It’s a mixed bag of experience for area wrestlers headed to respective state tournaments this weekend.
The Florida High School Athletic Association event takes place at The Lakeland Center starting on Friday. Eleven area athletes, including 10 in Class 1A and Mosley’s Forrest Lang making a fourth trip in 2A, will vie for medals in the two-day event that has a habit of ending the hopes of even some of the best to come from the Panhandle.
Arnold has two of the top contenders in Richie McClanahan (120-pound weight class) and Brock Carlan (126). The duo has combined for only three losses against a more difficult schedule built by coach Jeff Skipper. It was by design to give them and Paul Patterson, who also qualified at 132, a taste of the talent level they’ll face in the coming days.
They will be prepared for the competition level, but not necessarily for any expected nerves. This is Carlan’s second appearance as a junior after finishing a win from the podium last year, or sixth place or better. McClanahan is a freshman and Patterson a sophomore making their first trips to state.
Skipper said the schedule and wrestling in national events has helped prepare McClanahan and Patterson for the bigger stage.
“These guys have seen the massive number of mats out in the arena and the crowds and know the quality of opponents,” Skipper said. “We wrestled in the Deep South Bayou (tournament) and Flagler to get them ready. If they all show up and wrestle it (a state title) is well within their capability.”
Carlan and McClanahan will open with slightly more favorable draws after securing Region 1-1A titles in Jacksonville last week. That gives them a first-round opponent who finished fourth in another region and a potential semifinal matchup with wrestlers finishing Nos. 2 and 3. Patterson is the area’s lone second-place regional finisher.
The trio looks to become Arnold’s highest placers in a state tournament. Nick Moore holds that distinction with a fourth-place finish in 1A in 2007, Skipper said.
Marianna senior Chris Warf is the area’s third regional champion and leads a group of five Bulldogs, all seniors, traveling to the 1A event. Warf had four losses at 138 and also won the District 1-1A title in Wewahitchka.
Devin Combs (152) and Trevon Johnson (170) placed third for Marianna at the regional tournament. Anthony Ward (120) and Jameson Maddox (132) each were fourth for the Bulldogs. Combs placed sixth at 152 last year in his state debut, while his four teammates are making initial appearances.
Bozeman senior John Kenney was third at the regional at 132 and is making his second appearance at state after falling short of qualifying as a junior. Bay sophomore Chance Layfield advanced with a fourth-place regional finish at 113 for his first state berth.
Area Class 1A wrestlers’ first-round pairings:
120: Richie McClanahan, freshman (53-2) vs. Steven Arce, senior (28-5) of Titusville
126: Brock Carlan, junior (41-1) vs. Todd Perry, seventh-grader (no record listed) of Homestead Keys Gate Charter
132: Paul Patterson, sophomore (36-8) vs. Ethan Ahrens, sophomore (22-14) of Astronaut
113: Chance Layfield, sophomore (17-10) vs. Kennedy Monday, sophomore (no record listed) of Fort Lauderdale Cardinal Gibbons
138: John Kenney, senior (40-11) vs. Michael Gingras, sophomore (no record listed) of Indian Rocks Christian
120: Anthony Ward, senior (25-14) vs. Bryce Rogers, freshman (44-7) of Orlando Lake Highland Prep
132: Jameson Maddox, senior (28-16) vs. Elijah Cleary, sophomore (35-3) of Orlando Lake Highland Prep
138: Chris Warf, senior (36-4) vs. Kamen Wilmington, freshman (no record listed) of Northside Christian
152: Devin Combs, senior (32-11) vs. Imier Almanzar, senior (41-6) of Clay
170: Trevon Johnson, senior (31-12) vs. Carrick Brennan, senior (no record listed) of Mariner
Lang the veteran: Lang advanced to his fourth and final state appearance following a third-place finish at 152 in the Region 1-2A tournament in Tallahassee last week. He fought back from what was only his second loss in advancing to state in the 152-pound class for the second consecutive year. He qualified for state in three weight classes, including 135 as a freshman and 145 as a sophomore.
Those trips ended after two losses in the double-elimination draws. Lang (37-2) broke through with a sixth-place finish as a junior. He opens against Tampa Jesuit’s Brian Buser, who is 49-6.