ORANGE PARK — We’ve been around for most of a decade now. And for most of that time, Oakleaf has been a sleeping giant that, for too many seasons, had been more sleeping and less giant.
Things began to change under the program’s administration by the school’s current athletic director, and were accelerated by the hiring of a young coach with NCWA college experience and, to boot, an alum of the school with a committed belief to off-season work in one of the most intense gyms in north Florida.
That combination is starting to awaken the sleeper and Wednesday night at the 3A-District 1 tournament, the host Knights won their first district title at least in the site’s life, if not for many years before that, as Oakleaf held off district duals champion Creekside, 214-208, to win the IBT district championship.
The Clay County Knights will take 10 wrestlers as automatic qualifiers to next weekend’s Region 1 tournament at Flagler Palm Coast, with five champions, three runners-up and two 3rds.
As for the St Johns Knights, Creekside did qualify out a co-district best 11 wrestlers to Region 1, taking three titles, five runnerup slots, with two 3rds and one 4th.
Nease emerged as a solid third-place finisher, vaulting ahead of “expert” expectations to score 173 points and match Creekside’s 11-medal haul Wednesday night. The St Johns Panthers will advance one champion, three runners-up, four 3rds and three 4ths.
Bartram Trail held off Mandarin, 148-110, for fourth and fifth, respectively. The Bears qualified nine wrestlers out, led by three district champions. They’ll add three 3rds and three 4ths to the mix, while the Mustangs advance five out to Flagler, with two champs, two runners-up and one 4th.
Sandalwood, with 96 points, was sixth. The Saints will also take five wrestlers to the region round, with one runnerup, two 3rds and two 4ths.
First Coast pushed past Atlantic Coast, 59-27, for seventh and eighth, respectively. The Buccaneers moved two 4th-place finishers on to Flagler, while the Stingrays have one 3rd and one 4th.
Below follows a summary of the day —
106: Oakleaf made its big push early, with four weight-class wins in the first five, as Knights freshman Angel Rodriguez (25-6) won the title with a semifinal pin over Bartram sophomore Chase Newmans (2:36), then escaped out in the ultimate tiebreaker for a 7-6 decision in the championship match over Nease freshman Jaiden Zajni. Zajni (23-8) earned a trip to the final after a quarterfinal bye and a wild 19-17 semifinal overtime victory over Creekside junior Alexavier Panganiban. Panganiban (20-10, front-side pin) had a bye into the third-place match, where he found a takedown in sudden victory for a 7-5 win over Newmans. Newmans (1-2 post-season) secured his region space with a 41-second consi-semi pin. All four region qualifiers are first-timers.
113: Oakleaf freshman Ion Hortinela (19-8) made it back-to-back for the Clay Knights, pinning his way through the tournament. After a bye into the semis, Hortinela took a 51-second pin over Sandalwood freshman Adam Goodman in that round, then went into the second period in the finals, pinning Nease freshman Jason Choi in 3:11 for the championship. Choi (17-12) advanced to the final after a bye and 40-second pin over Creekside’s Luke Dixon, while Goodman (14-20) wrestled back to third behind a consi-semi bye and fall in the medal round over Atlantic Coast freshman ArJun Lamba (1:49). Lamba (1-2 post-season) earned his space with a takedown in overtime for a 4-2 blood-round win. All four region qualifiers are first-timers.
120: Bartram Trail junior Ethan Vugman (42-1) made sure this weight, too, would not be staffed solely by first-time region qualifiers, earning his third Flagler appearance and district title with two pins in a combined mat time of 2:05. After a bye, Vugman falled Nease freshman Durban Aldrich (:29) in the semis, picking up a 2nd first-period fall in the final over Creekside freshman Justin Umali in 1:36. Umali (19-12) got his match with Vugman after a bye and 4-1 semifinal win over Oakleaf freshman Lincoln Morales (16-9, front-side pin), who added two more pins in the consis, taking third with a fall (4:17) over Aldrich. Aldrich (10-10, front-side pin) punched his region ticket with an injury-default win in the consi semis. Umali, Morales and Aldrich are all first-time region qualifiers.
