Before I spend what will be tomorrow writing about the kids who got out to states, I have a couple of thoughts about those who didn’t.
I started this piece five years ago while covering the 1A-Region 1 finals at Clay that year, because I just was so struck not only by what I saw, but what I FELT.
While I was at Chiles today, trying to get as many pictures as I could, I did try to WATCH, too.
The intensity of the emotion, no matter the venue, never changes.
No less a philosopher than the legendary Terry Brands (of course I’m going to name-check an Iowa wrestler) said about this sport, “You get what you earn.”
That’s true, and it’s not true.
Many of these kids should be at states. A few of them have been. One or two has podiumed there.
I hear the moms and dads now: Why not say something about all the kids that lost in the blood round? It hurts for them, too.
I agree. However, most, thankfully, have a chance to come back and gain redemption in subsequent years. But this is the cruelest of fates for these few (and yet, always, too many), the seniors who have their high school careers end in the blood round. For virtually all of them, this is their final moment for them. My son had a similar fate in track and field three years ago, in his senior season. So I get it, a bit.
It’s carnage out there. I hate it. And I can’t stop watching it. I’m never going to forget those emotions, the highs and the lows. They’re absolutely beautiful, and they’re absolutely shattering. THAT is why I cover this sport.
That’s why I feel sorrow for these kids that follow in this list, the seniors whose careers ended in the blood round on Saturday, because precious few teenagers are willing to step up and do what it takes just to even say that they are wrestlers, let alone be good enough to have a chance to find out the answers on the state stage. Precious damn few.
I know how hard they’ve worked, and, at the same time, I will never, ever truly know.
We begin with our list of kids we never saw once, never covered once. In the past couple of years, I learned everybody wants to read this and nobody wants to read their name, or their son’s name, in this story.
3A-Region 2: Josiah Ortiz. Anthony Samuels. Jackson Norton. Kaluv Peterson. Daegan Buzbee. Jake McDarby. Trenton Johnson. Connor VanBuren. Sterling Rankin. Jack Hostetter. Austin Bovee. Aidan Widerberg.
3A-Region 3: Carlos Garcia. Frank Addis. Tyreque Pringle. Brett Vangel. Bryce Mancuso. Will Eltringham. Emil Cataquet. Kristian Damaso.
3A-Region 4: Emmanuel Hernandez. Jerry Enrique Molina. Aiden Gasper. William Kleine. Dustin Lubin. Rocco D’ascoli. Shemar Barthelus. Javier Taylor. Daniel Johnson. Nieed Guillaume. Jared Campbell.
2A-Region 2: Mateo Bell. Avry Huezo. Ahmad Collier-Williams. Randall Watson. Caleb George. Nathan Patrick. William Belcher. Jarquez Knight. Kayden Graham. Jeremiah Stone. Dion Thomas. David Lone. John Finch. Titus Randall. Kaleb Feuston.
2A-Region 3: Jean-Carlos Pineda. Jason Cottrell. Treyvon Thomas. Dylan Segui. Daniel Maloney. Romario Degoutte. Rejon Story. Jaiden Musse. Colin Koneski. Dominick Dekker.
2A-Region 4: Brock Coburn. Manuel Dominguez. Tannahil Jean. Sebastian Jenkins-St Prix.
1A-Region 2 (outside coverage area): Anthony Edwards. Manuel Quinonez. Lane Beck. Wes Booker. Thomas Danielson. Peyton Chancey. Riley Henchey.
1A-Region 3: Ryan Kissel. Paul Wilcox. Raymond Walker. Derek Murack. Konstantinos Houvardas. Dominic Minervini. Matthew Tanner. Klaas van de Groep. Jayden Mayo.
1A-Region 4: Roland Loreto. Mathew Palermo. Gabriel Plata. Sajid Mabud. Diego Peralta. Ethan Ardavin. Josiah Sisco.
So many names I know. Have seen you wrestle northern kids.
If I’ve noted you in the above paragraphs, and your name is mis-spelled, my sincere apologies. I spelled it exactly as it appeared on the Trackwrestling bracket. I tried to look up every kid that didn’t have a school year listed. I might have missed one or two of you. For that, I apologize.
Now for my local kids. And they are, in fact, “my” kids.
Noah Anderson. Strictly speaking, you weren’t “in” my coverage area this year, but that’s only because I never got a good email address for your coach. But you were in my coverage area the last two years, so I kept looking out. You took a step forward in this tournament each year, and with a new coach, that had to be tough.
