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Personal Note

Thoughts On Saturday

For the past six years, Thoughts On Saturday is the article everyone wants to read.

It’s also the article in which no one wants to appear — the seniors whose last high school match is the blood round at regions.

I’ve seen several blood rounds; it’s the worst to watch and, having experienced it as a track parent, it’s the worst to go through with your son or daughter.

The intensity of the emotion, no matter the venue, never changes. It’s carnage out there. I hate it. And I can’t stop watching it.

I’m never going to forget those emotions, the highs and the lows. They’re absolutely beautiful, and they’re absolutely shattering. THAT is why I cover this sport.

No less a philosopher than the legendary Terry Brands (of course I’m going to name-check an Iowa wrestler) said about this sport, “You get what you earn.”

That’s true, and it’s not true.

Many of these kids should be at states. A few of them have been. One or two have podiumed there.

I hear the moms and dads now: Why not say something about all the kids that lost in the blood round? It hurts for them, too. And I agree. 100%. For most, thankfully hwoever, they have a chance to come back and gain redemption in subsequent years.

But this is the cruelest of fates, because not only is it their last high school match in a year full of lasts, but also — for virtually all of them — it’s the last time they’ll step on the wrestling mat as a competitor. And that’s something they can’t get back.

That’s why I feel sorrow for these kids that follow in this list, because precious few teenagers are willing to step up and do what it takes just to even say that they are wrestlers, let alone be good enough to have a chance to find out the answers on the state stage. Precious damn few.

I know how hard they’ve worked, and, at the same time, I will never, ever truly know.

We begin with our list of kids we never saw once, never covered once. In the past couple of years, I learned everybody wants to read this and nobody wants to read their name, or their son’s name, in this story.

3A-Region 2: Devin Lanier. Canon LoCastro. Davian Rivera. Jacob Edwards. Stephen Kofron. Noah Myrick. Randy Trowbridge. Thomas Hayes.

3A-Region 3: Zachary Shapiro. Jonathan Sopher. Nate Olson. Peter Duffy. Kendrick Wright. Jake Blair. Reggie Cuesta. Elijah Cherelus. Matthew Cassio. Brandon Ibarra. Malankov Daceus. Ahmed Toom. Zachary Joseph.

3A-Region 4: Adrian Diaz. Ryan Cominsky. Gabriel Herrero. Michael McCallum. Hector Cruz. Justin Alari. John Graul. Edgar Barreiro. Daniel Cuevas. Gyani Mosi.

2A-Region 2: Mason Ringate. Ryan Kinsey. Danosky Decaillon. Rafael Rodriguez. Adrian Covington. Dante Castro. Dayshaun Albertorio-Medina. Nicholas Lyle. Elijah Abreu.

2A-Region 3: Nathan McGill. Ethan DiNottia. Avion Jackson. Eric Paul. Javier DelRosario. Nick At. Cole Forbes. Nathan Hampton. Jakary Edwards. Cody Triplett. Gael Sanchez. Hamlet Rodriguez-Pena. Grabiel Rodriguez.

2A-Region 4: Henry Petit. Blaze Holly. Isaac Badell-Riviere. Colin Gilbert. Leonardo Valsaint. Warren Powell. Kevin Dunbar.

1A-Region 2: Blaise Nelson. Brett Wilke. Makhia Davis. Jerclarion Hilton. Dante Johnson-Turner. Cameron Jung. Miguel Suarez.

1A-Region 3: Daniel Garcia. Kassim Johnson. Michael Arthur. Samuel Haertle. James Miril. Roy Reyes. Jakob Francis. Jeremiah Fernandez. Johnathan Leon. Raistlin Sievert. Antonio Zampino. Aydan Holloway. Aidan Larkin.

1A-Region 4: Roberto Gilbert. Blake Seskin. Elyze Rinville. Ryan Sezumaga. Keon Taylor. Colten Byrd. Julian Valdes. Weston Andrews. Grant Cooper. D’warren Gordan. Tyrrell Haggins.

So many names I know. Have seen many of your names in Brant’s rankings. Have seen you wrestle northern kids.

If I’ve noted you in the above paragraphs, and your name is mis-spelled, my sincere apologies. I spelled it exactly as it appeared on the Trackwrestling bracket. I tried to look up every kid that didn’t have a school year listed. I might have missed one or two of you. For that, I apologize.

Now for my local kids. And they are, in fact, “my” kids.

So many names I know. Have seen you wrestle northern kids.

If I’ve noted you in the above paragraphs, and your name is mis-spelled, my sincere apologies. I spelled it exactly as it appeared on the Trackwrestling bracket. I tried to look up every kid that didn’t have a school year listed. I might have missed one or two of you. For that, I apologize.

Now for my local kids. And they are, in fact, “my” kids.

Julian Fuentes. A first-year (at least to Florida) senior at a program that’s still deep in development doesn’t usually generate the 12th-grade year that ends with 30 wins. While qualifying fourth isn’t all that unfamiliar for wrestlers in those sorts of programs, they don’t usually enter their first post-season tournament with the wildest first-round match of the weekend (37 points! Most of Iowa’s college football games don’t generate that many points); after losing that match, they don’t usually rally back with two pins and then avenge a district-semis loss to a wrestlers who’s been ranked for most of the season. You gave Milton a chance to think differently about the sport, and that will mean a lot.

Christian Garcia. I don’t have any records for you prior to last season, when you were a part-time starter in the middle, but your talent isn’t measured by your career record. I got to see you at Orange Park for a lttle bit and you showed a good range of ability. In your first Florida post-season, you won a district title and got to one match from the state tournament — twice, with a good win over a fellow wrestler featured in this space as well. I hope that you’ll continue to develop your capabilities as life takes you in new directions.

Jason Callahan. Tocoi Creek has only been around for two years as a program, and this year there were several kids in the mix that could go and do some real damage after last year going through all of the usual growing pains of a first-year program. You were one of those kids; you improved so much from last year to this, and while the other kids who joined you at regions all get to come back next year, or for multiple years, they could all look to you as the anchor of the lineup up top. It took a risk to join this team, and that willingness to go through some things to achieve something will definitely come in useful for you down the road.

Scott Busey. I can remember a time, not even all that very long ago, where Episcopal wrestling was one kid one year, another kid another year, that was in the mix for the state tournament. I can remember a time when Episcopal had almost no wrestlers in its program — but the ones it did have were exceptionally good. I like this version the best, though, with kids at most weights being in the mix to qualify for state and a group that is dangerous as both a dual and an IBT team. The Eagles are getting very close to that, having won district duals and winning several titles. That took buy-in from the leaders, which you have been for a couple of seasons now.

William Lancer. Wrestling teams don’t work without the “glue” guys, the guys who move all around the lineup to wrestle where the team needs them most. There’ve been stars all around you during your four years — from Venu and Aiden to Max and Kason, they’ve needed you as a practice partner, someone to work through ideas and help them achieve their goals, and ther’ll be one more week of work for that. But it’s rare for the glue guys to get to shine on their own, and this weekend, you did. You went six-minutes plus with the eventual champion this weekend, you beat two very good competitors in the consis, and had a state qualifier on the ropes. That’s a very good tournament — for any guy.

Marshall Dixon. You took another step forward this season, moving one round farther than last year, your first to wrestle in the post-season. And I’m pretty sure you had the fastest pin of the 2A-Region 1 weekend this past weekend, but you just ran into two kids that were just better. You beat a formerly state-ranked kid this weekend and did almost everything you could to get yourself into #TheShow. Now, it’s time to get Andrew ready, for he will need you this week. We only got to see you for two seasons, but while you were here wrestling with us, you had a good win percentage. Use the lessons you’ve learned from a veteran coaching staff to build that kind of win percentage in your next adventures.

