GREEN COVE SPRINGS – In a show of force on their home turf, the Fleming Island High wrestling team topped off a strong weekend of wrestling with a dominating win at their own Keystone …
GREEN COVE SPRINGS – In a show of force on their home turf, the Fleming Island High wrestling team topped off a strong weekend of wrestling with a dominating win at their own Keystone Invitational Tournament held Friday and Saturday at the Clay County Fairgrounds.
Fleming Island, second in Class 3A the past two years, won convincingly with 442 team points over runnerup Columbia High, a 2A state meet 18th place finisher last year, who generated 292 team points. In third was Flagler Palm Coast, a district 1-3A opponent for Fleming Island, with 261 points.
Note: Area teams will head to the
FHSAA District Duals Championships this week with Fleming Island and Oakleaf in district 1-3A at Flagler Palm Coast on Wed., Jan. 9; Clay in district 3-1A at Baker County on Tues., Jan. 8 and Ridgeview hosting Orange Park and Middleburg in district 3-2A on Wed., Jan. 9.
“This is a good tuneup for our district duals and gives the kids some matches to work on stuff,” said Fleming Island coach P.J. Cobbert, who finished second to South Dade in the state duals championships 39-25. “We had some good teams from around the area including Georgia who gave us some good matches.”
Also competing from the area were Oakleaf, fifth with 202 points, and Middleburg, 10th with 152 points. The team roster featured 17 teams from Florida and Georgia to bring one of the biggest tournaments in recent years to Clay County.
For the Golden Eagles, individual titles went to defending 3A champion Briar Jackson at 122 pounds, Luke Chop at 154 pounds, Gavin Smith at 172 pounds, Chad Nix at 197 pounds and Jeffrey Lascano at 222 pounds.
At 122 pounds was a much-anticipated clash between Fleming Island’s Briar Jackson and Oakleaf High sophomore Addiert Escobar, a highly touted upcoming challenger in district 1-3A and region 1-3A for Jackson.
Escobar, a region qualifier last year at 113 after finishing fourth in district 1-3A, had beaten Cass High of Georgia 5A 106 state qualifier Hunter Rees (23-12 last year) 10-3 in his first round championship gold bracket.
In their third round Keystone match, Escobar got Jackson on a scramble near the edge of the match that earned back points for the squirrely sophomore.
“Yes, he got me in a bad position there and got the back points,” said Jackson. “It happens with a fast-moving guy like him, but you can’t see that as a bad thing. If I gave up at that point, he could have easily won the match.”
From there, though, Jackson asserted his champion pedigree with a dominating third period.
“Last year, he pinned me in the first period,” said Escobar. “He’s a lot stronger than me, but I got the five points. I didn’t think the match would got three periods and I’ll be better ready for going that long next time. I kind of panicked in the third because I had my shot early and let him get away.”
With Jackson executing a series of takedowns and intentional escapes to Escobar, Jackson won with a 25-10 tech fall.
“I know I have a target on my back with the state title from last year and guys are going to bring their best game to me,” said Jackson. “Just got to keep fighting.”
At 154, Chop rifled through his competition with three pins, a major decision and a win. Chop’s top match was a 3-1 win over Cass High’s Kendall Arnold, a Georgia 5A third place finisher at 145 last year with a 39-10 record.
At 197, Nix, who transferred from Jensen Beach after taking third in 2A last year, blew through his lineup with three pins and a tech fall with three wins over district opponents from Flagler, Robert E. Lee and Fletcher.
At 162, Hill lost a tough 5-2 decision to Dominique Dale of Valdosta High of Georgia to take second. Hill had a weekend of pins going up until the Dale match. Dale was a Georgia 6A state qualifier (36-13 last year).
At 222, Lascano continued his stealthy assault on the 3A rankings with key wins over 3A opponents from Oakleaf (Gabe Hecht via pin), Flagler Palm Coast (Martin Cinelli, 15-4) and Fletcher (Ethan Hollenbach, 3-1).
For Oakleaf, Escobar and Marcus McGhee both finished second; McGhee at 108 with a championship loss to Valdosta’s Darrell Rochester by pin.
Middleburg’s top finishes came from Chris Burch, fourth at 147 and Chris Conaway, fifth at 184. Burch avenged a pin from Oakleaf’s David Parkes at the Kiwanis Invitational in the season opener with a 6-5 decision.