Deriz Andrews. I know you were the only local additional qualifier to get as far as the blood round, and you might have been the only one to get as far as Saturday. Who knows what we might have seen with just a little more time? I’m glad that you represented your school so well this year. You gave UCS a lot to shout about; be proud of this effort.
Christopher Strong. It’s tough to follow in two older brothers’ footsteps, because everything you do is measured by what they did. At least, to an extent. One of your coaches showed me a text you sent him today, and, even in the face of your individual disappointment, you put the program first. Those brothers would be proud of you for that.
Jalen Moliere. I’ve been watching your results even before your team became part of our coverage area this year. You went toe-to-toe with my pick to win the title and you never backed down for a second today. That’s something I’ve picked up about Apopka this year, is that you guys never give an inch about anything. That will serve you well in future endeavors.
Aidan Kyllonen. I didn’t know whether you moved into the district or just tried out the sport for the first time this year, but you made a heckuva impact for the Eagles this season, and winning 40+ matches is no small accomplishment. Now, it’s time to help you help JJ get better this week and help him accomplish his goals at states.
Bonosky Fidel. I’m sure you are thinking about the previous weekend, when everything went right, and comparing it to today, when it didn’t. We say in the sport, it’s not the six minutes, it’s what happens in the six minutes. But it’s not always. It’s the process before the six minutes. That process will be invaluable later, although I know tonight stings.
Micah Barker. I know this season was not how you wanted it to go, long before this weekend, and the tough draw you got in round 1 and the battle with a district rival today in the blood round. But you’ve been a stalwart for the Dolphins for some while now, and you have done everything the team has asked you to do (wrestling 3 weights up from where you are now, last year).
Tyler Drone. Kurt will get the accolades tomorrow, and he had a great tournament, but I think just as much that you set the tone for this team, not just this year, but for the past 2-3 seasons now, and I’ve been watching, so I know. You’ve helped Windermere get off the ground as a program, and you’re going to be remembered there for a long while because of that.
Blake Fluck. You were another one of the northwest seniors that came on radar for the first time this year, and believe you me, you made a lot of folks quite quite worried with what you were able to acccomplish this year. Today was not a good day. But this was a very, very good year for you, and I hope you’ll remember the highlights of this year more than this weekend.
Jerry Vargas. I don’t know how much you and Tyler made each other better every day in the practice room, but you made yourself into a district champion this year. You guys put Windermere on the map as a team to follow in the coming years, by finishing second in both district duals and the IBT. And you defied one “expert” predictions by beating two guys this weekend that the “expert” would have predicted gone the other way. Keep defying others’ expectations.
Daniel Brattain. Being a part of a program like Wakulla’s carries with it a certain level of expectations, and those are tough enough to contend with before the other guy on the mat across from you. Guys you got to practice with over the past three years set the tone for you, and I hope that, more importantly than what happened this weekend, you were able to set the tone for younger War Eagles to follow. They say tradition never graduates, and be confident that you have done your best to carry it on.
Hale Wood. I didn’t get to see you personally wrestle all that often, but Coach Allen always spoke highly of you when talking about your performances and today I got to see just why. You get every possible ounce of ability out of every moment, and that’s a credit to YOU and YOUR choices. This week, it’s time to choose to help get Aidan on the state podium. You’ve represented the Patriots well.
Liam Hawkes. I am sure that you wanted to join Xander more than anything on the Wakulla podium this weekend, and I can’t imagine how hard it is to get to the “one step from” place two years in a row. I wondered how the team was going to fare without the “names” of the wrestlers of prior years being in positions of leadership. I need not have worried. You have held that down and then some. Now help Xander make podium!
Kai Higgins. It’s been fun to follow the Patriots this year and see what seems to be a rather nice program underway. There’s lots of good young kids in that group. And those good young kids needed a leader, and that leader was you. One of those kids is going to make the show in the next couple of years or so, maybe even next year, and he’s going to have you to thank for it.
Caleb Crawford. You’ve been one of the leaders for Union County since its inception. It started from ground zero, nothing. And you and your teammates — with good coaching and investment, to be sure — went from that nothing and have built a program that was IMMEDIATELY competitive. I’ve never seen a first-year program do that. That takes a real commitment, the commitment that you made. It would have been easy to walk away, but you chose the road less traveled, and so much the better for you.