Colin Hadlock. I can remember a time when Union County didn’t have wrestling; this year’s senior group was the first one to have it all four years. For those of you in that group, some had a consistent evolution to growth and some seemed to just rise up all at once and this senior year seemed to be that year for you where everything started clicking. This weekend was not — 100% — one of those times, but it took two state qualifiers to beat you, the second one — like you — with a career on the line. There were team successes this year — the team’s first district title as a program for one — and you played a big part in that.

Ryan Culbertson. Four region appearances, three of them at the same weight and last year you were able to represent Seminole and qualify out. You know what it’s like to survive the blood round, to find a way or make one, and you know that sometimes this process isn’t always the fairest. You’ve been a district champion as well as a state qualifier, and what you’ve been able to learn in your four years as a starter is that a career isn’t defined by one weekend. The Noles have had higher-profile kids in the lineup while you’ve been there, but it was wrestlers like you that have made things go there.

Landen Solomon. For a while now, your role was to serve as the backups to some really good wrestlers, kids who moved on and graduated last year, and you were able to really only showcase yourself as a starter for one season. Being willing to put your own individual needs aside to be a part of a program like Clay’s, however, takes a lot of discipline. Discipline that will serve you well down the road. During this tournament, you defeated former state qualifiers, former multiple-time district champs, and a county rival, and it took only the effort of two multiple-time state qualifiers to keep you from states. Your place in the Clay tradition is well-secured.

Preston Pena. You’ve had excellent team and individual success since beomcing a full-time starter for the Bears. Two district titles, that’s no walk in the park to achieve. Two-time duals region qualifier and a team district title this year. Those don’t happen by accident. And not only have you made it to #TheShow, you bonus-pointed through to a region runnerup position last year in getting there, including two pins over very good seniors, one of whom we wrote about in this space last year. Now, it’s time to help Ethan with some strength work this week and there’ll be some time left to help Grady get next year where you’ve been.

Dean Wright. You’ve been around long enough to see the end of one era of Florida High wrestling and, this year, perhaps the start of another one. After years of being in the mix for the Noles, and a sophomore year where I didn’t have you wrestling, you were able to get to the state tournament last year. And this year, the Seminoles were on the cusp of returning to their former years in the late 2010s, the days of the Metcalfs and Cam and Will; you got to be a part of both. You’re the bridge between the programs, and I’m sure you will get so many more chances to succeed in future years.

Jayden Thomas. You’ve had to be the face of the team this year after getting to learn from the McGuigans three years ago and seeing Joseph excel by going everywhere for two years running after that. Last year, you didn’t get a chance to compete at this level. But this year we got to see you go out and giving some of the best wrestling we’ve seen from you since sophomore year, finishing up with three pins and losses only to two multiple-time state qualifiers. Not the fairytale ending some get, but you got to finish your career giving your best effort; remember that as you move into new ventures.

Andy Delva. I haven’t covered Ocoee for very long — only two years closely, and kind of loosely before then — but I’ve seen enough to know how much work you’ve put in over the years, what it’s gotten you, and what that work has meant for your team. I firmly believe the Knights are a team that’s right on the cusp of breaking out, and a lot of that is going to be due to the work that you and Keniel have done, not just this year but over all four years. Now it’s time to get Donnell some speed work that he’s going to need this week to get him ready to take things to the next step.

Keniel Carrasquillo. I saw how much getting to state mattered to you in your consi quarter match on Saturday. In attempting to get a takedown you went into the wall of the DeLand gym. You did what it took in sudden victory to find a way in that round, but sometimes you get the guy and other times the other guy — with as much to gain and lose as you — gets you. But the grit and determination you showed don’t walk away as you walk away from the mats. They will stay, and perhaps the next time, it will be you that achieves what you are seeking. Journey, not destination.

Elijah Stillgess. It feels like I have been writing about you for nearly a decade now, even when I was writing about you and putting in Zander’s or Xavier’s name, or when I was writing about them and putting your name down. But it’s been fun to give it a try to be accurate. It’s been a tough couple of years to see the post-seasons end in this way; once is hard to do, but two is really difficult. But Bay getting out to the region duals round and winning a team district IBT title, those are real accomplishments. You winning your first district title, that is a real accomplishment, and those accomplishments will stay with you.

Conner Wright. Creekside has representation in the state tournament, and unfortunately you are not getting to join in next week, but everything the Knights are — quietly consistent, willing to take direction to improve, steadfastly relentless to the work of the sport — has been you. You deserved a better fate than two years coming up short in the blood round. But showing up, doing the work, committing to doing it well, those are qualities that are going to sustain you long beyond the wrestling mats. I am certain in that future challenges, you will be successful because of what’s happened these last two years.

Jhalill Richardson. Raines had a tough year this year. Had to go back to the drawing board on finding some new kids to come out, and it was good to see you be one of those, because when the Vikings have been able to fill a lineup, good things have tended to happen with the coaching staff that you’ve got. But it was definitely a year of growing pains, and it was starting to show, in my mind at least, that you and Gregory were starting to grow through them and out of them. This week, he’ll need you to help him get ready for states. I hope you’ll remember that it isn’t when you start something, but it’s what you bring to the table as you do it. Because you’ll continue to have a lot to bring.

Ben Helton. I won’t go into the whys and wherefores on moving from one program to another, but I am sure it was for the right reasons at the time, and you certainly seemed to benefit from it during the regular season and losing only to one of the state’s top-ranked kids in the district round. But it’s tough to fall in the blood round once again, especially when the last time was two seasons ago. Just know that I saw you being a good ambassador for the sport, not only for your team this year, but also for your former team; because even when one changes singlets, one doesn’t change personalities. You’re going to be good people for a good long while.

Nathan Hatch. Been a long strange trip. Promising start as a freshman but then you weren’t in the post-season lineup two years ago. Last year, everything clicked in getting out to the state tournament. Things got tougher this year, with Deltona being moved into 2A and into the region with perhaps the most starpower of the state. No matter; you buckled your chinstrap and just went to work, winning a district title. During your career, you won two of those. Your team got to the region round twice and won a district title in the past two years, and you were a huge part of that.

John Fernandez. One of the things that I have wanted to do with this site, and simply have not been able to find the time to not only start but bring to fruition, is to use the site to highlight the “other things” that the kids who do this crazy sport do besides wrestle. Because you’re one of dozens of examples of that. In your particular case, you’re a theater kid, and that means something to me personally, because I have two of them who deeply identify with that culture and two others who, like me, dabbled in it. I hope theater will take you everywhere you will want to go and that wrestling will buoy your efforts in getting there.

Nate Weber. You qualified for state in solid fashion, with a decent tournament there after getting to the region final in your freshman year, and we thought big things were in store for your career. Sophomore year, we have records for you but nothing in the post-season and we don’t have anything at all for last year. I thought you had perhaps moved; it happens a lot in the Panhandle. But you came back this year, bigger (expected, you’re a senior after all now), and with a 40+ win season that included three wins this weekend. I’m personally glad you came back and gave this thing one more shot.

Grady Bryant. Before being one of the emotional leaders of the best 3A team in the north this year, you were one of the best leaders on another team. When you moved over to DeLand, you didn’t just become part of a good team, you elevated it. It showed in the grit the Bulldogs have had these past two seasons. It has showed in the teamwork, the spirit, all of the intangibles that have made the success of this year happen. All those trophies that the group won this year wasn’t just because the group worked harder, it worked together better. The team success has been your success, because of what you brought. And your successes are not done, they will elevate.

