FLEMING ISLAND - Let’s see. Fleming Island has been tussling among the best wrestlers in the state in Class 3A; South Dade, Miami Northwest, Flagler, Winter Springs, etc., then moved to Class 2A. Coach P.J. Cobbert runs one of the toughest rooms in Florida and is reloaded this year with nearly an entire team of returning state guys with two runnerups.
“We got 10 of our 11 state guys coming back, this will be a fun year,” said Fleming Island coach P.J. Cobbert. “Having Clay in the district means we get to see them a few more times; district duals and the invites, but the thing is, one of us will stay home. We plan to keep going.”
Clay has been a dominant force in Class 1A for decades with a state title stuck in there a few years ago and four walls worth of individual champions in the Blue Devil gymnasium. With Coach Jim Reape and his wing man Hunter Hill knowing that Fleming Island now is for more of the marbles, that intense rivalry will only blossom come February.
Oakleaf churned to prominence last year with a solo run in Class 3A that saw a former wrestler turned coach push the throttle a bit and put Oakleaf on the map of wrestling programs with muscle. Rory Roderick stamped the program with some prowess and new guy Mark DeToro, a P.J. Cobbert/Jim Reape disciple, can only bring a firebrand of wrestling that wins aggressively and with some swag.
Middleburg got a guy who ripened the vine of young incoming high school wrestlers with a program that year in and year out produced county titles. Long time Lake Asbury guru Coll Robertson got his shot at the big boys in high school and put the Bronco lineup on the line with a handful of guys who quickly bought in and catapulted Bronco wrestling upwards.
Orange Park has laid low the past few years with a few individuals getting some limelight as has a young program at Ridgeview that had a few staters. Orange Park’s Justin Daniels has been an under-the-radar guy with guys that wrestling tough all the time. Ridgeview has juggled coaches, but still got a medal last year with departed Godzilla-man Derrick Mosley.
On the flip side, Keystone Heights can probably add some luster to their room after a strong showing last year and a revived excitement about wrestling at the school.
Fast Forward to November 2022.
All of them, except Keystone Heights, will be in the same bread basket, Class 2A, to make the incoming wrestling season in Clay County quite possibly one of the more anticipated seasons of inter-county rivalries that can only make the February post season a not-miss date on all wrestling fans’ calenders.
In Class 2A, region 1, district 3, Orange Park, Middleburg, Oakleaf and Ridgeview are set to duke it out with Ed White, Englewood, Ponte Vedra, Riverside, Terry Parker and Westside in a clash of Jacksonville-strong teams and Clay County.
In Class 2A, also region 1, but district 4, Clay, yes Clay, will leave the friendly confines of Class 1A to get in the same ocean as Fleming Island after years of Tussle of Muscle bravado that has been just for rivalry consumption.
“I wish they would have put us all in the same district,” said Cobbert. “We wrestle every team in the county anyway. In the end, I think this is going to put Clay County wrestling on the map just like the south Florida schools.”
The Tussle of Muscle, the annual Clay vs. Fleming Island dual match that has reached near epic dialogue of who’s who in Clay County, will now become a barometer of post season readiness and possible state final sneak peeks.
“It will still be a match for county bragging rights,” said Cobbert. “Both teams have been the standard from the county for a long time with Oakleaf, last year, stepping up its program. With Mark DeToro as new coach, one of my Clay teammates and a former assistant coach, Oakleaf gets a tough guy who has been a part of good coaching for a long time. If they buy in, Oakleaf will become a strong program. I think they are ready to take the next step.”
In the first peek at what wrestling fans may see in November, the Kabra Wrestling Class Rankings, a compilation work of epic proportions by long-time wrestling writer Brant Parsons at the Orlando Sentinel. Parsons, of course, couches his picks with the obvious caveat that these are preseason looks based on last year’s results and with wrestlers always moving about from school to school and adolescent bodies adding and subtracting weight, the accuracy is soley at his discretion amidst a flurry of interviews with coaches statewide; objective and much researched as Parsons is.
“Guys lift weights like us, get bigger, stronger, but the rankings are a good first look,” said Cobbert. “I don’t mind being number two because I use that in the room to motivate my guys.”