126: Oakleaf sophomore Keon Barrientos (26-10) won his team’s third weight-class title, making his first Flagler appearance to boot. After a bye in the quarters, Barrientos bonus-pointed through the bracket, with a semifinal pin (1:18) over Sandalwood junior Ricky Hicks and a championship-round 13-2 major over Creekside junior Conner Wright. Wright (22-8) earned his second Flagler trip after a bye and semifinal pin (1:07) over Nease sophomore Lucian Slayden. Hicks (21-23) also qualified for the second time after a year away due to injury, with two consi-side pins that included a fall in 1:21 over Slayden for third place. Slayden (10-12, front-side pin) had a bye in the consi semis to advance out, joining Barrientos as a first-time region qualifier.
132: Oakleaf senior Marcus McGee (32-3) earned his fourth trip to Flagler for regions, first time as a district champion, after a quarterfinal pin (2:46) over First Coast’s Nolan Wood and decisions over Nease junior Parker Stamschror (6-1) in the semis and over 2021 3A state placer Jameel Smith of Mandarin, 3-1, in the title match, handing Smith his first loss of the year. Smith (38-1) qualified to regions for the second time, with pins in the quarters over Creekside’s Chihaya Cook (1:50) and in the semis over Sandalwood senior Ben Peterson (3:31). Stamschror (32-6) wrestled back to third with two consi-side wins, with an injury-default win in the third-place match over Peterson (24-12, front-side pin), who’d taken a blood-round 47-second fall to qualify out. Both Stamschror and Peterson are first-time region qualifiers.
138: Creekside senior Keanan Sexton (23-7) got his team on the title board, making his second Flagler trip and first as a district champ. After a bye in the quarters, Sexton shut out Bartram Trail junior Jacob August, 5-0, in the semifinal round, then falled Nease senior Mateos Zajni (5:30) for his first district bracket. Zajni (21-9) also had a bye into the semis, where he pinned Oakleaf’s Jackson Hemphill in 1:24 to grab his second Flagler trip. August (3-1 post-season, front-side decision), whose wrestling career has been sidetracked by injuries and significant recent illness, had arguably his best high school experience thus far in wrestling back to third, with a 7-5 win in the medal round over First Coast senior Jace Austin (August had beaten Austin, 12-6, in the quarters as well). Austin (15-5) got out to regions with a 4-3 win in the consi semis; both he and August are first-time region qualifiers.
145: In a three-person bracket, Bartram junior Preston Pena (35-12) had a bye into the finals to qualify out to regions for the second time after a year away, adding his first district title with a 6-3 win in the championship match over Creekside freshman Colton Leavell. Leavell (25-9) reached the final behind a 48-second pin over Nease freshman Owen Satterfield (4-8), who had a bye for third place. Both Leavell and Satterfield are first-time Flagler qualifiers.
152: Nease junior Jacob Lutz (33-3) won three times for his first region appearance and district title, falling Creekside senior Lee Leavell in 2:59 for the championship. Earlier, Lutz took decisions over Bartram Trail sophomore Grady Hutchinson (6-2, quarters) and over Atlantic Coast senior Joel Dudley (8-6 in sudden victory, semis), earning victories over every other region qualifier. Leavell (25-7) earned his second Flagler trip behind a 12-2 major in the semis over Oakleaf’s Elijah Shevchook. Dudley (1-1 post-season) had a bye into the third-place match to grab his second region appearance, falling Hutchinson in 3:27 to grab third as well. Hutchinson (12-9) found a takedown in sudden victory for a 9-7 blood-round win, qualifying out to regions for the first time.
160: Creekside senior Diego Rivera (16-5) took his team’s second title and his second region appearance, first as a district champ, after a bye in the quarters, a semifinal pin (1:27) over Mandarin’s Isaiah Diltz and an 8-1 decision in the championship round over Oakleaf junior Roman Polinsky, a rematch from their finals meeting in 2021 (which Polinsky won). Polinsky (23-10) also had a bye and pin en route to the final, falling Nease senior Bam Ghazanfari (3:13) to take his second region appearance. Ghazanfari (16-19, front-side pin) won twice in the consis, with a high-scoring 15-12 third-place win over Bartram Trail senior Easton Hansen (Ghazanfari had pinned Hansen in the quarters). Hansen (3-7) took a blood round fall (2:40) to secure his space; both he and Ghazanfari are first-time Flagler qualifiers.