Caden Kubatzke. It’s never easy to rebuild a program from the ground up, and it’s never easy to be a coach’s son. You’ve had to deal with both in your four years. This was a successful year, though, with 100+ career victories achieved, on top of a year last year that saw you get to state. As importantly, these four years, you’ve been part of a program that has returned to respectability after, five years ago, was barely able to fill even half a lineup. It took this year’s senior group — which you certainly helped lead — to buy into that vision, and it’s doubled in the efforts of Enzo, and Gauge and Cael, and now it’s time to take that work and put it into them, but I’m sure you’ll be able to do it. Kids with Geneseo roots don’t know how to not work hard.

Alexander Davidson. I know this weekend is a bitter pill. You found a way in round 1 over a former state qualifier. You beat a district champ in the quarterfinals. But a loss that doesn’t go your way, where you can’t mount an offense in a sport where you’re used to being the successful attacker, can be a difficult thing to overcome. So, too, can facing an opponent that has revenge on the mind — and just as much to lose as you. This sucks. I feel for you. But I am quite certain that you’re going to face these kinds of situations, not on the wrestling mat maybe, but in another arena where being experienced with adversity is going to matter, and your insight you’re gaining this weekend will serve you well.

The Elliott boys. Cody and Dillon. I’ve been a parent to an athlete who put in thousands of hours into his craft, only to come up short, so I think I have some understanding of what your house must be like today — but for it to be doubled? That is an exceptionally tough thing to happen. As, essentially, the bigs for the Timberwolves the last couple of years, there was a lot of pressure on you in duals to perform, because either there were two forfeits following you or very inexperienced kids following you. This was not an overnight success story. I had Cody at 5-2 his freshman year, 8-1 sophomore year, in part-time roles. Junior year, Dillon came on board and got to Saturday at regions, while Cody got more starts, but not in the post-season. This year was the shot for both of them. And you both gave all you had to get the fairy-tale ending, and it didn’t work out. One day, you both be far stronger for having gone through this.

Sam Tolomeo. Your first year as a starter, in the 2020-21 post-season, you were 5th at districts. A year before, that fifth would have meant that you’d’ve been working tables for Coach Marschka at regions. Instead, you got a chance to move on as an additional qualifier, and you made the most of it. You won four matches on your home mats and you qualified out for states. Next year, in the toughest district in Region 1 (any class) you were fourth. Got to the semis. Lost in the blood round to the crosstown rival. This year. District runnerup (your best finish). Three bonus-point wins this weekend. Rematch with the crosstown rival, in the blood round, once again. Battled. Fell short. But ever since you got in to regions and used your second chance to make it state, your story has mattered to me. Your story is the reason why having additional qualifiers matters (and, to be fair, it’s also the reason why there should be a match for true 4th at the region level). Your story is why I do this article and this website, because, sometimes in life, we don’t get a second chance, y’all; nothing is guaranteed.

So please remember these young men, wherever you happen to be where you read this. Remember Sam Tolomeo. Because the second chance can mean everything, in a world where nothing is handed to us.

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Personal Note

Thoughts On The Weekend

Two years ago, the girls’ state tournament was a very different thing.

You wrestled all season — largely against boys, as there were very few girls’ only tournaments — and then the girls’ state tournament was the final weekend of the regular season.

There was no qualification process. Could you make weight and make the trip and have coaches on hand? Then you could compete at state. Some made the trip. Others didn’t. Some competed in both the girls’ state tournament and the boys’ state series. I myself often wondered why more solid girls in my coverage area didn’t compete at girls’ state. I guess we can never really know why, now.

This isn’t to criticize that tournament, I point this out merely to highlight the difference between THEN — a very-recent then — and NOW.

Now, there is a growing cycle of girls’ tournaments throughout the season. There is a culture within the culture that is certainly growing at a rapid rate, if not already developed or both.

I’ve gone to three girls-only tournaments this year, and there is definitely a different vibe, a vibe that I appreciate. A vibe that reminds me of the first couple of seasons I covered the sport, back in Iowa and Wisconsin, more than half a lifetime ago.

This weekend, for some, there was very real pain inside that vibe, both for some girls who didn’t move on to state, and for me.

Girls that — in some cases — have found a home and an identity in this crazy sport now will face an end. For the 12th-graders whose names follow in this piece, it’s a page-turning end in a year that is full of ends. Some will compete at the #NextLevel. Many more will not, and for them, it’s a career that ends almost as soon as it began, as many teams competing this weekend didn’t have individual girls on their roster two years ago, let alone full teams that a few schools have grown out of whole cloth.

For the past six years, Thoughts On Saturday is the article everyone wants to read.

It’s also the article in which no one wants to be listed. We didn’t do one on the girls’ side last year because, quite honestly, I had (and still very much have) so much to do that I didn’t think about it.

So this is the inaugural Thoughts On The Weekend. Has to be weekend because Region 2 was contested Friday.

As I have said in each TOS…

“The intensity of the emotion, no matter the venue, never changes.

No less a philosopher than the legendary Terry Brands (of course I’m going to name-check an Iowa wrestler) said about this sport, “You get what you earn.”

That’s true, and it’s not true.

Many of these kids should be at states. A few of them have been. One or two has podiumed there.

I hear the moms and dads now: Why not say something about all the kids that lost in the blood round, whether they’re seniors or not? It hurts for them, too.

I agree and you have a point. However, most, thankfully, have a chance to come back and gain redemption in subsequent years. But this is the cruelest of fates for these few (and yet, always, too many), the seniors who have their high school careers end in the blood round. For virtually all of them, this is their final moment for them. My son had a similar fate in track and field four years ago, in his senior season of HS, and between injuries sustained in college and Covid, he never got to compete in the sport again. So I get it, a bit.

It’s carnage out there. I hate it. And I can’t stop watching it. I’m never going to forget those emotions, the highs and the lows. They’re absolutely beautiful, and they’re absolutely shattering. THAT is why I cover this sport.

That’s why I feel sorrow for these kids that follow in this list. Precious few teenagers are willing to step up and do what it takes just to even say that they are wrestlers, let alone be good enough to have a chance to test their ability on the state stage. Precious damn few.

I know how hard they’ve worked, and, at the same time, I will never, ever truly know.”

And there’s one more thing to add. These seniors, especially, have INVESTED in the well-being of their younger teammates. On the mat. Off the mat. And those younger teammates have bonded to them as though they were the older sisters that, in several cases, they may not happen to have.

So this is not just the seniors’ loss of opportunity. It’s a loss for their teammates as well. And, perhaps we’ll see this as this FHSAA series continues to grow legs under it, these losses may provide fuel for those younger teammates to find new levels in their own work ethic and reach that state stage, to stand upon the shoulders of those who strove, and came up short.

We begin with the list of seniors we might never have seen once, never covered once.

Region 2: Nyla Rocke. Erica Diroche’. Shelby Mills.

Region 3: Alanis Cosme. Jessica Hill. Angelina Castro. Faith Casso. Carin Abdelnour. Kaitlyn Alvarez.

Region 4: Kylie Castro. Shayana St Cyr. Maria Sanfiel. Annabelle Guillaume. Daniella Flores.

Some names I know from following what, for me, is the official state rankings on Kabra. Some, I’ve seen wrestle northern kids. I hope your name is spelled correctly here. I start with the region brackets, then go into the rosters on Trackwrestling (which has not been a sure bet of late for accuracy in names). I tried to make sure that I didn’t miss you. I hope I did not; if I advertently did, I sincerely apologize (especially to South Dade’s Aviatzi Gonzalez, who’s a senior in the R4 bracket and a sophomore on the original roster).

Now for my local kids. And they are, in fact, “my” kids (this is always the HARD part).

Deanna Walker. You impressed me yesterday. You wrestled someone that, at their school, is considered the strongest girl on the team and in many ways you out-stronged her. I’ve been watching Baker County girls wrestle for years. I had hoped you’d join Makayla. Now you have to cheer her on these next two weeks, and cheer your brother on next week at Wewahitchka.

