Sometimes I get it right. Sometimes I get it really right. Sometimes I get it wrong. Sometimes I get it really wrong. If you were ready to toss your phone or laptop through a window because I either A) ranked you too low or B) ranked you too high in your district, maybe this will set your mind at ease.
Or not. Perhaps only a healthy dose of tryptophan, football and pre-Black Friday shopping will do that (actually, if you can avoid the pre-Black Friday shopping, do; I plan to avoid it by picking up a shingles vaccination at the friendly neighborhood Publix pharmacy as soon as it opens).
Anyway, let’s set the Wayback machine to a year ago today — give or take a day or two — and see how I did with last year’s predictions. Let the laughter ensue! (or not). But first, a little data…gotta have a little stuffing to go with that turkey…
We were 7-for-11 on picking champions last year. This was significantly lower than the previous two years. In each case, the actual champion was projected to finish no lower than third. However, that didn’t keep us from some real clunker picks, particularly in 1A (and we’ll get to those in just a bit).
We were 9-for-11 on picking last-place teams last year. This was a little bit better than last year, which was solidly better than the previous. One miss was small, where the team we picked last was just one away from that spot. But we also did have a swing and a big miss in 3A, and we’ll highlight that in just a bit, too.
So, if I picked your team to win, you should be pleased but not too over-confident. I’m clearly not as good as I once was at picking champs. If I picked your team last, in any of our 11 districts, go get to work, kids.
It’s usually the middle where things get muddled. Two years ago, we had three districts with the top three in order correct; last year, there were two. This year, there were NONE.
If you don’t like where you are projected today, take heart.
Last year, we didn’t think too much of DeLand’s chances. We picked them to finish seventh (last) in 3A-District 2. The Bulldogs not only did not finish last, but also finished very safely in the middle of the pack, 21 points ahead of fifth and SEVENTY THREE AND A HALF ahead of seventh. In fact, DeLand was just 2.5 points — two extra bonus-point wins — short of third. If you’re a little closer to the Panhandle, you can think about Rocky Bayou Christian. For the SECOND TIME IN AS MANY YEARS, some doofus picked the Knights to finish sixth in 1A-District 1. Some doofus thought RBCS wouldn’t rally well from the loss of its top wrestler in 2020. Good thing those kids didn’t read that doofus’s preview a year ago Thanksgiving — or read every word, and clipped-and-saved. In the city of Jacksonville, there’s the case of Englewood, which was tabbed for sixth in 2A-District 3. The Rams, like Rocky Bayou Christian, went on to finish third.
But probably the biggest miss was in 1A-District 3, where a two-team race for the top instead became a four-team race, because Fernandina Beach got tired of mediocrity and pushed for something more, from its best wrestlers down to its least experienced. The Pirates were picked sixth in the district and finished four spots above that prediction, 116 points ahead of sixth and comfortably ahead (36) of third.
The point of walking through those examples?
Where you’re projected today is just that: a projection. And not always a very good one at that. Old Matmen really don’t know everything. Some days, he don’t know anything.
So. Dig in, not too much, to your dinners today. While you don’t have competition until next week, I’m sure you’ll have practice at some point soon, and you don’t want a full belly. Leave that to us old folks. I’ll see you on the mats soon enough.
Predicted: 1. South Walton. 2. Rutherford. 3. Arnold. 4. North Bay Haven. 5. Bozeman. 6. Rocky Bayou Christian. 7. Bay. 8. Wewahitchka.
Actual: 1. South Walton. 2. Rutherford. 3. Rocky Bayou Christian. 4. Arnold. 5. Bay. 6. North Bay Haven. 7. Wewahitchka. 8. Bozeman.
Analysis: We did get the top two teams correct in this district, but — for the second straight year — picked the Knights to finish sixth, only to have them reject that premise in favor of something much better. We had North Bay Haven’s sizable but a bit inexperienced room over-valued early (and had we known about the Bucs’ stellar freshman, we might have had NBH pushing Arnold very hard for third). I think we underestimated Bay somewhat, as well. Some of their kids made some solid moves, and that makes me wonder if they won’t do it again, particularly with a more-aggressive offseason presence generally in the Panhandle.
