GREEN COVE SPRINGS – An ominous start to the Tussle of Muscle wrestling dual match between Clay and Fleming Island high school’s was in the very first match with Clay senior Connor Green securing …
GREEN COVE SPRINGS – An ominous start to the Tussle of Muscle wrestling dual match between Clay and Fleming Island high school’s was in the very first match with Clay senior Connor Green securing his first win in the annual event staged at Clay High School on Thurs., Feb. 8.
Green, a recipient of two of the quickest pins in Tussle of Muscle history, roared out of the gate in the first match of the night, at 160 pounds against Fleming Island’s Trace Insalaco, and went right to work to not repeat history with a first period ferocity that excited the hometown crowd, but, nonetheless, scored just two points. Insalaco, awarded technical violation points via the throws, ended the first stanza at 2-2.
“We told Trace to be careful because he likes to throw,” said Fleming Island coach P.J. Cobbert, who now has three consecutive Tussle of Muscle wins. “This is a great rivalry, but noone needs to get hurt before districts.”
Insalaco continued his savvy wrestling to go up 6-2 with Green punching up a reversal to end the second stanza at 6-4.
As the Clay strong crowd anticipated a rebuttal in the third period, Green, injured last year and sixth in Class 1A two years ago, delivered with an escape and final throw to win 9-8.
From there, the Tussle seesawed between a pin at 170 to unbeaten Paul Detwiler of Fleming Island over Carson Yost; a 9-4 win from Abbott Taylor of Clay over Anthony Breeden at 182; a sudden death win by Clay’s Kurt Jackson over Jalyn Robinson and a lightning-fast Spradle pin by Fleming Island’s Ryan Smenda over Joseph Grelli at 220 that put the score at 12-9 Fleming Island as the rivalry continued to heat up and live up to its history.
The turnaround in scoring started at 285 with Fleming Island’s Jose Concepcion outlasting Clay’s Ryan Rivers for a 2-1 win followed by a 15-0 tech fall from Lou Gagliardo at 106 over Justin Byler, a 9-1 major win by Briar Jackson over Daniel Porter at 113, a forfeit to Albie Snedaker at 120; an 8-2 win by Jacob Sandoval over Cale Hoskinson at 126, a forfeit to Jaquan English at 132 and a final come-from-behind thriller from Tyler Williams over Clay’s Grant Stanish at 138. Williams fell behind 5-2 in the second period, then grabbed an escape with a minute left in the third period before taking Stanish down as the buzzer sounded; forcing overtime. In the overtime, Williams hit the first takedown for the 7-5 win.
With the match locked up for Fleming Island, Clay veterans Peyton Hughes and Dylan Taylor both won the final two matches; Hughes, an 8-3 win over Vince Hauser and Taylor, a 5-2 win over Luke Chop.
One notable absence was Clay’s Steve Chopek at 120, who was out with flu. Chopek was second in 1A at 113.
Area teams will now gear up for district tournaments with Oakleaf High School hosting district 1-3A on Fri., Feb. 16 (Fleming Island); Terry Parker hosting district 3-2A on Fri., Feb. 16 (Ridgeview, Orange Park, Middleburg) and Westside hosting district 3-1A on Sat., Feb. 17 (Clay).
In district 1-3A: Jackson, Snedaker, Detwiler and Smenda are returning district champions. Gagliardo was a district 3-1A champion at 106 pounds for Clay High.
In district 3-2A. Orange Park’s Cameron Broughton. Middleburg’s Chris Burch, Middleburg’s Bryce Williams, Ridgeview’s Saied Ejmali, Ridgeview’s Malachi Martin, Orange Park’s Jacob Campbell and Orange Park’s Reed Danielson are all returning district champions.
In district 3-1A, Steven Chopek (at Yulee High), Peyton Hughes, Dylan Taylor and Kurt Jackson are returning districts champions from Clay.
Region championships; top four from districts advance, is set for Feb. 23-24 at Hagerty (1-3A), Lincoln (1-2A) and Bolles (1-1A).
Returning region 1-3A champions are, from Fleming Island; Gagliardo (FIHS, 2017 at Clay), Jackson, Snedaker and Detwiler. Top four finishers, state qualifiers, include Ryan Rosano (OHS), Jacob Sandoval (FIHS), Trace Insalaco (FIHS), Ryan Smenda (FIHS), Jose Concepcion (FIHS), Trenton Carroll (OHS, 2017 at MHS).
Returning region 1-2A champion is, from Ridgeview, Saeid Ejmali. Top four finishers, state qualifiers, included Tazz Hampton (MHS) and Reed Danielson (OPHS).
Returning region 1-1A champions, from Clay, are Peyton Hughes and Kurt Jackson. Top four finishers, state qualifiers, included Daniel Porter (at University Christian) and Steve Chopek (at Yulee).
Returning state medalists (Top six) were, in Class 3A: Gagliardo (3rd at Clay), Jackson (3rd), Detwiler (3rd), Smenda (5th) and Concepcion (6th). Graduate Jason Davis (FIHS) won gold medal at 182.
Returning state medalists (Top six) were, in Class 1A: Chopek (2nd at Yulee), Hughes (3rd) and Jackson (3rd).