KISSIMMEE – Led by a one loss performance from senior Michael Nix, the North Florida Wrestling Academy’s top team finished seventh after four grueling days of nationally-ranked wrestling at the …
KISSIMMEE – Led by a one loss performance from senior Michael Nix, the North Florida Wrestling Academy’s top team finished seventh after four grueling days of nationally-ranked wrestling at the AAU Scholastic Duals held at Disney’s ESPN starting Wed., June 19 and ending Mon., June 24. NFWA Black was seventh last year.
“Those teams we had were loaded,” said NFWA coach P.J. Cobbert. ”We come here with a different philosophy because we want to get our own points. A lot of these teams bring in outside wrestlers to get points. We had two outside wrestlers and we just let our guys battle.”
Nix, a senior transfer from Jensen Beach last year that bolstered the already formidable Fleming Island High School lineup with a third place finish in Class 3A, grinded through his first nine matches with authority and a 9-0 record before succumbing in the final match of the tournament; a 3-2 loss to Kyle Swartz of the Yeti Wrestling team out of Pennsylvania. Swartz was a recent 195 pound Pennsylvania state champion in Class 3A.
“My time in Fleming Island has moved me from a one or two move wrestler to a wrestler with a bigger book of wrestling technique,” said Nix. “I’m confident now that I can compete with the best wrestlers in the nation and that’s because the NFWA room is the toughest room to train in.”
NFWA Black was in the tournament with two other NFWA teams; a Red team in the small school Community 2 division and a White team in the Developmental division.
“Our goal is to get as many of our kids the experience at this high level,” said Cobbert. “Some of these kids would not be wrestling at this level if they stayed with their own summer programs. We challenge them so they come to us and we can make them better. David Parkes (Oakleaf High wrestler) had some tremendous matches for our Red team.”
NFWA Red finished in the Silver bracket (10-18th place) in 11th place with the White team finishing in the Copper division in fifth place.
With Community 1 representing big schools, Community 2 representing small schools and Developmental for new teams, divisions were divided in 1-9 places for top nine teams in Gold, 10-18 places for next nine teams in Silver and so on through Bronze and Copper to place the top 36 teams.
Also in Community 2, Clay High was represented by Team Clay that finished with a fifth place finish in the silver division for a top 20 finish for coach Hunter Hill.
For the NFWA Black team, filled with much of the Class 3A second place Fleming Island High School team plus a Florida High School add-on in Tyler Reeve, a third place finisher in Class 1A last year, the route this year was topped with their last pool match being against Brownsburg of Indiana, the eventual second place finisher and their first two Gold bracket matches faced off against Eagle Empire; a familiar foe in Class 3A with much of the Southwest Miami High Team, and Lake Gibson Gold, last year’s runnerup to Oregon Clay and the Class 2A two-time defending state champions, with much of that team coming from graduates of this year’s state champion team. Lake Gibson knocked NFWA out of the Gold championship end of the Gold bracket last year in the Gold quarterfinals.
Cobbert, though missing three state qualifiers, still had a nucleus of his Class 3A runnerup team to do battle with Nix going 9-1, Luke Chop at 152, third in 3A, going 8-2; Tanner Hill, at 145, going 8-2 and Gavin Smith at 160 finishing at 7-3. Reeve represented well going 8-2.
“Tyler came to us three weeks ago to train and we broke him,” said Cobbert. “But, he didn’t quit and he toughed it out. Now, he doesn’t want to leave.”
After finishing second in their pool matches with the loss to Brownsburg of Indiana in the final pool match, 40-12, NFWA Black faced off with Eagle Empire in their first Gold bracket match.
The Eagle Empire team was full of Southwest Miami athletes still smarting from their third place finish behind Fleming Island at the state meet; 96-89, with South Dade commanding first place at 197.5.
With Cobbert joined in the coaches corner by two-time champion Briar Jackson, NFWA Black’s team put on a show of tenacity that saw Black fall behind by 24-15 with SW Miami 138 champion Julian Hernandez finishing off a third straight win by Eagle Empire for a 16-9 lead before Tanner Hill and Luke Chop both nailed wins; 7-2, 4-0 to put the score at 16-15. Eagle Empire would win two more to surge to a 24-15 lead before Black’s Anthony Breeden pinned at 182 and Nix repeated with his own pin to put Black up 27-24. Jeffrey Lascano won a thrilling 5-2 mark to give Black a six point lead 30-24 with Raul Gonzalez only needing to not get pinned to get the win. Gonzalez would face off against SW Miami’s graduate giant in Christian Sanchez, a 3A qualifier with a 53-7 won/loss record, and a sizeable size advantage on Gonzalez. Gonzalez kept his feet throughout the match despite Sanchez’s attacks and lost 5-0, but preserved the 30-27 win for NFWA Black.
“That guy pinned Raul during the season so the improvement showed up,” said Cobbert. “He wrestled smart despite giving up nearly 45 pounds. He’s strong as any of them, just smaller. We put another 20-30 pounds of muscle, he’ll be a monster.”
In their second Gold match, Black against faced off with familiar faces with Lake Gibson’s Gold team coming in as a heavy favorite for the entire tournament and a roster of one 2A champion, three 2A runnerups, two third placers, a fourth placer and two fifth placers.
With wins just from Reeve (6-4), Hill (in overtime) and Gavin Smith (pin), NFWA Black fell into the bottom of the Gold bracket with Lake Gibson winning 46-18.
“That’s always going to be tough match,” said Cobbert. “We see them numerous times during the season. They had five or six graduated seniors on their team and that’s a tough lineup. I want to see guys we are going to have next year face off against that kind of lineup and see what it’s like.”
In the final two Gold matches, NFWA Black lost to Dead Mouse Gold of Indiana 41-13, but won seventh with a 60-13 win over Yeti Wrestling of Pennsylvania.
For the NFWA Black team, Hunter Herrington at 106 finished 7-3; Riley Holton at 113 finished 6-4; George Duncan (Osceola High) at 126 finished 1-9; Gannon Janssen at 132 finished 4-6; Connor Rogers at 138 finished 6-4; Nickolas Janssen at 170 finished 5-5; Anthony Breeden at 182 finished 6-4; Jeffrey Lascano at 220 finished 6-4 and Raul Gonzalez at 285 finished 6-4.
NFWA Red in Community 2 was led Isaac Padgett at 120 finishing 8-1; Garrett Cole at 126 finishing 7-2; Lavaughn Brown at 138 finishing 7-2 and David Parkes (Oakleaf) at 145 finishing 8-1.
NFWA White was led by Storm Mercado (Middleburg 2A SQ) at 11-1 and Gabe Guzman (Ridgeview, 2A SQ) 7-4) with Jonte Criswell finishing at 6-5.
Team Clay was led by Luke Davis at 120 finishing at 9-1; Jacob Campbell (Orange Park, 6th 2A) at 170 finishing at 8-2; Armando Acosta (Buchholz, SQ) at 182 finishing at 9-1; Jordan Bell at 195 finishing at 7-2 and Derrick Mosley at 285 finishing at 8-2.