Predicted: 1. Wakulla. 2. Suwannee. 3. Florida High. 4. Marianna. 5. Baker County. 6. Godby.
Actual: 1. Wakulla. 2. Florida High. 3. Baker County. 4. Suwannee. 5. Marianna. 6. Godby.
Analysis: OK, so we got the bookends correct. That might have been seen as the easy part. While just 16 points separated second from fourth, we did not expect Baker’s big move — aside from Fernandina Beach, the Wildcats were probably the most egregious whoops we made in last year’s predictions. This became apparent at regions, where the power of District 2 seems to become even larger. I would not have expected Suwannee to finish fourth with the group they had last year, so not only should kudos go to Baker County, but also the runnerup Seminoles. We did think Marianna would have more kids back than they did wind up attracting; the Bulldogs had had a larger set of returners coming back. Injury played a small role here, too.
Predicted: 1. Yulee. 2. Bishop Kenny. 3. West Nassau. 4. Raines. 5. Episcopal. 6. Fernandina Beach. 7. Paxon. 8. Ed White.
Actual: 1. Yulee. 2. Fernandina Beach. 3. Episcopal. 4. Bishop Kenny. 5. Raines. 6. West Nassau. 7. Ed White. 8. Paxon.
Analysis: We’ve written on Fernandina Beach’s rise; what made it happen was the increased sense of purpose and intensity up and down the lineup, whereas prior seasons had seen the Pirates rely on a couple of wrestlers here and there. You don’t always see that until it shows up. We also did not expect Episcopal’s rise in level from such a young lineup, but the Eagles, too, showed a team spirit that hadn’t been present in previous teams to the same extent. A couple of teams didn’t meet expectations in the moment, but, again, as we’ve seen in other districts, injuries played a sizable role in that.
Predicted: 1. Clay. 2. Bolles. 3. Ridgeview. 4. Union County. 5. Wolfson. 6. University Christian. 7. Bishop Snyder. 8. Baldwin. 9. Bradford.
Actual: 1. Clay. 2. Union County. 3. Ridgeview. 4. Bolles. 5. University Christian. 6. Wolfson. 7. Bishop Snyder. 8. Baldwin. (Bradford didn’t compete)
Analysis: We knew Union County had the chance to have good numbers last year; after all, they’d had the largest first-year program roster I’ve experienced in my covering north Florida. We just didn’t think those numbers would translate into success quite so soon. And while Bolles had some exceptionally-solid kids, there were a few that I expected would get out to regions that did not. Sometimes, on the day, things don’t happen. That was a bit of the case with Wolfson as well; the Wolfpack were outpointed by UCS’ three stars in ways that surprised a little bit. Otherwise, we largely had this one.
Predicted: 1. Atlantic. 2. Palatka. 3. Pedro Menendez. 4. Keystone Heights. 5. Lake Weir.
Actual: 1. Palatka. 2. Pedro Menendez. 3. Atlantic. 4. Keystone Heights. 5. Lake Weir.
Analysis: We thought that the Sharks’ returners would see them through to another double-title situation last year, but the group that returned was smaller than we had thought, due to some transfers, and some of the kids that performed well in 2019-20 couldn’t quite duplicate that performance last year. Given that, the rest of our analysis was pretty sound — and, for the most part, pretty predictable.
Predicted: 1. Pace. 2. Gulf Breeze. 3. Ft Walton Beach. 4. Tate. 5. Niceville. 6. Choctaw. 7. Crestview. 8. Milton.
Actual: 1. Ft Walton Beach. 2. Gulf Breeze. 3. Pace. 4. Niceville. 5. Crestview. 6. Choctaw. 7. Tate. 8. Milton.
Analysis: Taking duals into account, our predictions were not too terrible, as Pace was the team to advance out and become the first Panhandle team to get to the first day of state duals. Without going back into specificly what was said, I would have to think that the space between the top three teams was not too great (Editor’s Note: we went back and we said the path was not as easy). The only other part that we really missed on was thinking that last year’s Tate group would finish higher than the Aggies did. I also thought the gap between Choctaw and Crestview (or as it turned out, Crestview & Choctaw) would be a smaller one.