Kiona Upegui. It seems like you’ve been a Bobcat forever, you and Talia both. I was seeing your JV results even before girls’ wrestling was sanctioned. I hope your example will be one that brings more Buchholz girls into the sport, more city of Gainesville girls into the sport, more Gainesville kids into the sport. The sport needs kids like you, especially Gainesville kids like you.

Megan Dathe. It’s always a tough thing when you have to go through two wrestlers who are likely to make state podium and that’s your road to get to state. But you’ve had good practice partners in your time at Hagerty, excellent and upstanding coaches that have helped shape you, and you have had an excellent place to grow in this sport. The lessons you will gain from the sport will ultimately be very rewarding.0

Jana El’harake. After falling in the state blood round last year, I saw big things for you, and it was your leadership that has built this really nicely-growing program that Oviedo’s starting to generate there. It’s hard to beat someone in the blood round when your last memory of her is a very quick pin. But you have had an excellent, excellent career and this will just be a page to turn.

Yosselyn Flores. Your boys teammates have had an awful lot of success this year, and that’s a bit of extra pressure to put that DeLand singlet on this year, because the opponent may not know you, but if they’ve followed the sport, they know DeLand. And you made history this year! You are the first Lady Bulldog to ever win a district wrestling title. That’s yours. FOREVER.

Vanessa Stobe. There’s so much talent on your team. And they’re only going to get better, and there will be more talented girls coming. The virtue you brought is that you brought everything you possibly could to the table. Remember how you outlasted your opponents that you’ve beaten this year. You worked exceptionally hard on the mats, and your teammates will remember that work ethic next year.

Katherine Lundgren. I’m not sure what kept you away from the NBH lineup for a couple of seasons, but I’m very much glad you came back this year. It’s been cool to see the development of the Lady Buccaneers’ program; it’s going to go places in the next few years. Like I said about Yosselyn, you’re the first girl to win a district wrestling title (and you beat a region champ in doing it).

Degriece Coleman. I’ve been to your school often enough to know some things. Resources are tough to find. Support is hard to come by. Sometimes, it feels like Wolverines against the world. But you’ve made The Show in your time. You were, are, and forever will be part of the original Westside girls’ wrestling team from its inception. And Karla will need you these next two weeks to keep her sharp.

Jayden Dodge. When I left Matanzas on Saturday, I was hoping your shoulder would be able to hold up well enough to make it through, because not only have you been good enough to make #TheShow, you were good enough to podium last year. You’ve had a lot to live up to, being part of the unofficial “first family” of Ocala-area wrestling in recent years. But you’ve been a two-time district champion; I don’t know who would have been the last West Port wrestler to do that; I do know no other girl has done it. You’ve built your own story within your family’s treasure trove, and your school’s history, of wrestling accomplishment. And it will last for a good while to come.

Phia Mallon. I know you didn’t compete this weekend, and therefore some might wonder why you’re here. You’re here because I heard you. At the two PVHS girls’ invites I’ve been to. At Ponte Vedra BOYS’ duals. At Clay Rotary. At Lake Mary. And definitely Saturday, albeit in street clothes. And I heard you not just for your high school teammates, but your neighboring rivals too. Go back and re-read that paragraph about investing in the well-being of your teammates. You’re not the most talented senior on your team. But that girl up there in that paragraph? The girl that Erin and Natalia and Sofia and Donavanne, and the rest of the freshmen look to for support, the shoulders they stand on? That’s you. And that’s why you’re here.

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Personal Note

State Of The Site — Labor Day Ten

OK…so state of the site.

I did promise this. It’s kinda long (I do that).

Let’s start with what we know:
1. Today is roughly (though perhaps not exactly) the start of our 10th year. We rolled out the site on Labor Day in 2013. A lot was different then. My third son was still here in Florida, attending Mandarin (where he studied government under Larry Yudin, who was the first coach to invite me to come watch wrestling here). My fourth son was in middle school then; he’s in his fourth year of college now, in Maryland. I was in a relationship then, said relationship being the reason I moved here.
2. We grew. A LOT. We started with the coverage area of the Florida Times-Union newspaper, because they weren’t covering the sport at all (sadly, things have returned to that state, although for several years I was providing them with content). We then added Flagler, Alachua and Putnam Counties in 2014. We added the Tallahassee/Panhandle area in 2015. We added Volusia, Seminole and Marion Counties in 2019. Last year, we made the coverage area all of Region 1, adding nearly (at least) a third of the Orlando metro area. We started with 40 teams 10 years ago. We now cover 100. The kids moved, and the relationship, well…I’ll just say it didn’t follow the original plan.
3. Although we grew a lot, our commitment to HS coverage did not lessen. True, I had to take a step back on our college coverage, a step I did not want to take and still don’t. But given the realities of the situation, the only way I could keep doing college writeups was to outsource them (and pay whoever I outsourced them to). Or I could not do college coverage, which is what I chose to do. I simply can’t cover all of my requirements of life and pay someone else to do #NextLevel coverage, and it’s unfair to ask someone else to volunteer FOR me. If there is another path to getting #NextLevel coverage restarted, I’m willing to hear that idea out.

Here’s what I can tell you about going forward:
1. We are adding new tools to our coverage. I’ve teased to this a couple of times on various social media, so now I’m going to announce it. We have built preliminary career wins lists for all wrestlers in the coverage area that are eligible to return in 2022-23. Currently, Jayce Paridon (Fleming Island) has a 23-win lead over Hagerty’s Kamdon Harrison and Suwannee’s Austin Howard for overall wins in career among active (eligible to return) coverage-area wrestlers. We could also, during this upcoming year, see a wrestler with both 100 wins and 100 losses in their career.
2. To that end, we’ve built a spreadsheet listing every eligible, by team, whether they have zero wins or Paridon’s 163 (based upon my numbers I’ve built over the last several seasons). We’re adding career post-season performances for every single wrestler eligible to come back this year, regardless of whether they’re a returning state champion or whether they’re still searching for their first win at districts.
3. While we don’t know the FHSAA’s classification scheme for 2022-23 yet, I can tell you we will once again cover every team in Region 1 this coming year. Teams that are classified into another region will be invited to stay with us, under the condition that all results for every varsity event that they compete in be submitted to us.

Now for some of the things that are less clear and the things that are weighing on me as we go into year 10:
1. Folks, it’s very simple. I can’t keep working for free. It’s been nine full seasons, soon to start a 10th. This summer, like the previous couple before it, there hasn’t been a single off-day. Not one. We posted our last thank-you post to our sponsors on June 10. Since June 10, we wrote 116 posts to the website. One special one on a highlight video of Lincoln grad Gus Altenburg. Six #TheCalendar posts, where coaches sent their schedules to me. A total of 45 “offseason” competition results posts of various stripes, including local events, Disney and Fargo, among many others (and there could have been more but not every area tournament organizer sent me their results). And 64 #TheSeason posts — which serve as scouting reports for the community, nearly two-thirds of the coverage area in all. I have received not dollar one for those 116 pieces of work. No donations since early June.
You don’t work for free. The others who cover this sport in this state don’t do it (entirely) for free.
2. My job was relatively easy for me to do wrestling work until September of last year. So it was easy for me to keep all of our content free-use for you. In September of last year, however, my boss added a function to my workday that, one email at a time, are relatively easy to complete. However, I have to read close to 200 emails, on average, per day now that I did not have to before.
This not only cuts into daytime work that once went to the site and your kids, but puts a lot more mental and physical strain on me so that when I am “done” with my “workday,” I’m often exhausted.
3. When I started this, I promised you all that none of my content would be paywalled. I have honored that and continue to intend to honor that. That said, there are only two ways for that promise to continue to be upheld. One is to reduce the size of the coverage area back to some previous level. That isn’t fair to whatever area would be left behind. The other is for donations to increase. I’ve had a couple of corporate inquiries but nothing really serious has happened yet. I can’t be going months at a stretch without a single donation (the ways to donate to me are at the bottom of this post, as they are noted at the bottom of almost every post I write).
This has to change if the site is to keep going beyond a 10th season. It is non-negotiable.

