#Recap: War Eagles Defend Gym, Title

Wakulla wrestlers and coaches with the team’s FCA Invitational championship belt won Saturday at home (Photo submitted by Larry Reeves via Facebook).

By MATMEN, Monday, 12:45 p.m.

CRAWFORDVILLE — One point per weight class.

The difference between Wakulla and Yulee Saturday afternoon came down to, essentially, one extra bonus point per match won, across 14 weight classes.

It was that close, as the War Eagles defended their home gym and home event, which took on a new name — the Wakulla FCA Invitational — turning back the Hornets, 277-263, for the team title.

Middleburg was, even with a short-handed group, also well in the mix, taking third with 225 points, followed by Ft Walton Beach at 198 and Episcopal with 161 in fifth.

Niceville (137.5 points) was sixth, followed by North Bay Haven (102), South Walton (95), Mosley (93), Wewahitchka (72), Rutherford (66), Liberty County (50), Leon (42), Godby (26) and Marianna (19) among the varsity teams in the event.

Teams in the top six claimed all 14 individual weight-class wins, with Wakulla taking four, Yulee three, Middleburg two, Ft Walton Beach two, Episcopal two and Niceville one.

The host War Eagles saw championship runs from Connor Brown (106), Jae T Thaxton (145), Nate Jacobs (152) and Kohl Pippin (220) in securing the team win.

Brown (1A-3rd) max-pointed through the tournament, never having to go past the first period throughout the weekend, with Friday pins over North Bay Haven (round of 16) and Liberty County (quarters). After a walkover into the final, Brown collected his third pin of the tournament, falling South Walton’s Nathan Lyttle (1A-17th) in 1:28 (combined weekend mat time 3:51).

Thaxton (1A-8th) teched his way into the final, with tech falls over Marianna (18-0 in 3:29, rd of 16), Middleburg (15-0 in 3:55, quarters) and North Bay Haven’s Bear Siegal (1A-11th, 16-0 in 4:46, semis) to set the school’s season record for TFs (originally set by War Eagles coach William Pafford). In the final, Thaxton tried for a fourth tech, coming up just short in a 14-2 major over Middleburg’s Logan Moore (2A-12th), with takedowns in each period and turns in both the first and second period.

Jacobs (1A-20th) pinned his way into Saturday, with first-period falls over Mosley (rd of 16) and Niceville (quarters), then reached the final with a sudden-victory decision over Yulee in order to reach the final and Middleburg’s Daniel Raines. Jacobs had a takedown and turn late in the first period, making those hold up — despite some challenges down the stretch — in a 5-4 decision for the title.

Pippin (1A-11th) had all falls during the weekend; after a bye into the quarters, he took pins over Mosley (quarters) and Wewahitchka (semis), setting up a battle between the top two teams in the final against Yulee’s Cayden Ricks (1A-19th). He grabbed first takedown and had a 3-point turn in the first period, then added a second 3-point nearfall in the second before his third turn turned into a pin in 3:39.

Yulee’s championships all came from the upper half of its lineup, as Dylan Johns (170), Alex Smith (195) and Braylen Ricks (285) all earned first place in their respective brackets.

Johns (1A-4th) wasn’t scored upon all weekend; after a bye into the quarters, Johns bookended a 7-0 win over Wewahitchka with first-period pins in the quarters over Middleburg and again in the final over Niceville’s Malachi Lewis (2A-16th). Johns scored a takedown 12 seconds in, then had three tilts before securing the pin in 1:58.

Smith (1A-4th) scored an upset in the final, but before that reached that round with a quarterfinal tech over Mosley (17-2 in 2:11) and pushing past Ft Walton’s Darius Brundidge (2A-17th), 11-7, in the semis. He then met North Bay Haven’s David Mercado (1A-2nd) for the finals; in a back-and-forth match of momentum swings where Smith got out first, then had to rally after Mercado seized control, it was Smith that got the last word, with a pin just before time expired, in 6 minutes.

Ricks (1A-7th) pinned his way through the 285 bracket, with Friday pins over Middleburg (rd of 16) and North Bay Haven (quarters); on Saturday, he added a third 1st-period fall over Wakulla before pinning South Walton’s Nick Lee (1A-5th) in 2:51 for the finals win. Ricks had a takedown and turn in the first period, then secured the fall with a second turn in the second.

Middleburg took home two brackets thanks to Grady Woodard (120) and Wyatt Leduc (132). The fourth seed at 120, Woodard bonus-pointed into the semis behind a rd-of-16 pin over Yulee and 11-0 major over Wakulla’s Troy Thaxton (1A-18th) on Friday, then defeated his second ranked opponent, Wewahitchka’s Jake Parker (1A-16th), by a 7-4 count in the semis. In the final, against 1A-4th ranked Jay Brown of Liberty County, Woodard’s mat skills were on point, as he picked up two reversals in a 6-2 decision.

Leduc (2A-8th) had Friday pins over Niceville and Marianna, adding two more bonus-point situations with two major decisions on Saturday, with a 16-2 major over South Walton’s Gibson Moore (1A-17th) in the semis and then again in the championship, 14-5, over Wakulla’s Caleb Orr. Leduc steadily pushed the pace offensively as the match wore on, breaking open a 2-0 match after one period with five points in the second and seven in the third.

Ft Walton Beach’s titles came from Santiago Mayic (113) and Alexander Davidson (160). Mayic pinned his way through the 113 group, with a quarterfinal pin over Niceville and semifinal fall over North Bay Haven to get to top-seeded Josh Harris (1A-20th at 106) of Yulee. Although Harris got first takedown, it was all Mayic after that, with a takedown and turn in the first period, and a second takedown in the second that turned into a fall in 2:55.

As for Episcopal, the Eagles got their titles from Scott Busey (126) and Christian McGarity (182). Busey (1A-17th) pinned his way through the draw; after a bye into the quarters, he racked up falls over Niceville (quarters) and Wakulla (semis) before recording his third pin in the championship round over Middleburg’s Dylan Johns. After being turned by Johns in the first period, Busey used a late reversal in the second period for a turn and fall in 3:58.

McGarity (1A-12th) had a rd-of-16 pin over Niceville, but then had to battle through three tight decisions to take his bracket win, with a Friday quarterfinal win over Yulee (6-5) and semifinal win Saturday over Rutherford (3-1) to get to Yulee’s Christopher Aud (1A-13th) in the title round. McGarity set the early tone by scoring twice, but had to make them stand up in a 6-5 decision.

Niceville’s lone title came from Ethan Pinto (2A-15th) at 138. The top seed, Pinto bonus-pointed into the final with a rd-of-16 tech over Mosley and pins over Middleburg (quarters) and Wakulla (semis), facing off against Yulee’s Austin Adamson (1A-12th). Pinto secured first takedown and got a critical reverse late in the match, overcoming an Adamson flurry in the third period to hold on for an 8-6 win.

Complete results for the boys’ tournament can be found HERE.

JOIN us on Facebook at North Florida Matmen (you can also friend me on my personal page) or on Twitter at @NorthFLAMatmen, or on Instagram at nflamatmen. Please support our independent journalism! We’re on Venmo now: Shannon-Heaton-6. Or if you prefer PayPal, search me at Shannon Heaton (use the site email account to find the correct me).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s