By MATMEN, Sunday, 3:50 p.m.
SANTA ROSA BEACH — Traditional state powerhouses from Louisiana and Georgia filled up the top parts of the Border Wars X standings this weekend.
But Suwannee, building itself toward that level steadily over the past few seasons, just about put itself into that mix, finishing fifth out of 22 teams in the two-day event and tops among Matmen-area teams in the field.
The Bulldogs scored 206 points as a group, with two titles, one runnerup, one 3rd, one 5th and one 6th, despite missing three starters.
Ft Walton Beach, in seventh, was the next area team in the field (161.5), with Wakulla 8th (146), Gulf Breeze 9th (136.5) and Fernandina Beach (133) rounding out the top 10.
Jesuit, of Louisiana, outpointed Georgia powerhouse Woodward Academy, 299.5-268.5, for first place, with additional Louisiana teams Holy Cross (243.5) and St Pauls (239.5) in third and fourth, respectively.
Chiles (132.5) was 11th, followed by Bay (101.5), Mosley (97), South Walton (86.5), North Bay Haven (84), Rutherford (470, Niceville (46), Crestview (38), Choctaw (37.5), Tate (33.5), Arnold (22.5) and Destin (12) rounding out the field.
The hidden MVP?: After competing a weight up in the 2021-22 post-season — a move that helped the team but might have cost him a state medal in March — Bulldog sophomore Eli Jolicoeur is back home at 106, where he won a Border Wars title to kick off his season.
Jolicoeur (1A-7th at 106) bonus-pointed through the day on Friday with pins over wrestlers from Destin and Rutherford, an injury-default over Niceville, and a 12-0 major over a Jesuit (LA) wrestler that went on to finish fourth.
In Saturday’s IBT rounds, Jolicoeur pinned his way into the semis with pins over wrestlers from Suwannee and Wakulla (district rival Connor Brown, 1A-6th at 106), then had to fend off a late rush in turning back another Jesuit wrestler by a 10-8 count in the semis. In one of what was two all-area finals, Jolicoeur held off Gulf Breeze freshman Garrett Ferguson, allowing just two penalty points in a 3-2 win.
O-Dubs: Local wrestlers brought home the tournament’s Outstanding Wrestler awards from the weekend, as Bay junior Derrick Williams (1A-2nd at 106, competing at 113) and Suwannee junior Austin McKinney (1A-5th at 152) won the lower- and upper-weight recognitions.
Williams was 4-0 on Friday with three pins and a decision, then pinned his way into the final, where he turned back Holy Cross (LA)’s Vincent Vidacovich, 12-7. In the final, Williams had scoring moves in each period, with a big turn for three nearfall points allowing him to seize a lead he would not relinquish. With the 8-0 weekend, Williams now stands at 98 career victories, helping his team accomplish the top team finish in 1A-District 1 and Bay County (12th, 101 points).
As for McKinney, his 8-0 weekend at 152 helped him clear 125 career victories (currently standing at 128). After a 4-0 Friday which included three pins and decision, McKinney bonus-pointed his way into the final, including an 11-3 major over Gulf Breeze’s Colson Elliott (2A-10th at 132) in the semis. In the final against Holy Cross (LA)’s Gunner Guidry, McKinney hit a big five-point move that proved decisive in securing a 5-4 win.
Milestones managed: While Williams is now two wins away from 100, two other wrestlers did accomplish their milestone missions this weekend.
Chiles senior Garrett Marschka (2A-6th at 132, competing at 138) picked up the 138 championship, and crossed the 125-win plateau Friday night after pinning his way to five straight pool victories, with his round-3 pin over North Bay Haven’s Zander Stillgess giving him 125. Marschka went on and pinned his way into the final, where he knocked off St Pauls’ Conlan Enk by a 9-6 count.
Wakulla senior Jae T Thaxton (1A-9th at 152, competing at 145) needed three wins to break 100, doing that with an 8-2 win over Fernandina’s Cole Misciagna (1A-10th at 145). Thaxton picked up the “cycle” of wins on Saturday, with a decision, major, tech and pin en route to the title, where he falled a Woodward Academy (GA) wrestler for the championship.
Keeping it 100: Fernandina Beach junior Enzo Gamba won’t accomplish his first career wins milestone until later this year, but Gamba did keep one streak alive in taking the 160 title.
Gamba (1A-3rd at 160) still has not lost a regular-season match. Gamba was 20-0 in the 2020-21 regular season and added 31 more wins to that streak last year.
This past weekend, Gamba (60-0 in regular-season events) picked up five wins on Friday, then reached the Saturday semis behind two pins in 92 seconds. The regular-season wins streak nearly came apart in the semis, as Gamba had to come from behind twice for a 6-5 win over a Holy Cross (LA) wrestler to get to the final, where he held off a familiar region rival, Suwannee’s Austin Howard (1A-4th at 160), by a 5-0 count to win the championship.
Doubles up top: A pair of Panhandle sides picked up two runnerup efforts each from upper-weight wrestlers in their lineup, as Ft Walton Beach’s Connor Roberts (182) and Carter Tobik (2A-8th at 195, competing at 220) and North Bay Haven’s David Mercado (1A-2nd at 195) and Logan McAlister (1A-15th at 285) made back-to-back-to-back-to-back finals appearances.
Roberts made his case for a ranking behind a 4-0 day Friday and three pins en route to the final, where he lost to a 19-match winner from Georgia powerhouse Woodward Academy, while Tobik turned back two ranked wrestlers to reach the 220 final, with a loss by pin in the final to a Jesuit (LA; the team champion) competitor.
Mercado got caught up in the wildest final of the day after dominating the top half of the 195 bracket, staving off a comeback effort from Jesuit’s Jackson Calderaro behind a late reversal with 14 seconds left to force overtime, but then gave up a takedown in a 13-11 loss. Meanwhile, McAlister max-pointed into the final, with a semifinal pin over district rival Nick Lee (1A-4th at 285) before dropping an 8-2 loss to an unbeaten Vestavia Hills (AL) wrestler.
Breezin it: Gulf Breeze finished ninth this weekend, but that didn’t stop the Dolphins from bagging up the most top-four finishes among local teams.
Gulf Breeze finished with five in all, led by Ferguson’s runnerup finish at 106, fueled by decisions in the quarters and semis on Saturday over wrestlers from Louisiana and Alabama.
The Dolphins picked up three thirds in the lower eight weights, with Aiden Macken (113), Coby Shields (2A-20th at 120) and Elliott (2A-10th at 132, competing at 152) also taking thirds. After starting as a freshman and sophomore for the Dolphins but not competing last year, senior Nate Weber made his return to the lineup with a fourth at 132.
Results from the tournament can be found HERE.
Rankings courtesy of Matmen-endorsed Kabra Wrestling, https://www.kabrawrestling.com/rankings/class-2A