This is the first year of the Florida High School Athletic Association’s Dual Wrestling State Championships, and a lot of people don’t understand it yet, Creekside coach Rick Marabell said.
“There’s a lot to strategize,” Marabell said. “You have to make adjustments as you go.”
Marabell obviously understands the team event. He has led the Knights to the final weekend of competition at Kissimmee Osceola High School.
Creekside will meet Tallahassee Lincoln in the Class 2A quarterfinals at 5 p.m. today. The winner advances to the semifinals against the winner of the Spring Hill Springstead-Lakeland Lake Gibson match at noon Saturday. The championship matches for all three classifications — 1A, 2A and 3A — will run simultaneously on three mats at 6 p.m. Saturday.
The duals were added this season to the traditional individual postseason tournament, which begins in mid-February with districts.
“It adds a team aspect to our sport,” Marabell said. “A lot of northern states have it. They’re trying to bring excitement to the state of Florida. My team’s pretty excited about it.”
Creekside rolled through the District 4-2A round-robin with a 4-0 record. The Knights defeated Bartram Trail, Nease, St. Augustine and Matanzas in a tight 42-36 match. Both Creekside and Matanzas advanced to the Region 1-2A quarters and semis at Ridgeview last week. Creekside defeated Orange Park 55-19, while Matanzas beat Ridgeview 33-25, setting up a rematch that the Knights won by the thinnest of margins, 36-35.
After trailing 25-0 early, the Knights won six straight matches from 160 pounds to 285. Luke Davis’ 5-4 decision over Matanzas’ Ethan Goodman at 113 (in the second-to final match with the random start at 126), clinched the win.
“This is probably one of the most balanced teams I’ve ever coached,” Marabell said. “Our backups are doing their job.”
The Knights lost to Lincoln early in the season but were missing several wrestlers. Saul Storey, who is 14-3 at 285 pounds, was one of the Knights who missed the Lincoln match. Creekside also expects 152-pounder Jake Cooney, who was one win away from qualifying for state last year, back from a concussion.
Brandon Dickman, The Record’s 2017 Wrestler of the Year who finished third at state at 170 pounds last season, is 31-0 at 182 this year.
Davis, who was also one win from qualifying for state last year, is 22-0 at 113. Billy Shaw, a transfer from New York is 29-1 at 160 pounds. And Trey Chesser is 28-3 at 195 pounds.
Chesser weighs 184 but moved up to 195 this season to allow Dickman to move up to 182.
“Trey has really come a long way,” Marabell said. “He’s really developed certain moves, especially pinning with his cradle. Him and Billy (Shaw) both work out with Dickman, and because of that they’ve both gotten better and better.”
That trio has combined for 57 pins in 92 matches.