionals); Lucas Biddle (sophomore, 40-21 at 113, district champ, did not compete at regions);  Konstantin Lekov (sophomore, 3-17 at 113/120, did not compete in post-season traditionals); Joseph Beggs (sophomore, 6-28 at 132, district 4th, did not compete at regions); Trevyn Slik (senior, 4-19 at 138, 1 match from regions); John Starling (junior, 16-28 at 145, 1 match from regions); Max Gaylord (senior, 28-29 at 160, district champ, 1-2 at regions); Skyler Jarrell (senior, 2-23 at 170/182, did not compete in post-season traditionals); Henlee Haynes (sophomore, 20-26 at 182, girls’ state CHAMPION, district runnerup, 0-2 at regions); Tyler Lewis (junior, 19-26 at 195, district runnerup, 1 match from states); Tanner Lewis (senior, 13-15 at 285, district 3rd, 0-2 at regions).
Key losses (graduation): Will Ashby (31-19 at 120, district champ, 2-2 at regions); Spencer Korol (28-22 at 126, district champ, 0-2 at regions); Nick Kendrick (51-18 at 152, district champ, region 4th, 0-2 at states); Justin Harry 34-24 at 220, district runnerup, 2-2 at regions).
Matmen’s take: With three district titles in the last four years, Marlin lineup knows how to win. But with top two kids transferred in past two years, this year may bring new challenges. New leadership will have to step forward to keep winning tradition intact.
BAY (Panama City)
Coach: Mark Deaton, 3rd year.
2019-20: 1-5 in duals. 19th at Border Wars VII, 24th at Allstate Wildcat, 11th at The Bash, 16th at Gator Brawl, 14th at George Mulligan Memorial, 19th at Wakulla IBT.
Post-season stats (last 3 years): 2020 — Duals: District quarterfinalist; Traditional: District 5th, T-20th at region. 2019 — Duals: T-9th at district; Traditional: District 6th, T-21st at region, T-65th at states. 2018 — Duals: District T-3rd (2nd in pool); Traditional: District champ, T-11th at region, T-50th at states.
Projected key returners (15+ matches or post-season experience last year, with 2019-20 weights): Jamie Balmeceda (senior, 23-16 at 120, district 4th, 2-2 at regions); Corban Cherry (junior, 16-26 at 126, district runnerup, 0-2 at regions); Trenton Wood (junior, 13-26 at 145, district runnerup, 1-2 at regions); Caleb Pippin (senior, 9-17 at 160, district runnerup, 0-2 at regions).
Key losses (graduation): Kyle Roper (13-12 at 138, district runnerup, 0-2 at regions); Dexter Anderson (15-21 at 220, district 3rd, 1 match from states).
Matmen’s take: After three straight prior years with state appearances, Tornadoes did not get to Kissimmee in March. Getting back is possible in 2021, but at the same time, Bay is going to want to be filling a full lineup to make team competitive.
BOZEMAN (Panama City)
Coach: Tony Collier, 2nd year.
2019-20: 5-9 in duals. 20th at Border Wars VII, 10th at The Bash, 20th at Gator Brawl, 18th at George Mulligan Memorial.
Post-season stats (last 3 years): 2020 — Duals: District quarterfinalist; Traditional: District 6th, T-20th at region. 2019 — Duals: District T-5th; Traditional: District 10th, 23rd at region. 2018 — Duals: District 7th (4th in pool); Traditional: District 6th, 19th at region, T-54th at states.
Projected key returners (15+ matches or post-season experience last year, with 2019-20 weights): Joshua Vonkeyserling (sophomore, 14-18 at 106, 1 match from regions); Daniel Pierce (7th, 7-13 at 106, did not compete in post-season traditionals); Logan Jamison (7th, 9-27 at 113, district 3rd, 1-2 at regions); Nicholas Simental (sophomore, 7-16 at 120, 1 match from regions); Mason Shuller (freshman, 9-27 at 126, 1 match from regions); Christopher Eadie (sophomore, 9-17 at 132, did not compete in post-season traditionals); Kincade Lassiter (senior, 12-10 at 138, district 3rd, 1-2 at regions); Kaleb Daigle (sophomore, 6-21 at 145, 1 match from regions); Darryll Taylor (sophomore, 6-18 at 145, did not compete in post-season traditionals); Bradley Garner (sophomore, 11-27 at 152, district 4th, 1-2 at regions); Walter Anderson (junior, 7-26 at 170, district 4th, 0-2 at regions); Dylan Swearington (junior, 5-24 at 182, 1 match from regions).
Key losses (graduation): Cole Galbreath, 31-10 at 285, district champ, 1 match from states).
Matmen’s take: The upside of graduation was that the Bucks lost just one starter in June; the downside was that it was Bozeman’s top wrestler. Bucks return a sizable group, but one that took losses. Getting mat time for that group is key.