170: Bartram Trail junior John McNames (2-0 post-season) earned his third Flagler trip, and first as a district champion, behind a fall in the semis (:36) over Sandalwood’s Malik Wilson and a 10-3 championship decision over Mandarin senior Adrian Rodriguez. Rodriguez (25-4) pinned his way into the final, with falls over Creekside’s Tristen Darling (1:08, quarters) and over Oakleaf senior Mason Ganion (4:54) in the semis. Ganion (24-9, front-side pin) added two more in the consis, pinning First Coast sophomore Alphonso Parsons in 4:28 for third (duplicating a quarterfinal pin). Parsons (13-8) had to win twice on the back to earn a ticket to the next round, taking a consi-semi pin in 4:21. Rodriguez, Ganion and Parsons are all first-time Flagler qualifiers.
182: After some time away in January to finalize a Division I football decision, Mandarin senior Tony Carter (27-0) won twice in the bracket for the Mustangs’ first title of the tournament. After a bye into the semis, Carter needed only 26 seconds in that round to fall Nease senior Peter Simon, but he had to work hard to overcome Oakleaf senior Onjel Caraballo in the final, 10-8. Carter earned his fourth trip to regions and first as a district champion. Caraballo (18-5) punched his second Flagler ticket after a year away last year, with a five-point move in sudden victory for an 8-3 semifinal win over Creekside sophomore Eddie Craig. Craig (24-11) rallied in the consis for two wins and his first region appearance, falling Simon in 2:45 for third place. Simon (21-12, front-side pin) qualified out for the second time with a bye in the consi semis.
195: Mandarin junior Jaelen Simmons (30-2) made it back-to-back Mustang titles, with three first-period falls in a combined mat time of 4:23 for his first district title and second region appearance. Simmons falled First Coast’s Dean Marshall (1:35, quarters), Nease sophomore Alan Rivera (1:30, semis) and Sandalwood junior Duffy Mista (1:18, final) to take the title. Mista (21-8) reached the final, after a quarterfinal bye, behind an 8-3 win in the semis over Creekside junior Eli Pagan. Rivera (19-3, front-side pin) won two consi-side decisions to place third, taking a 2-1 win in double overtime over Pagan in the medal round. Pagan (21-7, front-side decision) needed a blood-round fall (1:56) to qualify out. Mista, Rivera and Pagan are all first-time Flagler qualifiers.
220: Creekside senior Vincent Approbato (29-4) pinned his way into the final, avenging a recent regular-season loss in the championship round with a 6-2 win for first place over Oakleaf junior Ben Gaddis. Earlier, Approbato took falls in the quarters over Sandalwood’s Sharrod Bobo (1:09) and in the semis First Coast’s Jaquan Dennis (1:03). Gaddis (23-7) punched his second Flagler ticket with a quarterfinal pin over Atlantic Coast’s Hayden Brodehl (1:33) and a 9-6 semifinal win over Bartram Trail junior Shane Armstrong. Armstrong (37-12, front-side major), a first-year wrestler for the Bears, won twice in the consis, with a 1-0 third-place win over Mandarin junior De’Shawn Wise-Minor after majoring Wise-Minor, 12-0, in the quarters. Wise-Minor (20-12) also won twice in the consis for his second region qualification after a year away, with a 9-4 consi-semi decision to advance onward.
285: Oakleaf junior Jordan Mitchell (18-3) closed out the night on an up note for the hosts, helping his team clinch the title while earning his first district championship and second region trip, as he took pins in the semis over Bartram Trail sophomore Tyler Vernon (:19) and in the championship over Creekside junior Dominic Deverteuil (1:49). Deverteuil (11-12), after a bye into the semis, qualified out with a semifinal pin over First Coast’s Derric Jacobs (3:24). Vernon (14-18, front-side pin) added two more falls in the consis, pinning his quarterfinal opponent, Sandalwood freshman Thomas Graham, a second time in 2:02 for third place. Graham (8-22) earned his region space with a blood-round fall (1:46). Deverteuil, Vernon and Graham are all first-time region qualifiers.
You can see complete brackets from this tournament and other 3A contested brackets in Region 1 and throughout the state HERE.