By MATMEN, Sunday, 7:05 p.m.
LAKE BUTLER — For five years you could pencil it in, almost as early as March after the season ended.
1A-Region 1. Clay. Wakulla. Let the rematch commence!
But not this year. Reclassification made sure of that, sending Clay to 2A. So which teams would emerge? Would anyone, outside of the two schools’ teams — and parents of wrestlers on those teams — themselves, have had Suwannee and Episcopal on their bingo card?
Last Thursday at Union County, the District 3-champion Eagles — just two years being removed from being a group of largely scrappy and unpolished kids (several still in middle school) under the direction of a then-1st year, newly-moved-to-Florida head coach — added another milestone to their resume, reaching the 1A-Region 1 region final after defeating Baker County (48-30) and Yulee (42-35).
The 11th-ranked Eagles (18-3) will face #8 Suwannee (34-3) at 11 a.m. (10 a.m. weighin) in the first round of wrestling at Osceola on Friday, with the region title and a berth in Saturday’s 1A state semifinals on the line.
Below follows a summary of each dual wrestled at Suwannee —
Quarterfinal 1 — Yulee 50, Union County 30: The Hornets (9-6) got out to a 12-0 start against the host and District 4 champion, thanks to a fall from Braylen Ricks (7th at 285) and forfeit at 106, but Union County would answer that behind pins from Kale Waters (113) and Gage Howard (120). … The teams would trade pins twice more at 126/132 and essentially so at 138/145, with Logan Pugh (126) winning by pin and Austin Adamson (11th at 138) by 17-2 TF for Yulee, while Union County got pins from Ian Halfacre (18th at 132) and Rodney Barnett (145) to take a 24-23 lead. … Union (10-7) took its biggest lead of the dual (7 points, 30-23) after Dante’ Johnson’s fall at 152 over #20 Samuel Sahrphillips, but the Hornets would close the dual out on a 27-0 run on pins from Michael McNair (160), Dylan Johns (4th at 170), Alex Smith (4th)’s dual-clinching fall at 195, and Cayden Ricks (20th at 220), plus an 8-6 win for Christopher Aud (14th at 182).
Quarterfinal 2 — Episcopal 48, Baker County 30: While the District 4 champs stumbled on the other mat, the Eagles made sure they would not suffer the same fate, although the Wildcats (15-7) did roar out to a 24-6 lead after Mark Rinaman’s pin for ESJ at 285, with falls from Brayden Martin (106), Jareb Lauramore (14th at 113), Taz Kinghorn (120) and Jonathon Walker (126), who pinned #10 Scott Busey. … Episcopal, however, was just getting warmed up, with eight wins in a row between 132 and 195, including pins from Nicholas Pressley (15th at 132), Cohen Chesser (10th at 138), Baylor Maurer (145), Brennan Doherty (11th at 170) and Christian Faucheaux (195), plus decision wins from Chance Wolffe (152, 7-6 over #16 Keith Ratliff) and John Fernandez (16th at 160, 3-1 win). Baker’s Joseph Stronko (220) won by fall to close out the dual.
Semifinal — Episcopal 42, Yulee 35: Two key Eagle runs (120-132 and 145-160) fueled the difference in the dual. … After the teams traded points on pins from Episcopal’s Thomas Coppedge (106) and Yulee’s Josh Harris (9th at 106, competing at 113), the Eagles put up 18 in a row on falls from Turner Glenn (10th at 120), Busey and Pressley to go up 24-6. … The teams would trade pins again at 138 and 145, with Adamson by fall for Yulee and Baylor Maurer (145) with a pin for the Eagles; the Maurer pin touched off a 15-0 run, as Wolffe pinned Sahrphillips at 152 and Fernandez had a 6-4 win at 160. … Johns’ 16-0 tech over Doherty kept the Hornets alive, but McGarity’s 4-2 win over Aud at 182 clinched the Episcopal victory, as they were up 25 with three weights to go. … Pheonix Barbour-Yerka (195), Smith (220, fall over #9 Lawson Perry) and Braylen Ricks (285) finished the night with pins for Yulee.
You can find full results for this site’s quarterfinal and semifinal rounds HERE.