NORTH BAY HAVEN (Panama City)
Coach: JJ Gibbens, 2nd year.
2019-20: 4-4 in duals. 20th at Gator Brawl, 11th at George Mulligan Memorial, T-84th at Girls’ State.
Post-season stats (last 3 years): 2020 — Duals: District semifinalist; Traditional: District 7th, 27th at region. 2019 — Duals: District T-7th; Traditional: District 8th, 24th at region. 2018 — Duals: Did not compete; Traditional: District 9th, 28th at region.
Projected key returners (15+ matches or post-season experience last year, with 2019-20 weights): William Lundgren (7th, 7-7 at 106, 0-2 at districts); India Junkalan (8th, 1-5 at 106, 0-2 at girls’ state); Hein Le (junior, 6-13 at 113, 1 match from regions); Katherine Lundgren (sophomore, 8-19 at 120, 2-2 at girls’ state, 1 match from regions); Joshua Cox (junior, 5-17 at 126, 0-2 at districts); Helmut vonKnoblauch (senior, 14-14 at 132, district 3rd, 0-2 at regions); Michael Esquivias (senior, 21-9 at 138, district champ, 2-2 at regions); Jonathan Yates (junior, 6-14 at 145, district 4th, 0-2 at regions); Cali Keeny (senior, 5-19 at 152, 1 match from regions); Hana Soto (8th, 0-2 at 154, 0-2 at girls’ state); Lyandro Leon (sophomore, 4-15 at 160, 1 match from regions); Stevens Roberson (junior, 1-19 at 170, 0-2 at girls’ state, 1 match from regions); Jackson Savell (junior, 3-12 at 182, district 4th, 0-2 at regions); Jonathan Serbest (junior, 8-8 at 220, district 4th, did not compete at regions); Layton Simmons (sophomore, 5-15 at 285, 1 match from regions).
Key losses (graduation): Ethan Cole (15-4 at 182, did not compete in post-season traditionals).
Matmen’s take: Buccaneers return 15 key wrestlers from last year’s team, graduating just one. Size of the returning group is bigger than ever before, and that is a massive upside for NBH. Group does need more mat time to make a bigger region impact.
ROCKY BAYOU CHRISTIAN (Niceville)
Coach: Kevin Walsh, 5th year.
2019-20: 5-7 in duals. 12th at Cam Brown Seminole Classic, 17th at Gator Brawl, 16th at George Mulligan Memorial, 15th at Wakulla IBT.
Post-season stats (last 3 years): 2020 — Duals: District semifinalist; Traditional: District 3rd, T-23rd at region. 2019 — Duals: District T-5th; Traditional: District 9th, 29th at region. 2018 — Duals: District T-3rd (2nd in pool); Traditional: District 10th, 29th at region.
Projected key returners (15+ matches or post-season experience last year, with 2019-20 weights): Thomas Pluhar (7th, 7-26 at 106, 1 match from regions); Owen Parry (freshman, 4-29 at 113, district 4th, 0-2 at regions); Luke Latham (junior, 17-17 at 126, district 3rd, 0-2 at regions); Aden Hudson (sophomore, 5-26 at 138, 1 match from regions); Calvin Wells (senior, 17-20 at 152, district 3rd, 1-2 at regions); Sam Brewer (junior, 11-16 at 160, district 3rd, 0-2 at regions); Jaden Scruggs (junior, 18-24 at 170, district runnerup, 0-2 at regions); Kyle Burden (senior, 18-17 at 285, district runnerup, 1-2 at regions).
Key losses (graduation): Wyatt Kirkpatrick (23-6 at 145, district champ, 1 match from states); Jacob Parry (13-16 at 220, 1 match from regions).
Matmen’s take: We did say Knights could reach top half in the district last year, and they did. RBCS is missing experience at several weights, so top-two status in late February might be ambitious, but returners should bring Knights back to top half.
RUTHERFORD (Panama City)
Coach: Jarod Melvin, 2nd year.
2019-20: 5-9 in duals. T-16th at Border Wars VII, 23rd at Capital City Classic, 8th at The Bash, 14th at Gator Brawl, 15th at George Mulligan Memorial, 12th at Wakulla IBT.
Post-season stats (last 3 years): 2020 — Duals: District quarterfinalist; Traditional: District 4th, 19th at region, T-48th at states. 2019 — Duals: District T-7th; Traditional: District 5th, 17th at region, T-42nd at states. 2018 — Duals: District T-5th (3rd in pool); Traditional: District 4th, 17th at region.