Lane Wishart. This was truly a breakout year for DeLand in every way possible. Think about last year; last year you didn’t compete in this tournament. Think about how much growth you went through this off-season, you personally and your team alongside you. This group needed you as a leader. And you delivered. Your team qualified out for region duals and made the Sweet 16, beating a host team. You won 46 matches this year! A lot of guys would LOVE that kind of year, and one day you will also.
Dylan Billingsley. Along with Aidan and Blake, I wish I had gotten to see more of your high school career, because you were another guy that dropped a bombshell with your early results. Here’s what I do know, your one year with that guy, those guys, in your corner is going to mean so much for you as you go into adulthood beyond just wrestling. And I am sure your freshman teammates in the lineup learned much from you, so I will get to see more of you, through them.
Tristen Carbonell. I know that when you came over to Winter Park from your prior school that this weekend was not what you had hoped for. Seeing the bottom half of the consi bracket today gave me a tough feeling, because you were all seniors, and I never like to see seniors not move on. But just know that you added a lot to the Wildcats this year, and I saw a lot of quiet strength you showed in accepting your loss Friday with grace.
Denny Vohs. It’s going to feel seriously strange not typing your name for Bolles results in the middleweight part of the lineup, in part because I’ve been doing it for about five years now. You’ve been on this site for half of its existence now. The cooler thing for me, though, was being on hand for Senior Night and hearing about your passion for animals. Highlighting wrestlers as people beyond the mats is something I want this site to do, and so I was very glad to see that.
Haiden Williams-Marchetti. I can remember not too long ago when Lyman had fallen on seriously hard times as a program. You were not the first name on the list that started to bring the Greyhounds back, but there were times this year where you were the highlight. You and Jackson have pointed the way to where Lyman wrestling could go once again. And today, you avenged your loss at districts. That was huge. Focus on that part of today.
Luke Latham. I really, really had hoped, after seeing Wyatt on this list, after seeing Calvin on this list last year, that this would be the year. I know with certainty you thought so as well. But. That’s going to make the breakthrough for Rocky Bayou that much sweeter, the hope being the anticipation of future benefits. The program has done so much in the past few years, and your example, year-in and year-out, has been of incalculable worth for your younger teammates.
Onjel Caraballo. I know this weekend seems like a failure, particularly after a good start to it, but here’s the thing. You never ever failed to surprise me with your capabilities on the mat, and I am not all that easy to surprise. I hope that you’ll remember all the good things that Oakleaf did this year. Winning Friday Knight Lights. Winning the district IBT team title and advancing out to region duals for the first time. You played key roles in those highlights.
Joseph Kent. Though you guys went over to Region 2, I still kept following the Sandcrabs. The things you have gotten to experience as part of that team! District duals champions. You’ve been a district individual champion. And with a new coach this year, your leadership meant so very much, and you guys got to go to region duals for the second time in your career last month. This is a tough one, but you had lots of good ones in your high school career.
Angel Lecointe. I can still remember rushing over to your HC last year and asking him, nervously, if you were a senior then, because I was hoping you wouldn’t be. Two years in the blood round. That is particularly difficult. What’s more difficult? Leading a seriously, seriously young and inexperienced team with your consistency, and your quality, and your results. That’s harder. And you did it gracefully. What you have meant for BJS wrestling matters a lot, too.
Jacob Witt. This is a hard one because you’ve been to #TheShow before and very few northeastern kids outside of Clay County worked harder in the offseason to test themselves against national-level competition than you have. Plus, you’ve been around since 7th grade with me, which means I’ve had things to say about you for two-thirds of the site’s life. And it was six years of just straight up scrappin’. Bolles wrestling won’t be the same next year, and you’re a big, big reason why.
Jameel Smith. Wrestling isn’t always fair. Let up for a fraction of a second, and the difference in a match is made. You showed us so much in your two years at Mandarin, a place where nobody thinks about wrestling much at all, let alone thinks anybody can achieve mat success there. I wish you could have gone back and podiumed a second time, but now, you’ll have to help condition Tony this week. Run him ragged on the mat with your quickness.
Seth Davis. No, not the “Hammah,” say it ain’t so, Matmen. They say wrestling is a sport for every body. And that is very much true. Although it helps, you don’t have to be 6-5 and ripplingly cut as a heavyweight. Seth uses every inch of height and ounce of weight better than most heavies, and it’s because of how SMART he is on the mat that he has gotten this far. That’s why I wish he’d made #TheShow. To show other kids built like him that they can do it, too. I guess we’ll have to settle for him showing young kids in Palm Coast that. And that is pretty damn good in and of itself.