OAKLEAF - Fleming Island High wrestling coach P.J. Cobbert strode smoothly around the Oakleaf High gym during the semifinal rounds of Oakleaf’s “Hammer” Wrestling Invitational held …
OAKLEAF - Fleming Island High wrestling coach P.J. Cobbert strode smoothly around the Oakleaf High gym during the semifinal rounds of Oakleaf’s “Hammer” Wrestling Invitational held Thursday.
“Here is where the points are made,” said Cobbert. “Wear and tear, ground and pound. We get a lot of guys in the semis, push more into the finals, then take care of business. Numbers count.”
Cobbert’s premonition stood firm as the Golden Eagles, by the numbers, filled the brackets with prototype Cobbert-style wrestlers who executed the game plan with lightning fury and won convincingly with a 313.0 point total that far surpassed runnerup Harmony’s 192.5 and third place Merrit Island’s 162. Harmony was fifth in Class 3A last year as the class of the challenge to Fleming Island.
In a glimpse of the Cobbert influence of sorts, Oakleaf High, under the direction of first year coach Mark DeToro, finished fourth at 141 ahead of Bishop Kenny and Fletcher. Cobbert and DeToro were teammates at Clay High as seniors in 2001 with Cobbert getting his fourth state title, at 152, while DeToro finished as runnerup, two matches later, at 171.
“Little steps along the way, toughen up the room and get the techniques down,” said DeToro, who was a frequent contributor to Cobbert’s North Florida Wrestling Academy room over the past few years before signing in with Oakleaf. “We are hoping to sneak up on P.J. one day.”
DeToro’s coy optimism is somewhat justified with his recent 38-30 win over Clay in a dual match that was a first-time win for the Knights’ program over the perennial powerhouse program at Clay; first in 1A, now clumped in with Fleming Island in 2A.
Fleming Island put up the numbers significantly with 19 wrestlers from both schools making the semifinals; 13 for Fleming Island, six for Oakleaf with two head to head matchups in the semifinals and two final matchups between the two.
Fleming Island did have one point-breaking weight division at 106 with junior Matthew Newman beating teammate Jordan Mukaddam in the final 2-1.
“They scrap all day in practice and today was no different,” said Cobbert. “That’s why our room is rough. You can’t have a bad day because the other guy will take your spot at any time.”
In one of the Fleming Island vs. Oakleaf finals matchups, Fleming Island’s Jayce Paridon, a Class 2A runnerup last year, dispatched of Oakleaf’s newest face on the mat, freshman Sebastian Bonachea with a pin, but DeToro was very impressed with his mentee.
“He is fast, strong and smart,” said DeToro. “We will see more of him as the season goes. He’s a great freshman guy in our room that will only get better.”
In the second Knights vs. Eagles showdown, Oakleaf strongman Isaiah Shevchook took on Fleming Island’s highly volatile Walter Poe, one of the more explosive wrestlers on the squad, to win by pin in a classic muscle man slugfest.
“He’s an emotional guy,” said Cobbert, of Poe who won a third period pin match in his semifinal in dramatic fashion with a backside reversal to pin. “Sometimes that works, other times you have to keep calm and just wrestle.”
In two hard-fought matches that went the other way, 285’s Ethan Hoffstetter (seventh in 2A last year) faced off against a much-bigger Toby Matson of Fletcher (13-2, third in 2A last year) in the semifinals and lost a 4-2 match despite a super close final takedown at the final whistle and, at 160, Fleming Island junior Chris Chop (fifth in 2A 152 last year) went toe-to-toe with Fletcher’s Josh Daltro (12-2) and also missed a last second takedown attempt at the buzzer to lose 3-1. Matson and Daltro both finished as weight division runnerups.
“I like that despite the adversity on the mat, they kept coming and kept wrestling,” said Cobbert. “We go to the whistle and we’ll get those calls at another time.”
Chop eventually lost by pin to Harmony state qualifier Anthony Falitico for fourth place. Hoffstetter took third by pin. Daltro was denied a state ticket last year with a loss to Fleming Island’s Ronan Bozeman in the region championship with Bozeman winning in the consolation semifinals.
Fleming Island’s final lineup included championship wins from Newman, Shane and Laird Duhaylungsod, Paridon, Kaden Schaefer, Ronan Bozeman and Joshua Sandoval. In team scores, Orange Park was 12th; Elijah Grant at 113 top finisher with fifth, and Keystone Heights was 15th; top finisher Joshua Dowling, an eighth grader, in sixth at 285, in the 17 team field.