RHS Rodriguez on path to third (final) state final shot

By Randy Lefko Sports Editor
Posted 2/17/21

ORANGE PARK - Ridgeview High senior wrestler Matthew Rodriguez has a bucket load of medals at the house, but the one he is missing, a gold state medal, has been the elusive one.

Last year, it was …

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RHS Rodriguez on path to third (final) state final shot

Posted

ORANGE PARK - Ridgeview High senior wrestler Matthew Rodriguez has a bucket load of medals at the house, but the one he is missing, a gold state medal, has been the elusive one.

Last year, it was Lake Highland Prep’s Danny Nini who beat Rodriguez 14-6 in the state final to thwart an unbeaten season with the final tally at 66 wins, one loss. In 2019, Rodriguez, 54-1, lost to Kai Owen of Tampa Jesuit 2-1 in the 106 state final.

“I just got the 200th win with Ridgeview recently; 245 total varsity from my middle school wrestling at University Christian with 195 pins,” said Rodriguez, who has already signed with Lehigh University in Pennsylvania. “I’ve been training since the day after state last year and definitely increased all my strengths. I’m really excited about this year.”

Rodriguez, ranked number one at 132 pounds by most rankings statewide including the Orlando Sentinel’s list, has been following his similar game plan as previous years with a lot of summer training and competition action, but this year in season, the Panthers, coached by dad Bart Rodriguez, have stayed fairly closed to home.

“Matthew is very strong this year after a summer of hard training,” said Bart Rodriguez, “Last weekend, we got some tough training in Virginia and will return there for more. At his level, he wants to wrestle against much tougher guys to see what that is all about.”

One thing that has created a bit of ballyhoo in the wrestling avenues of Florida is the ascension of Panther teammate Derek Mosley at 285. Mosley, third last year for Clay, transferred in before football season and continued his wrestling with Ridgeview with a quiet destruction that Bart Rodriguez coyly acknowledged. Mosley is currently ranked eighth at 285 in the Orlando Sentinel ranks. Also in the rankings for Ridgeview is Ian Finnom, 17th at 138.

“I think Derrek is going surprise some people,” said Rodriguez. “People are looking at him as an underdog, but, just look at him out there. This is a different Derek than last year. He comes to work, asks a lot of questions and is working alongside Matthew to bring a little excitement here.”

Back to Matthew Rodriguez, his senior year brings a final shot at the elusive state gold medal.

“We were limited a little by COVID for our usual summer travels,” said Rodriguez. “I’m staying humbled by having not won that state championship so there is still something to prove.”

For this season, Rodriguez has one advantage in that former Class 1A superpower Lake Highland Prep is no longer a team in FHSAA in lieu of a national schedule.

“I don’t really worried about any one opponent out there that concerns me, but it is more myself that I worry about with regard to my execution,” said Rodriguez. “I think I have seen a move for every move that may come at me. It’s more about me wrestling my match.”

With his travels to Lehigh and other high-powered camps, Rodriguez only slightly divulged that a new few twists may come on his journey to a third state final.

“I always learn something new, but you won’t see it or know about it until the state final,” said Rodriguez.

Also in Class 1A, Clay has ranked wrestlers, led by Cale Hoskinson, number one at 160, with Maverick Rainwater, sixth 113; Dalton Huckleberry, ninth at 120; Gunner Ivey, fifth at 126; Chandler Thomas, 17th at 132; Luke Boree, sixth at 138; Dominick Martin, seventh at 152; Ethan Larsen, 17th at 170; Garrett Tyre, third at 220 and Ethan Daniels, 19th at 285.

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