By: Shannon Heaton (@QChawkeyeinFL)
There’s a phrase that winds its way around the wrestling world: “February wants to know what you did all summer long.”
For high school wrestlers in Florida, that question is being asked now. For all intents and purposes, February starts today as post-season competition kicks off at the district level throughout the state, with 48 tournaments (16 in each of three classes) tonight through Saturday. Locally, the 40 teams inside the six-county area head off to seven different tournaments – one tonight and six more on Saturday.
In Class 3A, local #2 Fleming Island will headline the local contingent making the short drive south to Palm Coast for District 1 wrestling on Saturday (11 a.m. start, 4 p.m. for finals). The Golden Eagles (7th statewide in 3A) and Bulldogs (newly-minted at 22nd in today’s state rankings) are the top candidates to win the team title, though Atlantic Coast, #8 Fletcher, Sandalwood, Mandarin and #9 First Coast all should move a few on to next weekend’s region tournaments. Buchholz rounds out the 3A-1 field.
There are three tournaments with local impact in Class 2A, starting this afternoon with #7 Columbia traveling to Tallahassee Leon for District 2 competition. That meet actually will start in an hour, so if you want to go and aren’t en route, get moving. It’s a bit of a haul from here. (3 p.m. start, with finals immediately after prelims). Columbia is the only local team in the field, which includes Tallahassee Lincoln, Tallahassee Chiles and Tallahassee Leon, as well as Gainesville.
On Saturday, Duval and Clay County 2A schools will congregate at Englewood for District 3 competition. The FHSAA website says the meet starts at 9 a.m., but Englewood officials confirmed on the Northeast Florida Matmen website that the meet begins at 10. Duval teams include Ed White, Englewood, Lee, Stanton and Terry Parker, with Clay teams Middleburg, Oakleaf, #3 Orange Park and Ridgeview also there. Look for a fight between the Raiders and Middleburg for the top team spot.
Southward, St. Johns and Flagler 2A teams will meet at Creekside (11 a.m. Saturday start, finals immediately after preliminaries). In addition to the #5 Knights, Bartram Trail, Ponte Vedra, Nease, St. Augustine and Matanzas will be in competition. Competition between Creekside and the visiting Pirates should be keen for first place in the team standings.
Three Class 1A districts have local interest. #1 Clay is the only one split off from the rest of the local group. The Blue Devils (ranked 4th statewide) have been moved into Region 2, which means a drive to Villages (not far from the Gulf side of the state) for district competition Saturday (11 a.m. start, finals 30 minutes after prelims). Clay should get a solid test from nearby Crystal River, whom the Blue Devils defeated in a dual meet in December. Palatka, Interlachen, Gainesville Eastside, Dunnellon, North Marion and Ocala’s Trinity Catholic round out the District 5 field.
In Region 1, local teams will either congregate at Yulee (District 3) or Episcopal (District 4), also both on Saturday. Up north, the Hornets will be hosting Andrew Jackson, Bishop Snyder, Forrest, Paxon and Raines from Duval County, West Nassau and Fernandina Beach from within Nassau County, as well as Baker County (start time 9:45 a.m., finals still to be determined). The Cardinals, newly-ranked 21st in the team polls, should be the prohibitive team champion favorite, but all three Nassau teams and Forrest especially should give good chase.
At Episcopal, there will be a 10-team district tournament – the largest among the local events. From Duval, #10 Bishop Kenny, Bolles, Duval Charter at Baymeadows, the host Eagles, Providence, #4 University Christian and Wolfson will compete, with Pedro Menendez and Florida School for the Deaf & Blind migrating north from St. Johns and Bradford coming over from Starke County. Look for Bishop Kenny to push the Christians for top honors in the team race.
At each tournament, there will be two sessions of wrestling, with separate admission fees of $6 for each session. Gyms will be cleared between each session.
Edge of the Mat will publish results from each of the seven tournaments and regional pairings next week in this space. For more preview information, the Northeast Florida Matmen website (http://northeastfloridamatmen.wordpress.com ) has comprehensive previews for 3A District 1, 2A Districts 2 and 4, and 1A District 5 published, with 1A District 3 being released later this afternoon, 1A District 4 later this evening and 2A District 3 late Friday afternoon or evening.
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