By: Shannon Heaton (@QChawkeyeinFL)
The road to the Gateway Conference wrestling title still can’t be traveled without overcoming the power of the beach.
Fletcher – now ranked 8th in the Northeast Florida Matmen team rankings, just issued today -- bagged five individual conference titles – including three in a row from 126 through 138 pounds, along with two more at 160 and 170 – to win its sixth consecutive Gateway title Saturday afternoon at First Coast. In scoring 186 team points, the Senators withstood spirited challenges from #10 Sandalwood (2nd, 162.5 points), the host and honorable mention Buccaneers (137.5) and HM-lister Atlantic Coast (133.5) to win the tournament. Forrest, which shared the first-day lead with Fletcher, had a rough semifinal round Saturday morning, but the Rebels rallied in the wrestlebacks to finish fifth, a half-point ahead of Ed White – both of which also bagged HM listings after both were ranked in the top 10 earlier in the season.
Winning individual Gateway titles were the following wrestlers: Jaques Hale (Sandalwood, 106); Erik Sirmans (First Coast, 113); Brandon Bemister (Atlantic Coast, 120); Jake Loizos (Fletcher, 126); Cal Rodgers (Fletcher, 132); Joshua Sweeten (Fletcher, 138); Mitchell Pendleton (Sandalwood, 145); Dillon May (Atlantic Coast, 152); William Kohlhaas (Fletcher, 160); Skylor Coxon (Fletcher, 170); Jermaine Oliver (Raines, 182); Jahlan Walker (First Coast, 195); Scott Dollison (First Coast, 220) and Kahlil Welsh (Forrest, 285). Welsh will be Forrest’s final Gateway Conference champion – at least under that name.
It was a busy day in the area on Saturday, with four larger events within just a couple of hours’ drive. At Orange Park, the #3 Raiders lost only to Tallahassee Lincoln, which has put together an unbeaten duals record in 2013-14, in their 10-Way Duals. #9 Bishop Kenny was fourth, with newly-minted HM-lister Oakleaf edging Baker County for fifth. At Bartram Trail, #5 Creekside won that dual tournament for the third consecutive year, defeating #6 Bishop Snyder for top honors. Finally, at nearby Buchholz, both #4 University Christian and Middleburg finished in a tie for third, losing only to Gainesville and the host Bobcats along the way.
The area – or at least Clay County’s part of it – is probably still buzzing after the #1 Blue Devils led, then trailed, and then led again at the last minute, as 220-pound Jon Whiting’s third-period fall over Kihim Carr gave Clay a 30-29 victory over #2 Fleming Island. With the Blue Devils hosting Orange Park tonight – and with Fleming wrestling at Camden County last weekend – both of the area giants will be done until districts in two Saturdays from now. The regular season, more or less, wraps up this week, with a full slate of duals tonight, led by Clay-Orange Park and Sandalwood’s quadrangular meet.
The weekend is punctuated by another 15-team dual tournament hosted by Terry Parker Friday and Saturday, which includes University Christian and Fletcher as ranked teams in the field, with formerly-ranked teams Ridgeview, Nease and Mandarin also all included. Just over the border, Brunswick GA is hosting a dual tournament, with part of the proceeds going to benefit Relay for Life in memory of the father of a graduated Brunswick wrestler. #6 Bishop Snyder headlines the list of locals there. Fernandina Beach hosts Baker County in a rare Saturday-afternoon dual meet, while Oakleaf travels to Daytona Beach for a tournament at Seabreeze and Providence makes the long drive south all the way to Englewood, halfway between Sarasota and Fort Myers, for a tournament at Lemon Bay.
Next week: Edge of the Mat takes a look at 6 local district meets with our preview.
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