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.
We don’t get brackets in advance (unless we tell you otherwise that we did), so while there’s a reasonable confidence that these are the weights where these kids picked to move on, we issue the disclaimer that we’re not 100% in knowledge of that.
We’re going to give you our first impression of each weight class, and, in each district, we’ll provide one weight class where we expect the unexpected to happen and three dark horses that particularly intrigue us as things stood when we wrote these.
Where: Oakleaf HS, Orange Park
When: Saturday, February 20 (8 a.m. weighin start, 10 a.m. wrestle start, times as local).
At stake: Top 4 in each weight class automatically advance to the 3A-Region 1 tournament February 26-27 at Flagler Palm Coast in Palm Coast. Districts this year are to wrestle out to fifth and sixth place where possible.
Projected team finish: 1. Fleming Island. 2. Oakleaf. 3. Creekside. 4. Bartram Trail. 5. Mandarin. 6. Nease. 7. Sandalwood. 8. Atlantic Coast.
The skinny: Never mind the uncivil loss; this is still Fleming Island’s primary focus in February, and its district to win for the fifth straight year, even with one starter for certain out and potentially a second one out. The Golden Eagles should move through their entire team that weighs in tomorrow. Should be a good fight between the hosts, Creekside and Bartram Trail for the second through fourth spots; with them, while the Clay Knights appear to have the upper hand, any given day could favor one of the other two. Mandarin has stepped up its capabilities and should hold fifth in this group.
Weight class to watch: 132. This is the case for me personally and maybe as an area analyst of the scene, because I haven’t had the chance to see my projected champ yet, and very few 3A sides have prior to tomorrow. But, also, this is a very deep group. There’s gonna be three decent kids left home after tomorrow, and even if my picks are incorrect, very likely to be one exceptionally solid kid left home.
Matmen’s first-impression region qualifiers:
106: 1. Ethan Vugman (Bartram Trail). 2. Joseph Forte (Fleming Island). 3. Andrew Feeks (Creekside). 4. Connor Gilbert (Oakleaf).
113: 1. Hunter Herrington (Fleming Island). 2. Nathan Bremer (Mandarin). 3. Conner Wright (Creekside). 4. Ethan Bell (Bartram Trail).
120: 1. Kevin Gilley (Oakleaf). 2. Hunter England (Creekside). 3. Devin Foster (Mandarin). 4. Ethan Myers (Fleming Island).
126: 1. Riley Holton (Fleming Island). 2. Marcus McGee (Oakleaf). 3. Mayhem Woolsey (Bartram Trail). 4. Ethan Harvey (Mandarin).
132: 1. Dante Rigal (Sandalwood). 2. Xavier Logan (Fleming Island). 3. Trevor Tagarelli (Bartram Trail). 4. Jameel Smith (Mandarin).
138: 1. Garrett Cole (Fleming Island). 2. Trevor Owens (Oakleaf). 3. Preston Pena (Bartram Trail). 4. Keanan Sexton (Creekside).
145: 1. Christopher Chop (Fleming Island). 2. Christian Griffith (Oakleaf). 3. Ryan Redfern (Creekside). 4. Andrew Ryan (Nease).
152: 1. David Parkes (Fleming Island). 2. Diego Rivera (Creekside). 3. Roman Polinsky (Oakleaf). 4. Zachary Gelo (Bartram Trail).
160: 1. Joshua Brown (Sandalwood). 2. James McClintic (Oakleaf). 3. Joshua Sandoval (Fleming Island). 4. John McNames (Bartram Trail).
170: 1. Jhoel Robinson (Fleming Island). 2. Hunter Brown (Creekside). 3. Aydan Nguyen (Bartram Trail). 4. Sebastian Lopez de Victoria (Oakleaf).
182: 1. Tony Carter (Mandarin). 2. Bryan Fortay (Creeekside). 3. Sharif Denson (Bartram Trail). 4. Braden Cole (Oakleaf).
195: 1. Hunter Williams (Fleming Island). 2. Isaiah Shevchook (Oakleaf). 3. Robbie Balke (Creekside). 4. Jaelen Simmons (Mandarin).
220: 1. Vincent Approbato (Creekside). 2. Raul Gonzalez (Fleming Island). 3. Ben Gaddis (Oakleaf). 4. Evan Higgins (Nease).
285: 1. Ryan Piersza (Bartram Trail). 2. Jordan Mitchell (Oakleaf). 3. Ethan Hoffstetter (Fleming Island). 4. Andres Rodriguez (Mandarin).
What will Williams do: He’s had an appearance at 182 this year, so he’s got options. His style would suggest — at least to my untrained eye — that he should be up a weight and therefore not have to watch weight so closely, but if I knew in advance of this writing that he was going to be at 82, he would be the choice there.
A logjam of Knights: Oakleaf’s had a number of mix-and-match options at 145 and 152 all season, and has employed them more or less equally throughout the season with not much drop off. I imagine the wrestleoffs at those weights were fairly spirited either last week or early this week. At 170, they’ve got options there as well.
Creekside flip-flop: I think the way I projected the Creekside 20/26 is how they’ll lineup, but both wrestlers have had appearances at 120; usually the one who can win the wrestleoff decides where to go.
Different Nease lineup: It’ll be a bit odd to see the Panthers without their “wasp” at 106 (her dad’s phrase, not an original from me), but I imagine the Panther girls will be at girls’ state. Still bummed that Osceola changed the dates, since I had told Bibla I would be going; I get why the change, but I had planned to go to second day when it was going to be Sunday. Can’t do it on a Saturday without choosing between it, on the one hand, and being present for two district tournaments in the area, on the other.