Team Race: 1A Region 1 features eight teams with a legitimate shot at the 2016 Region 1 Team title. In reality the battle should come down to 2015 Region 1 Runner-up Arnold, 2015 Region 1 Team Champion Wakulla, and 2015 Region 2 3rd place Clay. Arnold, Wakulla, and Clay are exceptionally strong and should make a push for a top 5 finish at the 1A State Tournament. The battle for first in Region 1 might come down to how well those wrestlers that are “off the radar” wrestle and contribute to the team points. Keep an eye on Florida High, Suwannee, Yulee, and Bishop Kenny. Each finished in the top 7 a season ago and each returns enough quality wrestlers to put pressure on the top teams. Our darkhorse team is Jacksonville Bolles. The Bulldogs return eleven from a team that finished 8th at the 2015 Region 1 Tournament and 32nd at the 2015 1A State Tournament. If the Bulldogs can put all the pieces together they could push for a top 3 finish in 2016.
Contenders: Nine Region 1 wrestlers, who return in 2015-2016, finished the 2014-2015 season on the podium in Kissimmee. Richard McClanahan of Arnold surprised many by downing Jake Brindley of Lake Highland Prep to take the 126 lb. title. Expect McClanahan to lead a very tough Arnold squad back to Kissimmee. He is certainly one to beat in 2016. No other Region 1 wrestlers return that made Saturday evening’s final, but several that came close. Arnold’s Paul Patterson took 3rd at 138, Clay’s Kaleb Collins finished 4th at 195, Episcopal’s Scott Dollison (by way of a transfer) took 3rd at 220 in 3A, and Wolfson’s Deangelo Harris finished 4th at 285. All four expect to be in the finals Saturday evening and to be holding an individual title at the end of the night. Four wrestlers found the podium, but will need to wrestle well and overcome some excellent competition if they are going to claim an individual title Saturday evening. They include: South Walton transfer William Pickren (5th at 120) of Arnold, Tyler Foster (5th at 182) of Suwannee, Larry Smith (6th at 113) of Wakulla, and Daniel Porter (6th at 106) of Duval Charter.
Hunting the Podium: Thirty-two Region 1 wrestlers qualified for the State Tournament in 2015, but failed to make the podium. Be sure to keep an eye on Randy Koscak of Arnold and Chris Surace of Wakulla. Koscak and Surace both finished with two or more wins in Kissimmee and expect to find themselves very high on the podium in 2016. Brian Girard of Arnold, Alex Cao of South Walton, Max Metcalf of Florida High, Rolin Malik of Wakulla, Dale Browning, Roland Samec, Cody Taylor, and Keath Sawdo of Clay, Jake Blount of West Nassau, and Dylan Youmans of Yulee finished 1-2 in Kissimmee in 2015 and will be looking to improve on that, and find the podium, in 2016.
Payton Strain of South Walton, Cam Brown, Jemel Fanfan, Will Haigler, Max Harris, and Drew Hostetter of Florida High, Andrew Thaxton of Godby, Joseph Borrell, Tanner Clark, Kenneth Foster, Michael Santangelo, and Brandon Trask of Suwannee, Max Owen and Hunter Royce of Wakulla, Chris Merring of Clay, Jaquan English of Raines, Jack Delaney of Bishop Kenny, Connor Cronk and Michael Surenyan of Bolles, and Conor Chepenik of Episcopal finished their 2015 trip to Kissimmee 0-2. Each will be looking to be on the podium in 2016, but must wrestle much better in 2016 if they are going to medal.
Under the Radar: Many of the following wrestlers finished the 2015 Region Tournament with two or more wins. Don’t be surprised if each punches his/her ticket to Kissimmee in 2016. Win four matches in a row in Kissimmee and you are a State Champion. That isn’t likely, but each could find the podium if given the opportunity. Better keep an eye on the following: Garrett Jones and Ethan Pickren of Arnold, Stephon Gaines, Maximilliano Martinez, Christian McIntire, and Wilbur Thomas of Marianna, Austin Milbourn of North Bay Haven, Yakeif Duncan of Rutherford, Darius Foster of South Walton, Jonathan Harvey and Austin Malcolm of Wewahitchka, Matt Cook, Delon Franklin, and Matt Turk of Florida High, Gabriel Hernandez and Jonathan Wainwright of North Florida Christian, Rossie Williams of Suwannee, Jacob Austin, Ashlee Dalton, and Dillon Rathel of Wakulla, Jeremy Beleau, Louie Gagliardo, and Derek Miller of Clay, Cole Cushman, Zack Bell, and Corey Paine of Baker County, Joseph Helm of Fernandina Beach, Calvin Altman, Keyvonta Broadwater, Jacob Boyd, and Delmontae Davis of Westside, RJ Adams, John Parker, Blaine Dorsey, and McKenzie Lewis of Yulee, Daisean Biffle of Raines, Kyle Black and Ryan Timmons of Bishop Kenny, Jason Griffis of Bradford, Andrew Slade of Duval Charter, Imed Touahri of Florida School for Deaf and Blind, and Jonathon Samples and Maxwell Worthington of Menendez.