Predicted: 1. Lincoln. 2. Columbia. 3. Mosley. 4. Chiles. 5. Middleburg. 6. Orange Park. 7. Leon. 8. Gainesville.
Actual: 1. Lincoln. 2. Columbia. 3. Middleburg. 4. Mosley. 5. Chiles. 6. Orange Park. 7. Leon. 8. Gainesville.
Analysis: Working from the bigger schools down, this was the most sound prediction I’ve had thus far, with only Middleburg’s surge into third place — despite missing a few weights up top — the only thing we really we had no predicted answer for. The top of the group fell into place as expected, and, other than the Broncos pushing up to third (they were only one point short of a T-2nd finish with Columbia), so did the rest of the group. Given that Chiles wound up with the highest state finish, the way the top five teams broke down last year showed how strong the district already was…pre-Fleming Island.
Predicted: 1. Fletcher. 2. Ponte Vedra. 3. Westside. 4. Riverside*. 5. First Coast. 6. Englewood. 7. Terry Parker. 8. Stanton.
Actual: 1. Fletcher. 2. Ponte Vedra. 3. Englewood. 4. Riverside. 5. First Coast. 6. Westside. 7. Terry Parker. 8. Stanton.
Analysis: What we essentially got wrong was the placement of Englewood and Westside. Englewood just did more with its people a year ago, and Westside — which we have typically gotten wrong on the placement no matter where we predict them — last year did not overall as a group (injury had something to do with that in a couple of key instances. Otherwise, we largely had this district spot-on, with the 1-2, 4-5 and 7-8 all correct.
* — using the school name as it is this year
Predicted: 1. Seabreeze. 2. St Augustine. 3. New Smyrna Beach. 4. Matanzas. 5. Belleview. 6. Deltona. 7. Mainland.
Actual: 1. New Smyrna Beach. 2. St Augustine. 3. Matanzas. 4. Belleview. 5. Seabreeze. 6. Deltona. 7. Mainland.
Analysis: What we really missed on was Seabreeze and where the Sandcrabs were going to finish after seeing them win their first district wrestling title (duals) in January 2020. Things never clicked like that again at Seabreeze all of the following season. We thought, a year ago, that New Smyrna Beach was still a year away yet, but they had some key transfers that really helped the group, as well as a dynamite lower weight group that was just as capable as the Barracudas’ middles and uppers. Otherwise, we mostly had a handle on things, although we were definitely surprised how much closer Matanzas was to the top.
Predicted: 1. Fleming Island. 2. Oakleaf. 3. Creekside. 4. Bartram Trail. 5. Nease. 6. Mandarin. 7. Sandalwood. 8. Atlantic Coast.
Actual: 1. Fleming Island. 2. Creekside. 3. Oakleaf. 4. Mandarin. 5. Bartram Trail. 6. Nease. 7. Sandalwood. 8. Atlantic Coast.
Analysis: For the most part, we had 1-3 correct — the battle between Creekside and Oakleaf at districts was very, very close at this district last year. We also had the 7-8 right, although we certainly could not have predicted that despite finishing seventh at districts, the Saints would have such a solid state finish. The team we had very little handle on was Mandarin. They had a couple of new kids that made them far more capable than we would have projected. This year, they’re not going to sneak up on anybody. We did actually have the right three teams 4-6, just in a different order that I would not have guessed.
Predicted: 1. Flagler Palm Coast. 2. Buchholz. 3. University (Orange City). 4. Forest. 5. West Port. 6. Seminole. 7. DeLand.
Actual: 1. Buchholz. 2. Flagler Palm Coast. 3. University (Orange City). 4. DeLand. 5. Seminole. 6. West Port. 7. Forest.
Analysis: We had a better handle, on the whole, on this district this year, and we were convinced that last year was Flagler’s year. We didn’t see that there would be three weights open all year and that a few of the other weights would be in flux for much longer. However, that didn’t stop us from putting FPCHS back at the top again this season. We also didn’t have much of a handle on DeLand last year; the Bulldogs clearly over-performed our expectations, at least at the district levels.