NEW SMYRNA BEACH — No team has improved more in one year than New Smyrna Beach.
One year ago, New Smyrna Beach was beaten out of sight twice at district duals (the Barracudas also won twice), and while there would be some individual successes, from a team standpoint there was still tough sledding to be done.
Fast forward to 2021, after the craziest offseason and preseason and, yes, even regular season to date, and the Barracudas are now not only district dual champions but just one step away from region champions. Thursday night at home, New Smyrna Beach took down Ponte Vedra (72-12) in the 2A-Region 1 quarterfinals, then came back to secure a 45-33 semifinal win over Fletcher to qualify for dual state for the first time.
The Barracudas (11-1) will face Pace in the Friday mid-afternoon session of state duals on January 22 at Osceola, with the winner advancing out to Saturday’s 2A semifinals against the Region 2 champion.
The semi saw New Smyrna Beach jump out to a 22-0 lead after four weights, with back-to-back-to-back pins from Jace Engberg (132), Justis Chandler (138) and Michael Shannon (145), plus a 12-4 major at 126 from Jamey Bruner.
Fletcher (11-4) then made its move in the upper half of the lineup, winning five of seven matches to cut the Barracuda lead from 22 to seven, behind falls from Christopher Strong (160), Ryan Klein (182), Ethan Hollenbach (220) and Toby Matson (285), plus a 7-1 win at 152 for Joel Rodriguez.
But the Barracudas were able to hold the lead thanks to Steven Harshman’s fall at 170 and a forfeit win at 195, and freshman Simjay Engberg’s fall at 106 sealed the deal, as New Smyrna Beach was up 13 with two weights to go. The teams would trade pins at 113 and 120, with the Barracudas’ Aidan Sutton (113) and Fletcher’s Cole O’Brien (120) closing out the dual with respective falls.
Fletcher put itself in place to return to state duals with a 39-25 win over St Augustine in the quarterfinals. More on both of those matches follows:
Fletcher 39, St Augustine 25: The Senators built a hot start, getting out to a 15-0 lead behind pins from Ryden Ashmore (126) and Josh Daltro (132), plus a 9-2 win for O’Brien at 120.
St Augustine (6-7) cut the lead to six, then five, and then behind back-to-back pins took a 7-point lead, 25-18, with four weights to go. Carlos Quintanal (138), Connor Spossey (170) and Ryan Murphy (182) had falls during that Yellow Jacket surge, with Clint Griffin winning by major decision (12-4) at 160 and Gabe Galloza pushing through for an 8-6 win at 145.
But Fletcher would close down the dual with a 21-0 flourish for the victory, with back-to-back pins at 220 and 285 from Hollenbach and Matson, with Matson’s pin in effect clinching the victory, given that the Senators had a forfeit in hand at 113. Ana Bradshaw (9-3 at 106) won the last contested weight class of the dual by decision.
New Smyrna Beach 72, Ponte Vedra 12: The Barracudas opened the dual with a 36-0 run and closed it with another 36-point run, in which 12 New Smyrna Beach wrestlers took max points.
Tristan Winfrey (120) kicked off the first run with a pin, followed by falls from Bruner (126), Jace Engberg (132), Chandler (138), Shannon (145) and Avante Chamble (152) for the hosts.
Ponte Vedra (4-10) stopped the run with back-to-back pins at 160 and 170, with Joseph Skinner and Rett Maritato both taking first-period falls, but New Smyrna Beach was too strong from there, with falls from Doug Dittmer (195), Austin Mitchum (220), Noah Cortez (285) and Sutton (113), plus forfeit victories at 182 and 106.
Results for the bracket’s three duals can be found HERE. New Smyrna Beach will stay in hosting mode for Saturday’s Barracuda Duals, while Ponte Vedra will also compete Saturday, going to Tallahassee for the Trojan Invitational. St Augustine is off until January 23, when the Yellow Jackets will go to Columbia’s Tiger Duals, while Fletcher is off until January 27, when the Senators will host Ponte Vedra.