November 17, 2022 — 6 a.m.
Is Matanzas v Ponte Vedra already the girls’ version of the #UncivilWar?
Maybe, even if it does need a different hashtag.
The Lady Pirates and Lady Sharks stood atop the north all last season, with Matanzas holding the slight upper hand through the regular season and first two rounds of the FHSAA IBT series, and Ponte Vedra pushing past the Lady Pirates by a single point for second at state.
Most boys wrestling teams would love to have 16 projected key returners coming into this season. Matanzas more than doubles up any other team in the district with its 16-strong group in District 3, after losing two graduates in May, neither of whom started in the post-season lineup in February. No other team has double-digit returners in the north.
For that reason alone, the Lady Pirates are going to be a formidable challenge. But not is there quantity, there’s quality. 2022 Matanzas state medalists back include sophomore and defending state champion Tiana Fries (110 in March), as well as sophomore Mariah Mills (3rd at 105), senior Isabella Tietje (6th at 135), sophomore Christina Borgmann (8th at 120) and an additional state qualifier in junior Salomy Cabrera (140).
If that’s not enough, transfers brought in the Bibla sisters, both themselves state medalists, from Tocoi Creek, where senior Brielle Bibla reached the 120 final in March, while sophomore Kendall Bibla (130) placed 5th. The Lady Pirates also had four wrestlers reach the Region 1 blood round. More than one post-season starter for Matanzas in 2022 won’t be in February.
As for the Lady Sharks, they have plenty of powerhouse ability returning in their seven projected key returners, even after losing a state qualifier and two post-season starters to graduation.
Senior Olivia Richie (145 in March) matches Fries as a returning state champion, and will be joined by returning state medalists in sophomores Erin Rizzuto (3rd at 115) and Natalia Choquegonza (7th at 125). Additionally, senior Josie Sagasser (3rd at 135 in 2021) returns this year after spending most of her junior season in Israel. The rest of Ponte Vedra’s starters, along with any new recruits brought in (and there appear to be a few), will have to get up to speed fast.
If I had to look for a natural team for third place, I might start with Bartram Trail. The Lady Bears lost no one off last year’s team, a top-10 finisher at regions.
Bartram has back as many as five projected key returners from last year, all five of which started in the post-season, led by a pair of junior state medalists in Hannah Matalobos (6th at 170) and Katherine Stewart (7th at 145, Region 1 champ).
Clay’s another team that could be in the mix for third in the district, but this year’s group is hampered by some graduation loss, including two state qualifiers, one of them two-time state champion Madisyn Blackburn (130 in March).
The Lady Blue Devils will be led by a cadre of four projected key returners, all of them post-season starters and region qualifiers. Senior Aubrianna Apple (8th at 125 in March) heads up that group.
Several teams will be in the mix for top-three or four positions, depending upon how well they’re able to recruit new faces into the lineup.
With three projected key returners, Creekside has the most back in the district among teams not already highlighted. The Lady Knights had no graduation losses, and can establish a previous track record with girls in competition.
Buchholz, Flagler Palm Coast, Nease and Tocoi Creek each have two key projected returners back. Of those, Nease senior Olivia Carr (8th at 125) is the only returning state medalist, while Flagler sophomore Ana Vilar was a Silver Spurs Arena qualifier, also at 125.
The Lady Bobcats had two that reached the Region 1 blood round last year, while Tocoi Creek rebuilds after losing their top three wrestlers via transfer. The Lady Toros, as well, had one wrestler that got as far as the Region 1 blood round.
Ridgeview has one projected key returner back from last year, while we’ll have to see what Keystone Heights — one of the earlier adapters of bringing several girls into the sport, wrestling them against boys, graduated both of their key performers from last year.
Beachside is a new program, while Fleming Island and FSDB are established programs that have not had girls wrestle for them in our experience. It’s too soon to tell, at this early vantage point, how those teams will fare.
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 3, where there are returning or graduated wrestlers that competed in the post-season, can be found HERE: GIRLS DISTRICT 3 CAPSULES