By Shannon Heaton (@QChawkeyeinFL)
While Americans of every stripe give thanks by feasting on heaps of turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes and pumpkin pie, wrestlers around the nation -- and here in Northeast Florida -- will look at the goodies with longing and, with regret, take a pass on the second plate or even what we would consider healthy helpings on the first one. That's the nature of high school wrestling. Like no other high school-sanctioned sport in America, it is a 24-7 sport, because of the need to control weight, and to do so responsibly. Even away from the mat, the commitment to wrestling is part of every participants's essence every second, of every day, in-season.
This week's "Edge of the Mat" installment is light on the upcoming competition, with just six local teams in the five-county area hitting the mats, leading off with Stanton at Episcopal tonight.
Andrew Jackson opens its season Tuesday night with a trek to Baker County, and area schools Middleburg from Clay County and Pedro Menendez from St. Johns will compete in the Palm Coast duals on Wednesday morning. On Saturday, Sandalwood will hit the road for the Ocala Forrest Invitational, a 16-team bracketed event.
Most teams are off from interscholastic competition this week, and it's a welcome respite after an amazing Saturday of powerhouse events at Bishop Snyder and Fleming Island last weekend.
At Snyder, the hosts -- ranked 7th in this week's Northeast Florida Matmen poll -- were able to go 5-0 for a second straight Saturday, but against stiffer competition. In the final dual of the day, Bishop Snyder needed to go to the 8th criterion -- most first points scored -- to turn back Brunswick (GA) for a 40-39 win.
Clay, ranked second among all teams locally and also statewide for Class 1A, needs no introduction to wrestling fans. Despite several new names in the lineup, and fresh off a second-place performance at the Border Wars in South Walton Beach a week before, the Blue Devils looked strong in rolling to 5-0.
#8 Creekside opened the season's competition on Saturday at Bishop Snyder with a solid 4-1 body of work, losing only to Clay along the way.
At Fleming Island, the top-ranked Golden Eagles -- shorthanded with two state-ranked seniors and a state-ranked junior out of the lineup -- still steamrolled through four rounds of pool opposition, including one-sided wins over #6 Ridgeview and #9 St. Augustine. But 2012 Georgia dual champions Camden County proved too strong for Fleming, taking a 42-18 victory in the title round.
Ridgeview rallied from the loss to Fleming to finish third, defeating Forrest -- which gave a solid performance in its first duals Saturday -- in the third-place match.
#3 Orange Park struggled to find two wins in a very-tough duals competition hosted by Tallahassee Lincoln, while Yulee opened with a 1-4 slate at Deltona.
Lastly, former University Christian 2012 state champion Josh Fox suited up for Ohio State as a varsity starter this weekend. Still only a redshirt freshman competing at 184 pounds for the Buckeyes, Fox bumped up a weight to 197 and secured a major decision on Sunday against Davidson College, helping OSU head coach Tom Ryan secure his 200th career victory.
This week, please give thanks for family, dear friends and liberty. And take a couple of extra bites for the wrestlers who cannot. I would not recommend, however, that you do it in front of them. Making weight is a season-long, grump-inducing process. Give thanks that it's not your burden to bear.
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