By Shannon Heaton, Northeast Florida Matmen. All rights reserved.
Early in any wrestling season, effort and manpower can have significant impacts on the success or lack thereof in winning duals.
Bishop Kenny proved that again Wednesday night against Episcopal in the @NEFloridaMatmen season debut for both teams, as the HM-listed Crusaders utilized a deeper lineup and – for the most part – an ability to avoid giving up bonus points to cruise to a 51-7 dual victory over the Eagles in the BK gym, taking home the informal “Battle of Atlantic Boulevard.”
“The boys came out as hard as they could. I saw some toughness, and that’s what I look for at this stage,” Bishop Kenny coach Paul Schloth said. “Most are newer wrestlers, and they showed some good stuff, good fundamentals. The kids have bought into what we’re trying to accomplish.”
While it’s a good problem for the school to have a deep football-playoff run, losing the Crusader bigs to that run could have proved difficult for Kenny (1-0), but it turned out that Episcopal (0-1) was dealing with some manpower issues of its own. In addition to three double forfeits in the upper weights, the Eagles gave up 18 consecutive points to Kenny from 120 through 132, putting themselves into a hole in which they could not climb out.
“The thing is, we wrestled a 7th-grader out there tonight, an 8th-grader, three 9th-graders. A lot of inexperience. We had a senior who’d never wrestled before,” first-year Episcopal coach Mike Rickey said. “A lot of inexperience, but we also showed a lot of heart. Down the road, the kids will be all right.”
Episcopal did lead after the first match of the night, thanks to a 14-6 major decision from Hayes Oken at 195, but Kenny stormed right back with a pair of first-period falls at 106 and 113 from Ryan Timmons and Peter Richa, respectively, and never trailed again.
The Eagles were able to break up a six-match run of 6-point victories at 145, where Peter Pitochi staved off a late cradle to hold on for an 11-8 decision, but that would be Episcopal’s last victory of the night.
Two more falls gave Bishop Kenny a total of five on the night, and the exclamation point came in the night’s final and marquee match at 170, which involved two state-ranked wrestlers. Episcopal’s Mac Weldon, ranked 16th at 152, bumped up a weight after weighing in at 160 to face #10 Kuba Kaszuba for the Crusaders.
Kaszuba worked takedowns in each period, including two in the first and a blast double in the third to secure a 9-3 decision to close out the night and get the season fully kicked off in the five-county region.
“We have six guys out for football, and when we get them back, our goal is to hopefully really challenge for the (1A-4) district title,” Schloth said. “We’ve set our goals high…to challenge for districts, to contend for a top-5 place at the region tournament, and we feel we have potentially four kids that can go (to individual state).”
Bishop Kenny and Episcopal will compete next on Saturday in the first of two sets of North Florida duals hosted by Bishop Snyder. Start time is 10 a.m.