So, while the future is uncertain for everyone, for multiple reasons on multiple fronts, we know we will be here in Florida to complete another year of quality coverage for your kids. How comfortable I am or will be while I’m doing it is largely up to you. We are averaging, as we begin our 10th year, around 570 posts per year. That’s 3 posts for every 2 days, every day, going back to Labor Day of 2013. Your donations have fueled that. And I continue to be grateful for them.

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.
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Categories
Personal Note

No Limits, No Refunds

There are days where I don’t love covering wrestling.

The lack of funding. The lack of free time (it’s August, folks, and I have not been to the beach, other than as a chauffeur, once this calendar year). The things and people and life I sacrifice to do it the only way I know how, which is all out with whatever tools I have.

So, against that probably-only-in-my-mind grim backdrop, every now and again, the universe reminds me why I really should keep at it.

I don’t always get a look at every team’s Facebook pages in real time, so at first I almost glossed over a Lincoln post from earlier in the week. I was a little snoozy early this morning while watching my favorite English football team struggle much more than I would like for a season-opener.

But I saw it highlighted Class of 2018 alum Gus Altenburg, who’s been one of my most favorite people to cover since I’ve moved here. And that woke me up.

One of his best boyhood friends, Ben Strickland, did a 30-minute video documentary, posted on YouTube back in May, on Gus.

This video, entitled No Limits No Refunds, refers to a slogan that Gus and his parents use as a refrain to remind him — and, as you’ll see when you watch the video, all of us — that there should be no limits to your achievement, no matter what obstacles stand in the way. That there are no refunds on each day, as you don’t or can’t have a do-over.

That’s the same whether the day is a “bad” one or a “good” one.

After graduation from Lincoln in 2018, Gus attended Tallahassee Community College for two years and is currently at Florida Gulf Coast in Ft Myers, where he’s a senior. He majors in digital media design and marketing (Side note: maybe if I had the budget for it, I could hire him to help me for the website).

I have another reason for my interest in this video, not only in the curiosity of seeing a young man overcoming autism to qualify for states, which is certainly reason enough.

My third son is on the autism spectrum as well. We didn’t really know, all throughout his growing-up years, and those of you who’ve had your kids mis-diagnosed with this or that disorder can relate to me on that. There are analogous situations that I see, now, having watched the video and seeing how Gus saw and overcame certain things and seeing how his parents both challenged and supported him, to those situations I encountered with my autistic son, some in which I had some success and some where I fell short.

So I urge you to watch this today. I urge you to be the proactive parent that Gus’s parents were as he made and makes his way through the world, to be the proactive parent that I wish I had been to a son who is trying to make his way through the world, 1200 miles away. I urge you to be the proactive friend like Ben and Tyler Strickland, a friend to the kids who are different, to learn from their stories, and to encourage them as they walk their paths.

You can watch the video HERE –> GUS ALTENBURG

There are days where I don’t love covering wrestling.

Today is a day to remember why I do.

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.
We are just about to wrap up #TheSeason for Georgia. See those recaps and the latest news on our affiliated site at  http://sgamatmen.wordpress.com
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Categories
Personal Note

Thank You Sponsors And A Wrapup Note

Next year started yesterday. It doesn’t take long to clear out Silver Spurs Arena. This was not even 9 p.m. Saturday night (Photo by Shannon Heaton).

Another year, gone, as is said in the first of the Harry Potter movies. And before I get to the important part of this post, just wanted to lay out some things before I go on vacay tomorrow.

This was a great year to follow along, but also a very hard year to follow. I could sugar-coat things for you, but I believe in being straight, always, with people.

Things will have to change in 2022-23. The things that will have to change will be:

  • Wrestling/work/life balance. My work responsibilities changed in September, which really did a number on my ability to handle wrestling stuff, which did a number on my ability to be able to do things like take care of my physical health, take care of taking care of my place, and occasionally be able to do something in the winter months that isn’t wrestling or work.
  • Coaches follow-through. While a lot did as well as they could under the circumstances, there were instances, that occurred throughout the year, where we either didn’t get anything or coaches didn’t understand what it was that we needed from them (even though I’d laid out every contingency with new coaches preseason). I know that the addition of the girls’ sanctioning, which ended on a very-high note, caused a lot of stress last year, so some of this should get better. But it’s not hard to get results to me.
  • How I present things. This may have to change, too, because the way I’ve done things is very time-intensive. So we may start tinkering with some of that even this off-season with #TheSeason, on which I will start after my return.

I think that’s enough about that for now. If I think of other stuff, I will pass it on. I always will listen to your ideas, too.

Thank you so much to everyone who said so many positive things about what I was able to do this year. It’s gratifying and motivating. Unfortunately, it can’t always be in person, because I can still only go so far and do so much, and as noted above, what I have done has taken me up to the brink.

The following folks have donated to me since my last #ThankYou post on the Florida side:

  • Johan Olarte
  • Kenneth DeFord (there might be one or two who have donated more, but none have come close to donating as often!!) 2x
  • The InspectzJax business (I’m down for talking advertising and sponsorships for any business of any kind within the coverage area or wrestling-themed with a Florida base, at any time).
  • Jason Weslager
  • Bill Pyburn
  • Nichole Smith (2x!!)
  • Steve Howard
  • Darren Glenn
  • Ronnie Rizzuto
  • Taryn Stewart
  • Joe Mobley
  • Mecca Stewart
  • Nikki Beck

Six of these came in these past couple of days, the other six were all before Christmas. My job gets me by for basics. But this effort takes time. Lots of it. Between driving to events, being at events, driving home from events, writing up results of events, writing up events, thinking about writing up events, building website architecture to make it all housed nice and neat and archived (you can find out who was the 2017 2A-District 2 runnerup at 182 pounds in less than two minutes; I can do it in less than one, because, well, I built the thing).

It takes a lot of time to do all of this. We’re at a space where I might have to consider breaking my promise and putting some content on subscription. As I’ve seen, nobody should give away their work 100% for free. I’m donated maybe $1 per hour/year, even with the 14 I’ve noted here that have come in since late September.

If we were the tiny thing we were in 2013-14, it might be different, but I cover 140 teams in two states now, and still try to cover it like I did that first year. It’s not sustainable. I don’t want to do it, but as is it’s not sustainable. I’ll take your ideas on this, too.

I thank you very much if you have donated, and I hope if you read me regularly and haven’t donated yet, that you will rectify that. Easiest ways are via Venmo at shannon-heaton-6 or via PayPal. If you’re not comfortable with those, and want to donate to me, reach out on Facebook Messenger, and we’ll explore other ideas.

By the way, the wrestler was Gus Altenburg. One of my favorite kids to cover. And one of Lincoln’s favoritest of favorite sons.

I’ll be back soon to start #TheSeason, to start engaging with the realities of this thing and what we can change without annoying too many folks, and to start thinking about 2022-23. Next year started yesterday.

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.
Georgia is in off-season mode! We will start #TheSeason there (as here) in mid-March. See the latest on our affiliated site at  http://sgamatmen.wordpress.com
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).

 

Categories
Personal Note

Thoughts On Saturday

Before I spend what will be tomorrow writing about the kids who got out to states, I have a couple of thoughts about those who didn’t.

