OAKLEAF - Under the direction of first year coach Rory Roderick, the Oakleaf High Knights wrestling team has been stealthily going about its ways with a win here and there in the early part of wrestling season as teams gear up for the district duals, then the individual tournament runs after the holiday.
"I have been a wrestler at Oakleaf when we were considered the team that everyone wanted to wrestle for a win," said Roderick. "This team may have a bit of chip on their shoulder with a lot of the veterans now ready to give the program a boost to being one of the better programs in north Florida."
Note: On Dec. 20-21, Northwest Florida State College in Niceville will host the Collegiate Wrestling Duals; a two day event featuring the likes of national champion Penn State, plus a host of nationally ranked NCAA teams including No. 7 Arizona State, No. 10 Virginia Tech, No. 1 Iowa, No. 3 Missouri and No. 22 Lehigh.
On the Lehigh team is Ridgeview High graduate Matthew Rodriguez, a freshman, who was a 2021 state champion and four time state medalist with two runnerup finishes. Rodriguez is wrestling at 133 and 141 pounds. Also on the team is Malyke Hines, a familiar foe of Fleming Island High while three time state champion, twice national high school champion at Osceola High. Hines is a junior at 133.
Roderick, a former Knight standout himself, has already knocked out wins over a slew of teams at the 5-Way at Orange Park and also at their own Friday Knight Lights tournament (10 teams). The Knights roster dominated in both matches with a handful of undefeated grapplers. Oakleaf High will host the Hammer Invitational on Tues., Dec. 21 with a 15-team roster expected including Middleburg, Orange Park, Ridgeview and Fleming Island in a first close-up look at Fleming Island in Class 2A.
"We entered an Oakleaf A and an Oakleaf B team in our meets and that is a very big advantage both in scoring team points and in readiness," said Roderick. "When the A team guys know the B team is working hard to go A, it makes the whole team competitive among themselves which is good for the program. No one has a clean shot to being the only guy in a weight class."
In the most recent tournament within the holiday break, Fleming Island finished a tough second at the Johnny Rouse Duals Invitational at Osceola High School in Kissimmee in a Class 3A-strong tournament featuring 3A champion South Dade and top five finisher Southwest Miami High.
At the Rouse Invite, Fleming Island opened up with a win in pool play against Southwest Miami in a first-test of coach P.J. Cobbert's latest team.
"Although we are in Class 2A now, I am keeping our usual schedule against the best 3A teams in Florida just to give the young kids we have a look at what tough wrestling looks like in a two-day format," said Cobbert, who blasted through pool play to face off and defeat South Dade in round one of the championship bracket. "They were missing couple of guys, but we held our own. It's the first time Fleming Island has beaten South Dade and hopefully can push the guys to believe in the process."
Fleming Island, in pool play, shredded Celebration High and Wiregrass High (72-3, 84-0) before besting SW Miami 34-32. Against SW Miami, Fleming Island opened with win from Joshua Sandoval and a pin from Jhoel Robinson before SW Miami took the next four matches to take a 20-10 lead. Freshman Jayce Paridon, a recent champion at the very tough Danny Byron Invite, started a three-win run for the Golden Eagles with a pin with freshman Laird Duhaylungsod winning on points and Joshua Mukaddam punching in with a pin to score the match 25-20 to Fleming Island. Mukaddam's pin was the difference maker as both teams exchanged points to the final 34-32.
Against South Dade, a team that has won the Class 3A title for eight straight years with Fleming Island chasing in the top three a few times, Fleming Island drew the champs in the first round of the championship bracket and quickly opened up a 21-0 lead off two forfeits, a pin by 285 Ethan Hoffstetter and a win by Paridon.
"Even though they gave us points, their guys are always capable of making up those points by getting bonus points," said Cobbert. "I told the boys to wrestle smart as South Dade flexed some muscle with six wins before Ronan Bozeman pulled out a 4-1 upset at 160 and Joshua Sandoval survived a 19-7 major decision without a pin to keep the Golden Eagles ahead with South Dade forfeiting the final two matches; Robinson and Walter Poe.
"They came on strong after we got up on them and that's why they are the champs," said Cobbert. "It was fun to watch our boys battle."
At Orange Park, Oakleaf was unbeaten with wins over Fletcher, Creekside, Nease, Mainland and Oakleaf B.
As of December 9, senior Marcus McGee is ranked seventh in Class 3A, Roman Polinsky is 18th at 160, Onjel Caraballa is ninth at 182, Isaiah Shevchook is fourth at 195, Ben Gaddis is 17th at 220 and Jordan Mitchell is eighth at 285.
