#1Aregion1: War Eagles Claim Episode IV, Region Title

Wakulla 285 Jayven Hearns (back) looks to assert control prior to winning by fall Friday morning in the 1A-Region 1 final against Clay at Osceola HS in Kissimmee (Photo by Shannon Heaton; more action photos from Wakulla v Clay can be found on the Matmen Instagram account, nflamatmen).

KISSIMMEE — Some sequels never disappoint.

And Clay vs Wakulla, Part IV, surely didn’t Friday morning in the 1A-Region 1 championship dual staged at Osceola HS, on the first day of the FHSAA state tournament.

Ultimately, as they did in 2019 and again last year, the War Eagles would prevail and move on to Saturday’s state semifinals, though the Blue Devils made them earn every point in a 36-35 dual victory.

The War Eagles will face Palm Bay in Saturday’s 1A state semifinals at 10 a.m. Finals, for all three classes, are scheduled for 1 p.m. Palm Bay rolled past Hernando, 61-12, on Friday to win the Region 2 title.

“It was fun. I love it,” Wakulla coach William Pafford, with equal measure accuracy and relief in the voice, after the victory.

“Having those moments, that’s what it’s all about. Moments they can take for the rest of their lives.”

Wakulla (25-2) had a few anxious moments, particularly early on, as Clay (8-2) built leads 14-0 and 26-3.

The Blue Devils jumped out behind three bonus-point wins from Chandler Thomas (fall at 132) and majors from Gunner Ivey (15-1 at 126) and Luke Boree (9-0 at 138).

Wakulla got one back, only just, on a 5-4 Hayden Reeves win at 145, but the Blue Devils got back-to-back pins from Dominic Martin (152) and Cale Hoskinson (160) to build a 23-point lead not even halfway through the dual.

“We wanted the guys to go out and compete. We had our chances,” Clay coach Jim Reape said.

“But, partially, it was death by a thousand cuts.”

Those cuts started drawing blood at 170 and ever after, as the War Eagles strung together back-to-back-to-back falls from 170-195 from Cole Baggett (170), Jackson Osteen (182) and Tyler Edenfield (195).

Clay got six back on Garrett Tyre’s fall at 220 to restart a double-digit lead at 32-21, but Wakulla pinned back-to-back at the bookends, as Jayven Hearns (285) and Julian Harvey (106) pins got the War Eagles their first lead, 33-32.

“We had some young guys that got put in jeopardy and we didn’t do enough on bottom to stay off our backs,” Reape said. “I’m proud of the progress we made, but sometimes you don’t know until you get into live situations that you can’t always do the junior-high things that used to work.”

Clay got the lead back on Maverick Rainwater’s 8-1 decision at 113, but Wakulla’s Raymond Hatchman slammed the door with a 5-3 win at 120.

“That’s what sucks with Covid; normally we’d go and do something fun, but we have to go back and sit in the dadgum hotel room,” Pafford said. “We can go eat something. Hang out, watch film and game plan.

“We didn’t get to see Palm Bay (at St Cloud’s Bulldog Brawl last month). We crapped the bed against Winter Springs and Harmony and we never got to wrestle them.”

Lemon Bay romped past Anclote, 78-3, to win the Region 3 title, while Somerset Academy took the Region 4 title with a 40-21 victory over Cardinal Gibbons.

Brief summaries of the other region duals follow:

Region 2: Palm Bay built a 43-0 lead, clinching the dual before allowing Hernando on the scoreboard behind eight straight wins, including pins from Rocco Senia (126), Braden Baxter (132), Ronald Theilacker (138), Nathan Furman (145), Anthony Holden (152) and Alexzander Owens (182).

Region 3: The Manta Rays won the first 10 weights, seven of them by pin, before Anclote got on the board with a decision at 285. Johnathon Hartsikov-Newsome (126), Justin Brady (132), Ashton Tucker (138), Caleb Corridino (145), Austin Werden (152), Marcus Lopez (160) and Louis Baldor (195) each had pins during that early run.

Region 4: Somerset had a key stretch from 145 through 160 where it went on a 15-0 run, with Bas Diaz (152) and Darian Estevez (160) each taking pins and Chase Gillis (145) had an 8-2 win as part of that run. The Panthers won five of the last seven matches of the dual as well.

Box scores from all of today’s duals can be found HERE.

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