November 17, 2022 — 6 a.m.
Girls have been a significant part of Wewahitchka wrestling for the past several years.
And even with the Lady Gators’ top wrestler and overall team’s emotional leader in 2022 graduate Kaylee Easter now having moved on to Brewton-Parker (AL) College to compete, the Wewa girls just might have what it takes to repeat as champions in District 1.
But it’s going to take the efforts of a cadre of six returning girls, who wrestled in Easter’s shadow, that make defending that title as possible next year as winning it was in February of this year.
Wewahitchka has a mixture of high-school juniors and middle-school aged kids that make up that cadre, five of whom picked up wins at the Region 1 level. Leading that group this year will be 8th-grader Kameron Easter, Kaylee’s younger sister, who qualified for the FHSAA state tournament at 100 last season
The top individual returning wrestler in the district — and certainly one of the most-heralded in the region — is also the district’s biggest question mark, as Mosley senior Henlee Haynes is potentially gunning for her third state title and fourth state-final appearance, with a possible second FHSAA gold.
The words potentially and possible are more loaded than usual, however, as Haynes (170 champ in March) was injured during Super 32 competition last month, with Dolphins coach Jeff Skipper noting in a local podcast that he hoped to have Haynes back for the post-season run. With her, Mosley will challenge strongly for the district team race.
Without Haynes, though, it will take some solid recruiting efforts for Mosley to repeat its runnerup team performance at districts. While there are two projected key returners back besides Haynes and both wrestled at regions, the Lady Dolphins took off-season losses hard, with a senior state qualifier moving on with graduation and 2022 FHSAA state champion Valarie Solorio (100, unbeaten in HS season) transferring to Canon-McMillan HS, located just outside Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania.
Do not be surprised if Crestview winds up atop the district at season’s end. After the Biblas across the state, the Bulldogs’ Metzger sisters are certainly the next best sister combo in the north, with sophomore Sigrun Metzger (6th at 105, Region 1 champ last year) and senior Freydis Metzger returning to lead Crestview.
If Crestview can get a couple more girls out, get them up to speed, and their less-experienced wrestlers from a year ago as well, they could be quite the wild card in the district race.
There’ll be several teams in the mix for top-five spots, with Choctaw, Ft Walton Beach and Milton repping the Panhandle, along with Lincoln from the north central part of the coverage area.
The Lady Panthers might be best-positioned among them, with two returning state qualifiers in sophomores Shyann Donaldson (190 last year) and Alexis Brown (100 in March), who transferred from Crestview, plus a strong nucleus coming up from the burgeoning club scene in the Panhandle.
Lincoln will have to replace 2022 state medalist Maggie Moss (7th at 235), but does have three projected key returners back, as does Choctaw, whose best girls competitor last year did not wrestle the post-season. Ft Walton Beach went from one girl on the roster to four post-season starters, three of them competing at Region 1.
Six teams will have at least two projected key returners back; two of them — Bay and Niceville — had situations where both returners were regular starters in the boys’ lineup, but neither competed in the girls’ post-season series.
There were four wrestlers from the remainder of the two-returner group — from Bozeman, Chiles (2x) and North Bay Haven — where they reached the Region 1 blood round, with South Walton joining them with a pair of region qualifiers.
Seven teams in the district have one key returner back upon which to perhaps build out a larger team. Of those seven, Tate sophomore Lahela Grady (7th at 115 last year) and Gulf Breeze sophomore Lily Powell (110 in March) were the only 2022 state qualifiers among the returners. However, do not be surprised if the Dolphins push hard for the top of the district, between freshmen moving up to the varsity, and transfers coming in — including senior Helena Alcantar, who competed at girls’ state for Pace two years ago and transferred over from Milton.
Wrestlers at Florida High and Rutherford reached the Region 1 blood round, while returners at Arnold and Pace did also compete at regions (the Patriots were the only team within this group that had to contend with some graduation loss). Liberty County also has one projected key returner back, but that returner did not compete in the post-season series.
There are three teams slotted into the district that don’t have projected key returners; none of them had girls on the roster last year. Marianna and Wakulla have both had girls in the past but did not last year.
We aren’t projecting picks for the girls’ side yet, as very few programs have full teams. But, you can guess that the fuller teams are being seen as favorites in each district.
Capsules for all teams in District 1, where there are returning or graduated wrestlers that competed in the post-season, can be found HERE: GIRLS DISTRICT 1 CAPSULES