Projected key returners (15+ matches or post-season experience last year, with 2019-20 weights): Elijah Stillgess (sophomore, 23-24 at 106, district runnerup, 0-2 at regions); Zander Stillgess (7th, 8-22 at 106/113, did not compete in post-season traditionals); Calvin Williams (junior, 14-8 at 113/120, did not compete in post-season traditionals); Colin Dutton (senior, 20-9 at 120, district runnerup, did not compete at regions); Elijah Galloway (7th, 1-26 at 132, 1 match from regions); Christopher Weatherspoon (sophomore, 3-19 at 152, 1 match from regions); Zach Duncan (senior, 10-24 at 160, district 4th, 0-2 at regions); Chad Allgood (junior, 33-19 at 170, district champ, 0-2 at regions); Marco Mejia (sophomore, 8-23 at 182, district 3rd, 0-2 at regions); Xavier Stillgess (senior, 40-12 at 195, district champ, region 3rd, 1-2 at states).
Key losses (graduation): None.
Matmen’s take: With no graduates from last year’s team and 10 returners back, this might the best chance the Rams have to push for a region-dual spot and, perhaps, challenge for districts. Getting stars back from prior year’s team would help.
SOUTH WALTON (Santa Rosa Beach)
Coach: Travis Laxton, 2nd year as HC.
2019-20: 5-7 in duals. T-16th at Border Wars VII, 25th at Capital City Classic, 24th at Trey Culotta, 12th at Soddy Daisy Showdown, 17th at Gator Brawl, 9th at George Mulligan Memorial, 14th at Wakulla IBT.
Post-season stats (last 3 years): 2020 — Duals: District runnerup, region quarterfinalist; Traditional: District runnerup, 16th at region, T-56th at states. 2019 — Duals: District runnerup, region quarterfinalist; Traditional: 4th at district, 6th at region, T-23rd at states. 2018 — Duals: District runnerup, region quarterfinalist; Traditional: District runnerup, 6th at region, 20th at states.
Projected key returners (15+ matches or post-season experience last year, with 2019-20 weights): Brett Canut (junior, 7-10 at 106, district 4th, 0-2 at regions); CJ Inman (sophomore, 7-27 at 113, district runnerup, 1-2 at regions); Randall Yates (sophomore, 9-35 at 126, district 4th, 0-2 at regions); Canyon Dart (junior, 31-24 at 132, district champ, region 4th, 0-2 at states); Ryan Kurfirst (junior, 20-29 at 138, district 4th, 0-2 at regions); Shane Lane (junior, 6-17 at 138/145, did not compete in post-season traditionals); Ashton Nunes (sophomore, 13-23 at 145, district 3rd, 0-2 at regions); John Lopez (junior, 22-27 at 152, district runnerup, 1-2 at regions); Judah McCoy (sophomore, 6-9 at 152, did not compete in post-season traditionals); Seth Marshall (sophomore, 7-35 at 160, 1 match from regions); Chase Maas (sophomore, 6-14 at 170, district 3rd, 1-2 at regions); Payton Ubben (sophomore, 5-14 at 182/195, did not compete in post-season traditionals); Noah Gabbard (junior, 7-13 at 195, district runnerup, 0-2 at regions); Nick Lee (sophomore, 18-23 at 220, district champ, 0-2 at regions); Andrew Thompson (sophomore, 4-27 at 285, district 4th, 0-2 at regions).
Key losses (graduation except as noted): Dylan Garner (26-25 at 182, district champ, 2-2 at regions).
Matmen’s take: After three years of duals runnerup status, and three of four years as traditional runnerups, this might be the year for the Seahawks to take the next step. With 15 returners, group is large and has some solid experience behind it.
WEWAHITCHKA
Coach: Tracy Malcolm, 12th year.
2019-20: 0-17 in duals. 23rd at Swede Umbach, 16th at Lone Survivor, 12th at The Bash, 12th at Joe Bees Memorial, 19th at Gator Brawl, 17th at George Mulligan Memorial, 20th at Wakulla IBT, T-56th at Girls’ State.
Post-season stats (last 3 years): 2020 — Duals: District quarterfinalist; Traditional: District 8th, 26th at region. 2019 — Duals: District T-9th; Traditional: District 7th, 19th at region, T-54th at states. 2018 — Duals: Did not compete; Traditional: District 8th, T-25th at region.
Projected key returners (15+ matches or post-season experience last year, with 2019-20 weights): Justin Johnson (sophomore, 20-34 at 106, district 3rd, 0-2 at regions); Conner Roberts (sophomore, 45-23 at 120, district 3rd, 1-2 at regions); Kaylee Easter (junior, 17-34 at 126/128, 3-2 at girls’ state, 1 match from boys regions).
Key losses (graduation): Jaden Moseley (39-25 at 132, district runnerup, 1-2 at regions).
Matmen’s take: Tiny Gator squad of returners is experience-laden; it’s taken quite a bit of lumps along the way. If Wewahitchka can fill weights this year, don’t be surprised to see the Gators rise up in the ranks. But that’s an if for now.

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