I started this piece five years ago while covering the 1A-Region 1 finals at Clay that year, because I just was so struck not only by what I saw, but what I FELT.

While I was at Chiles today, trying to get as many pictures as I could, I did try to WATCH, too.

The intensity of the emotion, no matter the venue, never changes.

No less a philosopher than the legendary Terry Brands (of course I’m going to name-check an Iowa wrestler) said about this sport, “You get what you earn.”

That’s true, and it’s not true.

Many of these kids should be at states. A few of them have been. One or two has podiumed there.

I hear the moms and dads now: Why not say something about all the kids that lost in the blood round? It hurts for them, too.

I agree. However, most, thankfully, have a chance to come back and gain redemption in subsequent years. But this is the cruelest of fates for these few (and yet, always, too many), the seniors who have their high school careers end in the blood round. For virtually all of them, this is their final moment for them. My son had a similar fate in track and field three years ago, in his senior season. So I get it, a bit.

It’s carnage out there. I hate it. And I can’t stop watching it. I’m never going to forget those emotions, the highs and the lows. They’re absolutely beautiful, and they’re absolutely shattering. THAT is why I cover this sport.

That’s why I feel sorrow for these kids that follow in this list, the seniors whose careers ended in the blood round on Saturday, because precious few teenagers are willing to step up and do what it takes just to even say that they are wrestlers, let alone be good enough to have a chance to find out the answers on the state stage. Precious damn few.

I know how hard they’ve worked, and, at the same time, I will never, ever truly know.

We begin with our list of kids we never saw once, never covered once. In the past couple of years, I learned everybody wants to read this and nobody wants to read their name, or their son’s name, in this story.

3A-Region 2: Josiah Ortiz. Anthony Samuels. Jackson Norton. Kaluv Peterson. Daegan Buzbee. Jake McDarby. Trenton Johnson. Connor VanBuren. Sterling Rankin. Jack Hostetter. Austin Bovee. Aidan Widerberg.

3A-Region 3: Carlos Garcia. Frank Addis. Tyreque Pringle. Brett Vangel. Bryce Mancuso. Will Eltringham. Emil Cataquet. Kristian Damaso.

3A-Region 4: Emmanuel Hernandez. Jerry Enrique Molina. Aiden Gasper. William Kleine. Dustin Lubin. Rocco D’ascoli. Shemar Barthelus. Javier Taylor. Daniel Johnson. Nieed Guillaume. Jared Campbell.

2A-Region 2: Mateo Bell. Avry Huezo. Ahmad Collier-Williams. Randall Watson. Caleb George. Nathan Patrick. William Belcher. Jarquez Knight. Kayden Graham. Jeremiah Stone. Dion Thomas. David Lone. John Finch. Titus Randall. Kaleb Feuston.

2A-Region 3: Jean-Carlos Pineda. Jason Cottrell. Treyvon Thomas. Dylan Segui. Daniel Maloney. Romario Degoutte. Rejon Story. Jaiden Musse. Colin Koneski. Dominick Dekker.

2A-Region 4: Brock Coburn. Manuel Dominguez. Tannahil Jean. Sebastian Jenkins-St Prix.

1A-Region 2 (outside coverage area): Anthony Edwards. Manuel Quinonez. Lane Beck. Wes Booker. Thomas Danielson. Peyton Chancey. Riley Henchey.

1A-Region 3: Ryan Kissel. Paul Wilcox. Raymond Walker. Derek Murack. Konstantinos Houvardas. Dominic Minervini. Matthew Tanner. Klaas van de Groep. Jayden Mayo.

1A-Region 4: Roland Loreto. Mathew Palermo. Gabriel Plata. Sajid Mabud. Diego Peralta. Ethan Ardavin. Josiah Sisco.

So many names I know. Have seen you wrestle northern kids.

If I’ve noted you in the above paragraphs, and your name is mis-spelled, my sincere apologies. I spelled it exactly as it appeared on the Trackwrestling bracket. I tried to look up every kid that didn’t have a school year listed. I might have missed one or two of you. For that, I apologize.

Now for my local kids. And they are, in fact, “my” kids.

Noah Anderson. Strictly speaking, you weren’t “in” my coverage area this year, but that’s only because I never got a good email address for your coach. But you were in my coverage area the last two years, so I kept looking out. You took a step forward in this tournament each year, and with a new coach, that had to be tough.

Deriz Andrews. I know you were the only local additional qualifier to get as far as the blood round, and you might have been the only one to get as far as Saturday. Who knows what we might have seen with just a little more time? I’m glad that you represented your school so well this year. You gave UCS a lot to shout about; be proud of this effort.

Christopher Strong. It’s tough to follow in two older brothers’ footsteps, because everything you do is measured by what they did. At least, to an extent. One of your coaches showed me a text you sent him today, and, even in the face of your individual disappointment, you put the program first. Those brothers would be proud of you for that.

Jalen Moliere. I’ve been watching your results even before your team became part of our coverage area this year. You went toe-to-toe with my pick to win the title and you never backed down for a second today. That’s something I’ve picked up about Apopka this year, is that you guys never give an inch about anything. That will serve you well in future endeavors.

Aidan Kyllonen. I didn’t know whether you moved into the district or just tried out the sport for the first time this year, but you made a heckuva impact for the Eagles this season, and winning 40+ matches is no small accomplishment. Now, it’s time to help you help JJ get better this week and help him accomplish his goals at states.

Bonosky Fidel. I’m sure you are thinking about the previous weekend, when everything went right, and comparing it to today, when it didn’t. We say in the sport, it’s not the six minutes, it’s what happens in the six minutes. But it’s not always. It’s the process before the six minutes. That process will be invaluable later, although I know tonight stings.

Micah Barker. I know this season was not how you wanted it to go, long before this weekend, and the tough draw you got in round 1 and the battle with a district rival today in the blood round. But you’ve been a stalwart for the Dolphins for some while now, and you have done everything the team has asked you to do (wrestling 3 weights up from where you are now, last year).

Tyler Drone. Kurt will get the accolades tomorrow, and he had a great tournament, but I think just as much that you set the tone for this team, not just this year, but for the past 2-3 seasons now, and I’ve been watching, so I know. You’ve helped Windermere get off the ground as a program, and you’re going to be remembered there for a long while because of that.

Blake Fluck. You were another one of the northwest seniors that came on radar for the first time this year, and believe you me, you made a lot of folks quite quite worried with what you were able to acccomplish this year. Today was not a good day. But this was a very, very good year for you, and I hope you’ll remember the highlights of this year more than this weekend.

Jerry Vargas. I don’t know how much you and Tyler made each other better every day in the practice room, but you made yourself into a district champion this year. You guys put Windermere on the map as a team to follow in the coming years, by finishing second in both district duals and the IBT. And you defied one “expert” predictions by beating two guys this weekend that the “expert” would have predicted gone the other way. Keep defying others’ expectations.

Daniel Brattain. Being a part of a program like Wakulla’s carries with it a certain level of expectations, and those are tough enough to contend with before the other guy on the mat across from you. Guys you got to practice with over the past three years set the tone for you, and I hope that, more importantly than what happened this weekend, you were able to set the tone for younger War Eagles to follow. They say tradition never graduates, and be confident that you have done your best to carry it on.

Hale Wood. I didn’t get to see you personally wrestle all that often, but Coach Allen always spoke highly of you when talking about your performances and today I got to see just why. You get every possible ounce of ability out of every moment, and that’s a credit to YOU and YOUR choices. This week, it’s time to choose to help get Aidan on the state podium. You’ve represented the Patriots well.