At Clay High, the Blue Devils got a big win at the Kiwanis Invitational at Hernando High School with a strong field. The Blue Devils put up 310 team points to win by 90 points over Class 3A strongholds Winter Springs and University High.
Familiar names for the win were Dominic Martin, Ethan Larsen and Garrett Tyre with wins at 170, 182 and 220, respectively; Maverick Rainwater at 126 (runnerup to Winter Springs); Luke Boree, runnerup at 145 and Ethan Daniels, runnerup at 285.
In Class 1A rankings, at 106, Jacob Bucci is ninth; at 133, Bradley Glavin is 15th; at 126, Clay's Maverick Rainwater is fifth; at 138, Clay's Xavier Logan is 19th; at 145, Clay's Luke Boree is ninth; at 152, Josh Kumpf is 14th; at 182, Clay's Dominic Martin is third; at 170, Clay's Ethan Larsen is third and Luca Finnaca is 17th; at 220, Clay's Kedric Wilborn is 16th; at 195, Jadon Bell 15th; at 220, Clay's Garrett Tyre is fourth; at 285, Clay's Ethan Daniels is sixth.
Clay also had a dual meet win over 3A-Flagler Palm Coast, 40-21, and Orange Park, 81-0.
Prior to the Johnny Rouse Invite, Cobbert maintained his rugged 3A schedule with a quick visit to Osceola High for the Danny Byron Invitational for a two-day festival against top 3A teams including South Dade, Timber Creek and Southwest Miami. Wrestlers wrestled pool format on Friday to determine gold, silver, bronze championship brackets on Saturday.
Top wrestler was newcomer Jayce Paridon, a recent transfer from University Christian, but a former Fleming Island club wrestler with Cobbert, who won his gold bracket at 113 with wins over South Dade and SW Miami.
Also in gold, Joshua Sandoval got third at 170, Jhoel Robinson was second at 182 and Ethan Hoffstetter was fourth in 285.
At the Capital City Classic in Tallahassee, a Class 2A strong field, Middleburg and Ridgeview got to see some region time action with the likes of Wakulla and Chiles, plus 1A power Somerset who bested the two north Florida teams. The Broncos finished tied for fifth under new coach Coll Robertson with Niceville while Ridgeview, under new coach Steven Inman, placed 10th with 107 points.
Riley Girgis took third at 132 for the Broncos with a win over Somerset to medal. Austin Cruce took third at 182 with a loss to Cairo, Ga.
In the 285 final, Ridgeview's third placer from last year, Derrick Mosley got second to Somerset after two quick first period pins to advance.
And, at the Cardinal Classic at Bishop Kenny, Keystone Heights High got a tournament win in the five team format with wins over Dunnellon, Bishop Snyder, Tocoi Creek and Ed White. Keystone Heights had three unbeatens; Baron Bryson, Sheppard Wingate and Phoenix Contes.
In the Class 2A ranks, at 106, Fleming Island freshman Shane Duhaylungsod is 12th, Middleburg's Jackson Hornback is 18th; at 113, Jayce Paridon is ranked first, with Middleburg's Grady Woodard seventh; at 120, Middleburg freshman Wyatt Leduc is eighth with Fleming Island's Laird Duhaylungsod 16th; at 126, Middleburg's Riley Girgis is sixth; at 138, Fleming Island's Kaden Schaefer is 14th; at 145, Fleming Island's Matthew Kotler is 20th; at 152, Ridgeview's Ryan Murphy is 20th; at 160, Orange Park's Trevion Sermons is eighth, Ridgeview's Ian Finnorn is 14th; at 170, Fleming Island's Joshua Sandoval is fifth, Ridgeview's Logan Keester is 19th; at 182, Fleming Island's Jhoel Robinson is second to Countryside's Brian Burburija with Middleburg' Austin Cruce 19th; at 285, Ridgeview's Derrick Mosley is second to Kathleen's Jeremiah Jackson with Fleming Island's Ethan Hoffstetter fourth.
Middleburg had a dual meet win over Orange Park also.
At Oakleaf, Roderick has also been able to field an Oakleaf B team that has wrestled right next to the A team and give Roderick's depth an amount of depth and also a good training room scenario.
In the girls wrestling rankings, two defending state champions; Madisyn Blackburn at Clay High and Andrea Smith at Orange Park, have maintained their top ranking with both at number one in their respective weight classes; 130 and 235. Orange Park's Jasmine Hecht is top ranked at 155.
Others ranked include, at 105, Oakleaf's Adrienna Barrientos at sixth; at 125, Clay's Aubreanna Apple is eighth, and, at 170, Oakleaf's Jazzmine Moore is third.