Gold for three in state wrestling finals

By Randy Lefko Sports Editor
Posted 2/24/21

KISSIMMEE - Clay High junior wrestler Madisyn Blackburn did not get her anticipated rematch with the rival she wanted, but the unbeaten Blue Devil grappler came home with a gold medal as she joined …

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Gold for three in state wrestling finals


KISSIMMEE - Clay High junior wrestler Madisyn Blackburn did not get her anticipated rematch with the rival she wanted, but the unbeaten Blue Devil grappler came home with a gold medal as she joined two Orange Park High wrestlers; Tayana Labady and Andrea Smith in bringing home the bling from Saturday’s girls wrestling state championships held in Orlando.

“I thought about going up in weight to 134 this season, but I really wanted to wrestle the Mater Lakes Academy girl (defending champion Carolyna Bellon) to avenge last year,” said Blackburn, in an interview during the Clay Rotary two weeks ago. “She knocked me out of the final and I finished third last year.”

With both wrestlers bracketed to create the much-anticipated final matchup, it was Ponte Vedra High’s Olivia Richie who threw the proverbial monkey wrench into the mix with a pin over Bellon in her semifinal. Richie was losing 5-2 in the third before getting a reversal to the pin on Bellon. Blackburn, up 11-1 into the third period of her championship match after three pins to the final, settled with a pin over Richie for the title; albeit a tough one that took three periods. Blackburn had Richie down 5-0 in the first with a takedown and near fall, but could not nail the pin as the period ended.

“The girls team has been working out with the boys,” said Clay coach Jim Reape. “Maddie is the most experienced of the group. The girls have been solid and have elevated their game each week.”

For Orange Park coach Justin Daniels, who finished a whirlwind weekend of boys district wrestling and girls state wrestling action, upper weight wrestlers Tayana Labady (222) and Andrea Smith (285) both made Daniels’ stress worthwhile with their gold medals, respectively.

“Tayana came to us from Rhode Island and has been a great training partner for Andrea,” said Daniels, who revealed that he went to Kissimmee while his staff went to the boys districts in Tallahassee. “At the state meet, Andrea was not on weight and had to wrestle up because Tayana was going in at 222.”

Smith, second last year and with nine pins in 12 wins this year, only had to wrestle twice to get her gold with a pin in her semifinal and an overtime 3-2 in in the final against Aniya Dixon of Daytona Beach Mainland. Smith was up just 1-0 after two periods before Dixon pulled two points off a reversal.

“Andrea was outweighed by about 50-60 pounds and she had trouble moving her, but her stamina and speed kicked in,” said Daniels.

Smith got an escape with just 22 seconds on the clock to force the overtime with the winning point a 16 seconds to go escape.

Labady, with a bye and two pins to the final, fought past a 0-0 first two periods before a stalling third call netted one point and a 1-0 leadbefore her pin for the title.

Championship host Dr. Phillips won the team title with 237.5 points with Freedom High second at 210 and Osceola High third at 124. Orangge park finshed 11th with Clay 15th.

Orange Park had five wrestlers with Carley Nicholas at 134, Aubrianna Apple at 134, Jasmine Hecht, third at 154, Labady and Smith. Hecht lost her semifinal match then won a consolation semifinal and the third place match by pin over Freedom’s Lindsey Larose.

Apple was busiest wrestler of the weekend with six matches for the two days ending with a consolation round five loss.

Nicholas lost her first match, then went 1-1 in the consolation rounds.

Blackburn had two teammates with her; Savannah Huckleberry at 106 and Jaindyn Vinson at 128. Vinson wound up losing to Ponte Vedra’s Richie in her second match to fall into the consolations. Blackburn had a first round bye then pinned all the way to the championship match.


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