Liam Hawkes. I am sure that you wanted to join Xander more than anything on the Wakulla podium this weekend, and I can’t imagine how hard it is to get to the “one step from” place two years in a row. I wondered how the team was going to fare without the “names” of the wrestlers of prior years being in positions of leadership. I need not have worried. You have held that down and then some. Now help Xander make podium!

Kai Higgins. It’s been fun to follow the Patriots this year and see what seems to be a rather nice program underway. There’s lots of good young kids in that group. And those good young kids needed a leader, and that leader was you. One of those kids is going to make the show in the next couple of years or so, maybe even next year, and he’s going to have you to thank for it.

Caleb Crawford. You’ve been one of the leaders for Union County since its inception. It started from ground zero, nothing. And you and your teammates — with good coaching and investment, to be sure — went from that nothing and have built a program that was IMMEDIATELY competitive. I’ve never seen a first-year program do that. That takes a real commitment, the commitment that you made. It would have been easy to walk away, but you chose the road less traveled, and so much the better for you.

Lane Wishart. This was truly a breakout year for DeLand in every way possible. Think about last year; last year you didn’t compete in this tournament. Think about how much growth you went through this off-season, you personally and your team alongside you. This group needed you as a leader. And you delivered. Your team qualified out for region duals and made the Sweet 16, beating a host team. You won 46 matches this year! A lot of guys would LOVE that kind of year, and one day you will also.

Dylan Billingsley. Along with Aidan and Blake, I wish I had gotten to see more of your high school career, because you were another guy that dropped a bombshell with your early results. Here’s what I do know, your one year with that guy, those guys, in your corner is going to mean so much for you as you go into adulthood beyond just wrestling. And I am sure your freshman teammates in the lineup learned much from you, so I will get to see more of you, through them.

Tristen Carbonell. I know that when you came over to Winter Park from your prior school that this weekend was not what you had hoped for. Seeing the bottom half of the consi bracket today gave me a tough feeling, because you were all seniors, and I never like to see seniors not move on. But just know that you added a lot to the Wildcats this year, and I saw a lot of quiet strength you showed in accepting your loss Friday with grace.

Denny Vohs. It’s going to feel seriously strange not typing your name for Bolles results in the middleweight part of the lineup, in part because I’ve been doing it for about five years now. You’ve been on this site for half of its existence now. The cooler thing for me, though, was being on hand for Senior Night and hearing about your passion for animals. Highlighting wrestlers as people beyond the mats is something I want this site to do, and so I was very glad to see that.

Haiden Williams-Marchetti. I can remember not too long ago when Lyman had fallen on seriously hard times as a program. You were not the first name on the list that started to bring the Greyhounds back, but there were times this year where you were the highlight. You and Jackson have pointed the way to where Lyman wrestling could go once again. And today, you avenged your loss at districts. That was huge. Focus on that part of today.

Luke Latham. I really, really had hoped, after seeing Wyatt on this list, after seeing Calvin on this list last year, that this would be the year. I know with certainty you thought so as well. But. That’s going to make the breakthrough for Rocky Bayou that much sweeter, the hope being the anticipation of future benefits. The program has done so much in the past few years, and your example, year-in and year-out, has been of incalculable worth for your younger teammates.

Onjel Caraballo. I know this weekend seems like a failure, particularly after a good start to it, but here’s the thing. You never ever failed to surprise me with your capabilities on the mat, and I am not all that easy to surprise. I hope that you’ll remember all the good things that Oakleaf did this year. Winning Friday Knight Lights. Winning the district IBT team title and advancing out to region duals for the first time. You played key roles in those highlights.

Joseph Kent. Though you guys went over to Region 2, I still kept following the Sandcrabs. The things you have gotten to experience as part of that team! District duals champions. You’ve been a district individual champion. And with a new coach this year, your leadership meant so very much, and you guys got to go to region duals for the second time in your career last month. This is a tough one, but you had lots of good ones in your high school career.

Angel Lecointe. I can still remember rushing over to your HC last year and asking him, nervously, if you were a senior then, because I was hoping you wouldn’t be. Two years in the blood round. That is particularly difficult. What’s more difficult? Leading a seriously, seriously young and inexperienced team with your consistency, and your quality, and your results. That’s harder. And you did it gracefully. What you have meant for BJS wrestling matters a lot, too.

Jacob Witt. This is a hard one because you’ve been to #TheShow before and very few northeastern kids outside of Clay County worked harder in the offseason to test themselves against national-level competition than you have. Plus, you’ve been around since 7th grade with me, which means I’ve had things to say about you for two-thirds of the site’s life. And it was six years of just straight up scrappin’. Bolles wrestling won’t be the same next year, and you’re a big, big reason why.

Jameel Smith. Wrestling isn’t always fair. Let up for a fraction of a second, and the difference in a match is made. You showed us so much in your two years at Mandarin, a place where nobody thinks about wrestling much at all, let alone thinks anybody can achieve mat success there. I wish you could have gone back and podiumed a second time, but now, you’ll have to help condition Tony this week. Run him ragged on the mat with your quickness.

Seth Davis. No, not the “Hammah,” say it ain’t so, Matmen. They say wrestling is a sport for every body. And that is very much true. Although it helps, you don’t have to be 6-5 and ripplingly cut as a heavyweight. Seth uses every inch of height and ounce of weight better than most heavies, and it’s because of how SMART he is on the mat that he has gotten this far. That’s why I wish he’d made #TheShow. To show other kids built like him that they can do it, too. I guess we’ll have to settle for him showing young kids in Palm Coast that. And that is pretty damn good in and of itself.

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.
Georgia is in off-season mode! We will start #TheSeason there (as here) in mid-March. See the latest on our affiliated site at  http://sgamatmen.wordpress.com
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).
Categories
Personal Note

Merry Christmas From Matmen!

“So this is Christmas, and what have you done…Another year over and a new one just begun…”

Sometimes I do wonder what I’ve done and what I’m doing with this site. I had a 75-minute phone call just this morning with my third son in Illinois, who’s excited that the peak of his year is concluding and glad for things to get back to normal. I could have that conversation every day there. Conversations with my two older sons, one who is engaged and another who is beginning home life with a live-in girlfriend. Happier than both have been in a long time, perhaps ever. I want to be a part of that happiness with and for them. What am I doing, what have I done?

“And so this is Christmas, I hope you have fun, the near and the dear one, the old and the young…”

I feel this Christmas attacking me to some extent. After the mishap with the car this week (and I was really serious as I noted on my FB page, if anybody has an extra car they’re not needing for a few weeks, it would really help me out, and it will be brought back in same if not better condition), I lost the motivation to wrap up decorations. The season doesn’t give me much time to start and I started too late (next year, I have to get things going mid-November).

“A very merry Christmas, and a happy new year, let’s hope it’s a good one, without any fear…”

You guys do better than me on this part. I applaud your courage in the face of the pandemic to go out and do battle, and I’ve gone out as much as I can, but it’s been much harder. Much harder. All the time. I am always behind, ALL THE DAMN TIME. I can’t tell you how many stories, pieces of results, content you want to see just sits in a text file on my laptop for minutes to hours just because the work work keeps pouring in.

Even now, I’m only “caught up” because nothing new has come in on Georgia side that’s been wrestled this week (EDITOR’S NOTE: Not entirely true, Matmen guy, check yer email), and there are several big things that haven’t come in yet. (We’re not talking about #NextLevel just yet, I have my significant fears about that one).

Had I known my work work pace was going to double over the past three months, I would not have expanded to Orlando. But the decision was made, the work work pace doubled, and here we are. Behind.

“And so this is Christmas for weak and for strong, for the rich and the poor ones, the road is so long…”

While I’m not really down with the celebrating this go-round, I am going to try to not worry about what’s coming. About how far behind I feel. I am going to acknowledge the gratitude I have for the blessings I do have from this community. Several Orlando coaches, in particular, have expressed their thanks for my writing about them.

