GREEN COVE SPRINGS — State Duals, Episode IV, is set.
For the fourth consecutive year, Clay and Wakulla will clash for the 1A-Region 1 title on the first day of the FHSAA state duals tournament at Osceola. This year’s version will be staged on January 22.
As for the Blue Devils, their path to Kissimmee was secured Thursday night behind dominant wins over Episcopal (62-7) and Yulee (62-10) in the region quarterfinal and semifinal rounds, respectively.
“We’ve made strides with the guys. Getting better every week. We had eight or nine guys going to tournaments (in the off-season) even with Covid. Took seven kids all over the country, and now we’re catching everybody else up,” Clay coach Jim Reape said. “Kids are even showing up on Sundays to work, so it’s a hungry group.”
After dropping the dual season-opener five weeks ago, Clay is now 8-1 for the season. The Blue Devils took it to Yulee (8-4) from the jump, roaring out to a 46-0 lead before Isaiah Shook’s third-period fall got the Hornets on the board.
Aston Ricks (160) would add a 14-6 major, but that was it for points for Yulee.
“Honestly we were not ready to go. Clay’s a great program, but that’s not us out there…mistakes, slow on bottom, guys not initiating,” Yulee coach Brandon Crowder said. “But Reape has a great program, Hall of Fame coach and hats off to them. We’ve gotta be back-to-work. Doesn’t matter how well we do, or how bad we do, we got to keep working.”
Falls from Jadon Bell (195), Garrett Tyre (220), Ethan Daniels (285), Caleb Thompson (106) and Dalton Huckelberry (120) fueled the early surge for the Blue Devils, who also got techs from Maverick Rainwater (16-1 at 113) and Gunner Ivey (15-0 at 126) and decisions from Chandler Thomas (10-3 at 132) and Luke Boree (5-1 at 138).
After Yulee scored, Clay would pick up pins from Cale Hoskinson (170) and Ethan Larsen (182), plus a 16-4 major from Dominic Martin (152).
“To compete against Fleming Island, Somerset, Wakulla…we had to raise the level of the room,” Reape said. “We’ve got a long way to go yet, but we’re doing it. Had a high level of intensity tonight.”
Yulee 54, Bolles 22: The Hornets would spot the Bulldogs (5-15) leads of 15-6 and 19-12, but didn’t trail again after Tristan Martinez’s first-period pin at 126, winning seven of the last eight weights of the dual to pull away.
“A lot of times that we talk at this time in the year, I think I usually say the same thing, and that’s that we’ll be good in a month,” Bolles coach Matt Morris said. “It’s just about getting guys down to weight, five football players that aren’t in shape yet. We have three state qualifiers wrestling well and a lot of 9th and 10th graders that are young but at it a while.
“We tried to bounce our lineup around to maybe give us a chance to win the dual and it didn’t work out so well.”
Keleb Reddish (182), Lewis Duhan (120), Martinez, Shook (145), Jesse Johnson (152) and Ricks (160) won by pin for Yulee, which got forfeit wins at 106, 138 and 170 to round out its scoring. Bolles had falls from Ethan Asbury (195) and Jack Pyburn (220), a 17-6 major from Jacob Witt (17-6) and decisions from Cooper Fordham (8-3 at 285, in first varsity event) and Denny Vohs (10-5).
Clay 62, Episcopal 7: After holding a 4-3 lead through two weights, the Blue Devils powered through runs of 32-0 and 26-0 against the first-time region qualifier Eagles (14-4).
“I told the guys, big challenges make big opportunities,” Episcopal coach Jefferson Brant said. “Clay and Yulee are tough, tough teams. Kids are so young, but they need this, to square up against tough, experienced teams. We’ve just got to keep seeking those big opportunities out. Glad to be here, it’s been a fun season.”
Pins by Daniels (285) and Thompson (106), plus a tech from Rainwater (16-1 at 113) and 4-1 win for Huckelberry at 126, with forfeit victories at 220 and 120, comprised the first big Clay run, while the second string of points came on pins from Josh Kumpf (145) and Luca Fiannaca (160), majors from Boree (12-2 at 138), Martin (12-4 at 152) and a forfeit win at 170. Larsen’s major (10-1 at 182) got the dual started for the Blue Devils.
For Episcopal, Lawson Perry’s 7-3 win at 195 was the opening salvo, with Joe Jackson (132) later taking an 8-0 major.
Clay goes right back on the mats later tonight, hosting Flagler Palm Coast in a key matchup of region qualifiers across classes. Saturday features Yulee at the Westside Roundrobin and Episcopal going to Tallahassee for the Trojan Invitational. Bolles is off until January 23, when the Bulldogs go to the Camden Callout. Results from this quarterfinal and semifinal round can be found HERE.