By MATMEN, Sunday, 5:25 p.m.
JACKSONVILLE — Westside had the titles advantage, 5-3, but ultimately Fletcher’s depth was enough to carry the Senators to their fourth consecutive Gateway Conference title Saturday afternoon at Sandalwood.
Fletcher had seven additional placers to go along with three champions, and all but one starter scored team points over the course of the weekend as the Senators topped the Wolverines, 211-193, to repeat as Jacksonville city champions.
Host Sandalwood, which matched Fletcher’s three weight-class wins, finished third with 144.5 points, with Terry Parker (115.5) and Riverside (105) rounding out the top third of the conference field.
Stanton, with 81 points, was sixth, followed by Mandarin (78), Wolfson (74), Ed White (66), First Coast (65), Atlantic Coast (63), Englewood (62), Paxon (55), Raines (30) and Baldwin (22).
“It’s exciting. Guys are looking better, turning a corner on the (earlier part of the) season. Younger guys are getting the mindset they we need to get them,” Fletcher coach Joe Stetzer said. “We’re getting guys where we need them to be in the lineup.
“It gives us a great bounce, momentum to build off of. Still some big tournaments coming up, but if we will maintain into that, we’ll see how far we can push things this year.”
Senator seniors Josh Daltro (5th-3A at 160) and Toby Matson (2nd-3A at 285, tournament’s OW), along with junior Cole O’Brien (4th-3A at 126, competing at 132), all won their second Gateway titles.
For the second consecutive season, Daltro (3rd in 2021, 4th in 2020) met up with Ed White junior Benny Lewis (3rd in 2021) in the 160 final, after needing pins over Stanton and Mandarin to get there. And, as Daltro set the tone in a 12-3 major last year, he did again on Saturday, not allowing Lewis any offense in a 7-0 decision.
Matson (runnerup in 2021) needed just 1:55 to roll through the 285 bracket and claim the OW award, with a forfeit and semifinal pin over Sandalwood. In the final against Englewood’s Keith Forbes, also a rematch from a year ago, just one move was needed for Matson to score and claim the pin in 1 minute (he won by fall over Forbes in :59 in 2022).
O’Brien (3rd in 2021) pinned his way through the tournament, with preliminary pins over Baldwin and Atlantic Coast before needing just 52 seconds to fall Sandalwood sophomore and first-time placer Qalani Cobb to take his second conference title win, with pin times that got faster as the weekend progressed.
All five of Westside’s winning wrestlers were first-time Gateway champions on Saturday.
At 106, sophomore Jacob Jackson reached his second league final, but where last year he didn’t have enough answers against Wolfson’s Tristian Martinez, he did this year against Wolfpack freshman Taylor Martinez, with his pin in 38 seconds completing a weekend in which he had 3 pins in 2:59.
Senior Olleon Hickmon (11th-2A at 138) also reached the finals for the second time, this year controlling the 138 bracket, with pins over Terry Parker and Sandalwood before decisioning first-time finalist and Fletcher sophomore Elias Twigg, 11-4.
Wolverine sophomroe Gha-is Cooper (145) had a pair of pins in reaching his first final, with falls over Wolfson and Englewood before controlling the pace against first-time Fletcher finalist and Senator sophomore Noah Stidfole, 8-1.
After a 1-0 decision loss kept him from a medal in 2020 and losing only to the eventual champ while placing third last year (he didn’t wrestle at Gateway in 2021) senior Nathan Williams (13th-2A at 152) finally broke through for a title; after bonus-point wins over Atlantic Coast (pin) and Mandarin (15-3 major), it wasn’t easy though, as he edged first-time finalist and Fletcher junior Elisha Purdy by a 3-2 count.
Finally, junior Ja’Cory Martin (runnerup in 2022 at 182) pinned his way through the bracket, with preliminary pins over Fletcher and Riverside before falling Sandalwood junior Malachi Mista (3rd last year at 182; Martin & Mista met in semis last year) in 2:57 to win his first title.
For Sandalwood, junior Malik Wilson became a two-time champion with his win at 170, while senior Duffy Mista (195) and sophomore Justin Robinson (113) each won their first titles.
Wilson had a war in collecting his first title a year ago, also at 170; things were a bit easier this weekend, as Wilson pinned his way through the field, with preliminary falls over Wolfson and Stanton before pinning first-time finalist and Riverside sophomore Anthony Kearney in 5:10.
Duffy Mista (3rd-3A, 3rd at 195 last year) pinned his way into the final, with falls over Atlantic Coast and Raines, finishing the tournament off with a 10-5 decision in the final over Westside senior Elijah Williams, a first-time Gateway participant since his freshman year (2-2 at 220 in 2020).
Robinson (4th at 120 last year) had two Gateway defending champs in his bracket at 113, earning a quarterfinal pin over Baldwin and taking a 9-3 decision over Wolfson’s Tristian Martinez in the semis before coming through with a 6-5 decision in the championship match over Terry Parker junior and first-time finalist Shamar Jones.
Three solo champions — Paxon sophomore Kyle Brown (10th-1A at 120), Stanton junior Elias Spurlin (9th-1A at 126) and Riverside senior Thomas Jones (10th-2A at 220) — also all became first-time Gateway champs on Saturday.
Brown pinned his way thorugh the 120 bracket, with second-period preliminary falls over Englewood and Sandalwood in the quarters and semis, respectively, before taking his third pin in the final over first-time finalist and Terry Parker senior Curnard Juluke, in 1:56.
At 126, Spurlin (3rd in 2022) also pinned his way through, with a bye into Saturday’s semis, followed by a first-period pin over Riverside before falling first-time finalist and Fletcher junior Andrew Mincks in 1:41.
Jones (runnerup in 2022 at 220, 3rd in 2021 at 285) had two pins in 90 seconds, with pins over First Coast and Westside, to get to the final, where he majored 2022 Gateway champ Jaelen Simmons (195 last year), 15-6.