Quick Look, Class 2A Wrestling Rankings
As of September 29, 2022
1. Cameron French, Charlotte, Jr. (2nd 106)
2. Roberto Rodrigue, Brandon, Sr. (4th, 106)
3. Jonathan Espinoza, Lake Gibson, Jr.
4. Derrick Williams, Mosley, Jr. (5th, 106)
5. Shane Duhaylungsod, FIHS, Soph (6th, 106)
6. Jacob Bucci, CHS, Soph (1-2, 106 1A)
9. Jackson Hornback, MHS Soph (SQ 1-2, 106, lost to Duhaylungsod in consi)
15. Angel Rodriguez, OHS, Soph
1. Roman Lermer, Tampa Jesuit, Jr. (106 champ)
2. Kaiden Ballinger, Charlotte, Jr. (4th 113)
3. Alexander McMiller, Satellite, Sr.
9. Braden Glavin, CHS Soph (2-2, 113 1A)
1. Christian Fretwell, Lake Gibson, Soph
2. Maximus Brady, Mariner, Soph (113 champ)
3. Laird Duhaylungsod, FIHS, Soph (6th 120)
11. Grady Woodard, MHS, Jr. (SQ, 0-2)
1. Jayce Paridon, FIHS, Soph (2nd, 113 to Brady of Mariner)
2. Colt Brown, Lake Gibson, Sr.
3. Lowden Ward, Hollins, Sr.
7. Wyatt Leduc, MHS, Soph (SQ, 0-2)
13. Keon Barrientos, OHS, Jr. (0-2 126 3A)
18. Rylan Herrera, CHS, Soph
1. Hayden Whidden, Lake Gibson, Sr.(2nd 132)
2. Ryan Phillips, Winter Springs, Jr. (2nd 120)
3. Draven McCall, Tampa Jesuit, Soph (3rd 113)
1. Gianni Maldonado, Lake Gibson, Jr. (2nd 138)
2. Nathan McGill, Tampa Jesuit, Sr. (3rd 126)
3. Joshua Gallo, Springstead, Sr. (4th 138)
5. Kaden Schaefer, FIHS, Jr. (7th 138)
16. Logan Moore, MHS, Sr.
1. Matthew Kotler, FIHS, Jr.(6th 145)
2. Michael Farrelly, Hollins, Sr. (7th 145)
3. JJ Martinez, Niceville, Jr. (1-2 145, lost to state champ in quarters)
1. Brandon Cody, Tampa Jesuit, Jr.
2. Christopher Chop, FIHS, Jr. (5th 152)
3. Tyler Smith, Brandon, Sr. (6th 152, lost to Chop in quarters, for 5th)
4. Tyler Rodriguez, Port Charlotte, Sr.
12. Hayden Mesaroz, CHS, Jr.
1. Christopher Minto, Mariner, Sr.
2. James Baltutis, Charlotte, Sr. (4th 160)
3. Ransom Randolph, Winter Springs, Sr.
4. Ronan Bozeman, FIHS, Sr. (6th 160)
11. Trevion Sermons, OPHS, Sr. (SQ, 0-2 160)
12. Roman Polinsky, OHS, Sr.
1. Frank Solorzano, Lk Gibson, Sr. (3rd 170)
2. Jordan Mills, Matanzas, Jr. (2nd 170)
3. Elijah Penton, Winter Springs, Jr. (3rd 160)
6. Joshua Sandoval, FIHS, Sr. (4th 170)
1. Brain Burburija, Countryside, Sr. (182 champ)
2. Jhoel Robinson, FIHS, Sr. (2nd 182)
3. Dominic Martin, CHS Sr. (5th 182 1A)
1. Cael Newton, Charlotte, Sr. (3rd 195)
2. Dylon York, New Smyrna Beach, Sr.
3. Landon Wright, Matanzas, Sr. (1-2 195)
5. Kedtric Wilborn, CHS, Sr. (1-2 195 1A)
9. Isaiah Shevchook, OHS, Sr.
18. Walter Poe, FIHS, Soph
20. Jadon Bell, CHS, Jr.
1. Cassidy Grubbs, Pasco, Sr.
2. Nathanial Box, Charlotte, Sr.
3. Bryce Haynes, Westwood, Sr. (1-2, 220)
11. Ben Gaddis, OHS, Sr.
1. Jordan Mitchell, OHS, Sr. (4th 285 3A)
2. Nate Gabriel, Auburndale, Jr. (4th 285)
3. Ethan Daniels, CHS Jr. (1-2 285 1A)
4. Ethan Hoffstetter, FIHS, Sr. (7th 285)
Class 2A Team Rankings
1. Lake Gibson
2. Fleming Island
4. Tampa Jesuit
6. Winter Springs