- University Christian senior Jamal Fiffer strains to put Bishop Kenny’s Alexander Condoroteanu to the mat in Saturday’s 285-pound final at the Rob Bierbaum Invitational, hosted by Episcopal. Fiffer pinned Condoroteanu in 1:10 to win the weight-class title (Photo by Daniel Allen).
By Shannon Heaton, Northeast Florida Matmen
One of the area’s year-in and year-out wrestling powerhouses has had its program mostly under wraps through the first four weeks of the 2013-14 season.
Saturday, #4 University Christian made the wait worth it. In the Christians’ first appearance of the year, they amassed six individual titles, and needed every last one of them to overcome a dogged effort from Bishop Kenny in this weekend’s Rob Bierman Invitational, hosted by Episcopal School in the Semmes Athletic Center Friday and Saturday morning.
“When it came down to it, we had a senior on the mat who had to win for us to win, and he did that,” UC first-year coach Kevin Wiley said, referring to top-ranked 285-pounder Jamal Fiffer, whose fall over Bishop Kenny’s Alexander Condoroteanu in 1 minute and 10 seconds secured the Christians’ title, but by a narrow margin. When the smoke cleared, UC outpointed the Crusaders 152-148.5 for the team win.
“We’re young right now, but everyone was battling out there really good. It was an amazing experience,” Fiffer said of the team win. “We’ve just been willing to fight through the whole six minutes of every match.”
The Christians collected titles from 7th-grader Derrick Stumph at 113, Brysen Allen (120), Cody Joseph (145), Daniel Folkner (160) and David Trigg (220) as well as from Fiffer after starting Saturday tied with Bishop Kenny. With just eight wrestlers in uniform, every point counted — and UC counted almost as many as it possibly could, as all eight bagged medals, with Cameron Wiley (106) adding a runnerup effort and Mack Green (182) taking third.
“We’re not reinventing the wheel at UC,” Wiley said. “The kids have bought into the mindset we are trying to preach to them. These were kids that we’re going to depend upon, and they did what they had to do.”
Bishop Kenny picked up its first title from 170-pound Kuba Kaszuba on Friday night due to Kaszuba needing to take the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) on Saturday. Joining Kaszuba as titlists were Ryan Timmons (106), Nate Caron (126) and Logan Bote (138), but the Crusaders just couldn’t match UC point-for-point when it counted.
“We needed guys in the consis to win, and that didn’t happen as much as we needed it to. But, a lot of them were first-year guys, so just getting there was great for them,” Bishop Kenny coach Paul Schloth said. “Only losing by a few points, it came down to bonus points. That’s how you win tournaments. We had six (in the finals) and they had seven. They had a guy get second and we didn’t. That’s how it goes down.”
Fernandina Beach crowned one champion in 195-pound Kelsey Greathouse, who led the Pirates to a third-place finish with 130 points. Fernandina chased both of the leaders admirably, but couldn’t make up any ground Saturday. Likewise, Mandarin had one champion (Samuel Hernandez at 182) to take fourth with 99 points. Florida School for the Deaf & Blind had no champions, but battled admirably to edge out Episcopal and Bolles for fifth, scoring 77 points to the host Eagles’ 75 and Bulldogs’ 73.
Bolles did have two titlists, though, so didn’t go away entirely empty-handed, as Josh Calhoun (132, also won Friday night in anticipation of SATs Saturday) and Bradshaw Steele (152) took home weight-class wins. Stanton was eighth with 33 points.
A breakdown of each titlist’s path to their win follows:
106 — Timmons had two pins, both in the third period, to win the weight class. He controlled the action throughout against UC’s Wiley, just a 7th-grader, before getting the fall in 5:28.
113 — Stumph only had to wrestle once, pinning FSDB’s Jake Tessar — who is blind — in 1:41. Only two matches were contested in the weight class all weekend.
120 — Allen had one pin and a major decision (15-2) over Fernandina’s Joseph Helm in the finals. Helm seemed to control the tie early, but once the action moved to the mat, it was all Allen.
126 — Caron was solid against Fernandina’s James Hessenauer, not allowing Hessenauer any space at all to open up any offense. Caron also had a pin earlier in the tournament.
132 — Calhoun pinned twice for his title Friday night, decking Bishop Kenny’s Nick Toney in 2:33 in the finals. It was Calhoun’s first wrestling action, as he missed Tuesday’s home dual against Episcopal due to a band concert.
138 — Bote was brutally efficient against Episcopal’s CHristian Rickey in the final, rolling to a technical fall in 4 minutes. Bote also had a fall in the semis.
145 — Joseph’s match against Stanton’s Nicholas Stiles looked on paper like one of the better finals matches of the tournament, and it was, as both Joseph and Stiles had the momentum going their way early. Joseph used a funky style, though, to rip the momentum away from Stiles with a fall in 3:50 in the final. Joseph was one of the rare champions who had three matches, all pins.
152 — Steele also won three times by fall, but it took an impressive roll to overcome the strength of Mandarin’s Noah Perez in the finals, as Steele was in trouble early before getting the pin in 4:38.
160 — Folkner’s match with Fernandina’s Thomas Monaghan wound up the best of the day Saturday – and the most controversial one — as both coaches had a long conference with the referee at the scorer’s table with regulation over and Folkner apparently up, 9-8. The score was changed to 10-all, requiring overtime, but Folkner got a takedown 27 seconds in for the sudden-victory win.
170 — Kaszuba had two pins and a decision en route to the title, taking down Mandarin’s Richard Gagnon by fall in 3:38 for the championship.
182 — Hernandez was in control from the beginning against Florida School’s Wesley Homewood, methodically wearing down Homewood with a fall in 5:18.
195 — Greathouse pinned his way through the draw, taking charge early in the final against Episcopal’s Hayes Oken before picking up the pin in 4:35.
220 — Trigg, by far the most experienced wrestler in the draw, proved it, with two first-period pins — including a 43-second fall over Episcopal’s Conor Chepenik in the final.
285 — Like his teammate Trigg, Fiffer didn’t have to go into the second period in 2 matches. “I have a target on my back, and it’s up to me to hold it (the state’s top ranking in Class 1A),” he said. “If I don’t push myself, nobody will.”