And then of course, there’s been new donations to acknowledge. Thank you very much for these!

  • Johan Olarte
  • Drew Lindsey
  • Mike DiTomasso
  • William Lamb
  • Kenneth DeFord
  • InspectzJax
  • Jason Weslager
  • William Pyburn
  • Nichole Smith
  • Steve Howard
  • Jonathan Smith
  • An anonymous coach donation

If you would like to donate to us, Venmo is the best way (shannon-heaton-6). I also have PayPal, which is functional too.

Page views are up substantially, on both sites, this year. Donations went fallow there for several months, but more recently have made many things possible and comfortable for me. Were it not for them — and a timely work work bonus paid out because we have worked, frankly, our asses off this year, I would be even more screwed with the car thing than I have been already.

So all the thanks go out to the donors and the readers, the recent and former ones, the old and the young.

2022 is coming whether we’re ready or not, and there will have to be some decisions to be made. None will be easy.

But until they have to be made, I want to thank you with trusting me with your coverage for nine seasons. I plan on a 10th. I hope there’ll be an 11th. Beyond that, who knows. I’m not going to worry about that now. Or at least try not to.

Because as John said, war is over if you want it. Even if the war is with your decisions.

Have a merry, merry Christmas, and a happy new year. (And reach out to me about the car thing; I can’t guarantee on-site coverage in 2022 as things stand right now).

Let’s hope it’s a good one, without any fear.

Categories
Personal Note

Thank You Sponsors

It’s been long past time since I sent out thank-yous. My mother is raging in eternity that I have misplaced my manners.

This offseason, we published over 100 #TheSeason recaps across two states. This is a unique feature not found elsewhere close, anyway. These are early-radar scouting reports on a good chunk of your immediate competition. We made several appearances at offseason events — around a dozen or so, maybe 15, most recently road-tripping to Osceola for Super 32.

And we began prepping for the season to come.

We didn’t have many days off this “off-season.” A few, but not many. And starting today, there’s likely not to be any off-days between now and April.

The donations from folks like these — who’ve donated online or sent via regular mail — have my gratitude, however belated my public thanks are. Life becomes a little easier with them. This is particularly true in this fall season, the first one since 2015 where I have not covered a dozen football games for local media. I’ve liked having Friday nights free to do things like buy groceries, or work, or as importantly, not work, but it’s made the budget a bit tighter.

We’ve started our Georgia preview writing — our first of seven was just completed today — and we’re still working with coaches to collect schedules. So far, for both states, we’re a little over 40 in hand out of around 120 or so. As we get close to October, we’re going to try to follow college wrestlers once again through our #NextLevel feature.

If you have opportunity to donate in the near-future — and I recognize that may be difficult, but believe me, any amount is helpful — I would ask you to reach out via Venmo or Paypal; if you prefer an alternative means, hit me up on Facebook and we’ll work something out.

Our most recent donations have come from the following folks, some Georgia and some Florida:

  • Kevin Glavin
  • St Johns Wrestling Academy
  • John Villenueva
  • Rod Maritato
  • Joey Secoy
  • Matthew Lawrence
  • Scott Snyder
  • John & Jennifer Mulvany
  • Bryan Fortay

The work continues, more or less without stopping. Thanks for continuing to read us — I know you have other options — and for your consideration.

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.
It’s preseason time in Georgia as well! Check out the latest on our affiliated site at  http://sgamatmen.wordpress.com
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).
Categories
Personal Note Uncategorized

Thank You Sponsors

The offseason is here, and the work gets even more long and lonely than before.

We’ll miss being at Clay Saturday, but we’ll be back next weekend at Westside, so there’ll be some more IG photos to post. We made the drive to Tyrant a couple of weekends ago, and there’ll be other things we attend.

And then there’s #TheSeason. A lot of hours — although less than in the past so far this year — get put into this project. Coaches (and maybe a few kids and their parents) can use them as a way to scout their competition not only in seeing who’s back for a given school, but also they can see every single match that competitor at another school has wrestled, all in one list.

It still takes time to generate. Only one coach sends me end-of-year stats (and he’s not even in the coverage area). But it’s a good scouting report for you, helps making up previews easier for me.

Since our last #ThankYou post, things have brightened a lot. I won’t be moving back to the Midwest, at least not for the foreseeable future. I still am looking for partnerships that might allow me opportunities to provide you some new content. It’s still an enterprise that has outgrown our ability to do the job as well as I would like it to be done; I’m always disappointed that I could be doing more but just can’t.

That’s why the donations from folks like these — who’ve donated since last time — are a source of gratitude for me, not simply because it makes my life a little easier (it does; a couple of these have really helped out) but also because it’s recognition that our work has value out in the community.

  • Ryan Durham
  • Cary Helton
  • Kenneth DeFord
  • Daniel Brewer
  • Lindsay Bibla
  • Joe Mobley
  • Charlie Hunter

Back to work on our next #TheSeason. We’re already almost a quarter of the way done and it’s not even mid-April yet. HOW IS IT EVEN APRIL YET

Just as offseasons make next year’s champions, offseasons make our in-season work so much stronger.

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.
It’s month 2 of offseason work in Georgia! Check out the latest on our affiliated site at  http://sgamatmen.wordpress.com
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).
Categories
Personal Note

#ThankYou: To The Sponsors

Before I head out for today, in what will be a very long weekend round these parts, I wanted to again express some appreciation — these words are really not enough, though I’m not really free to wash cars or mow lawns until after the season’s over.

We’ve got things we’re going through at Basecamp #Due, and I’ll share a bit more about that in the off-season, I should think. And we all, you all (fine Y’ALL) included, are going through some things.

Which makes your generous donations much appreciated.

We’ve quite frankly outgrown our ability to do this job, and until we achieve another business model (heads up: if you know things about business planning, Web businesses and the like, I want to pick your brain this off-season), donations are right now the only way to show appreciation for the size of this work.

And between the things we’re going through, and the growth we’ve had, we’re constantly asking ourselves if it’s worth it. We don’t always know. Results don’t come in. Emails asking for them don’t get answered. Some folks are rude. That’s life, but you know, this is a volunteer thing; I could be at the beach today (yeah, I know, it’s too cold).

Then there are situations like this week, with the spectre of potentially very real threat to the future of the website in play, when two very generous donations came in. The donors are sprinkled in along with those whom I can reliably track going back to my last #ThankYou post, which was criminally long ago, and again, apologies for that:

  • Laura Paridon
  • William Pyburn
  • Brian VanVactor
  • Kenneth DeFord (our most frequent benefactor)
  • Johan Olarte
  • Alex Vugman
  • An anonymous coach
  • John Mulvany (a Georgia parent)
  • John Rogerson

If you gave to me via GoFundMe in the last six months, I thank you, though I can’t list you because the link has expired and I can no longer access it.

The donations don’t pay my bills, I have that almost completely covered in paid work, but they do provide options. A little quality of life. And I realize anew the impact the work is having out there.

And donations of any size or type are always welcome. Our most generous donor over the past few seasons has provided in-kind services to my family for some while now.

If – and I should stress IF because I always said I wouldn’t in the past, but circumstances are changing beyond my measly control — we go to a subscription model, it’s going to be a very friendly one for all income levels.

And thank you simply for reading to the end of this post, and all the ends of all the posts I’ve written.

Gotta go to work now. The kids need their ‘Gram photos. Fletcher first, and then Flagler, and then a mountain of results from two states tonight. The work on-site is the easy and fun part. The drives home and the long hours alone, that’s where the real donuts get made.

And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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.
State duals in Georgia come to a close on Saturday! Check out the latest on our affiliated site at  http://sgamatmen.wordpress.com
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).