LYNN HAVEN — The first day of the Panhandle Championship is a lot like NASCAR qualifying.
Fifteen area schools opened the event Friday at the Jim Redfern Gymnasium with four rounds, two each in the championship and consolation brackets. Teams and individuals battled for respective pole positioning with Saturday’s sprint to the finish.
Championship semifinals open Saturday’s slate at 10 a.m. Consolation matches will contend with a junior varsity tournament for the majority of the mat time. Finals will take place in mid-afternoon.
Choctawhatchee leads the team standings with 58 points, only three ahead of Marianna and Pace, both of which are tied for second. Each win brings teams closer to a crown and the squads with the most wrestlers with no losses are in the best shape. However, it’s not a direct indicator of the eventual outcome.
Marianna, Pace and defending champion Wakulla (fourth at 54 points) are tied with the most semifinal wrestlers with eight apiece. Marianna’s championship hopefuls include Chris Warf (138) and Devin Combs (152).
Arnold stands the strongest among the six Bay County competitors in fifth place with 36.5 points. The Marlins have seven wrestlers still eyeing titles, including 120-pounder Richie McClanahan, who has lost only twice overall this season and once on Florida soil.
Mosley is tied for sixth with 27 points and advanced Forrest Lang (152) to the semifinal. Rutherford is tied with South Walton for 10th at 20 points and advanced four wrestlers to semifinals, including Daniel Nguyen (145) and Michael Lee (170).
Bay and Bozeman are tied for 12th with 13 points. Bay has semifinalists Chance Layfield (113) and Vern Barth (heavyweight). Bozeman’s Delton Griffen (113) and Jonathan Kenney (138) are in the semifinals as well.
Admission is $5 for adults, $4 for students and children age 5 and younger are free.