One of the things we’ve done on our Florida site is something that no other journalist — that we know of — does in covering this sport, and that is recapping, in highlight form, a team’s season.
Because we’re super clever, we’ve called this recurring series with a really catchy title. We call it: #TheSeason, and we add the current school year.
We’ve been doing these for five years over there, and wee’re going to do it here. We’ll get to every team, eventually, but our 11th team — as randomly selected by my crack investigative staff (my nearly 18-year-old non-wrestling, but Division I athlete, son) and first out of Region 1-6A is the defending dual and tournament state champion, Valdosta.
So, without further ado, we bring you #TheSeason.
You can see everything I have on the Wildcats in 2018-19 here –> VALDOSTA
Win/loss record: 13-4 in dual meets. Please review the attached document for a summary of the Wildcats’ performance in IBT events.
Season in a nutshell: It was a season worthy of the team that comes from Titletown, but because several projected starters were playing football, it was also one that was initially slow to develop. The Wildcats were solid if unspectacular in November (3rd at Lowndes’ Viking Challenge, 2nd at the Gulf Coast Clash in Alabama) and were 3-2 at a pair of duals tournaments in December, but from Buford forward — mid-December on — we started to get greater and greater glimpses of what was to come. Valdosta was sixth at Buford, won its own Allstate Wildcat Invitational and placed in the top half at an elite Florida tournament, the Knockout Christmas Classic, with a top-third (despite a severely short-handed side) finish at north Florida’s Keystone Invitational. From there, with a full lineup, the Wildcats did nothing but win as a team, with dual region and state titles in January and traditional region and state titles in February. Valdosta will have 12 starters with either post-season or significant regular-season starting experience in 2019-20, nine of those that were state qualifiers, seven that were medalists and one champion. The Wildcats will be very tough once again next year.
Key returners (15+ matches this past season or post-season experience) for 2019-20 (with year in school as they’ll be next year): Darrell Rochester (sophomore, 54-6 at 106, region champ, section champ, state runnerup); Kaleb Davis (sophomore, 27-24* at 113, region 3rd, section 6th, 1 match from state medal); Jordan Hampton (senior, 30-5 at 120, region champ, section runnerup, state 3rd); Tyler Lamon (sophomore, 40-11, region 3rd, section 4th, state 4th); Cameron Bradley (sophomore, 18-25* at 132, region runnerup, section 6th, 0-2 at states); John Walsh (junior, 23-19 at 132, did not comepte in post-season traditionals); Jordan Brown (senior, 13-21* at 145, region runnerup, 11th-12th at section); Sam McFarland (senior, 22-15 at 160, region runnerup, section 6th, state 6th); Katie Walker (junior, 2-10 at 176, girls’ section champ, state 6th); Antoine Scott (senior, 23-9 at 182, region champ, section runnerup, state 4th); Noah Pettigrew (sophomore, 34-0* at 195, region champ, section champ, state CHAMPION); LB Neloms (junior, 14-6 at 285, did not compete in post-season traditionals).
Graduation losses (15+ matches this past season or post-season experience) from this year’s team: Aushaud Evans (40-11 at 138, region runnerup, section 4th, state 5th); Javari Lester (18-11 at 152, region runnerup, section 4th, 1 match from state medal); Dominique Dale (51-8 at 170, region champ, section champ, state 3rd); Demetrius Allen (36-8 at 285, region champ, section 3rd, state runnerup).
* — Matmen’s compiled records. Only individual results missing were from Grapple on the Gridiron and a mix of results from Region 1-6A duals. Most records, where it made sense to do so based upon later reports, were adjusted to reflect these.
2018-19 MVP: Freshman Noah Pettigrew was listed throughout January, in tournaments where records were added, with two losses. I can’t find those losses. The only possibility is if the Wildcats counted his second-day two forfeits at Knockout, Florida’s strongest in-season tournament, as actual losses. That’s an unusual record-keeping moment. I have Pettigrew at 34-0, with title wins at Buford, Allstate Takedown, region, section and state titles. That’s a fantastic freshman year. It’ll be fun to see how the next three years evolve, who’s already on national radar as one of the elite bigs of the Class of 2022.
2019-20 captain: On a team that is going to return a ton of talent next year, it’s tough to pick from one of about five non-seniors (Pettigrew included) who could more than capably fill this role. And there are two rising seniors that particularly stand out in this capacity, one of them being Jordan Hampton. Hampton had five losses in 2018-19, all of them to either state champions or runners-up, and only one of them (the first one) led to bonus points. He had nearly a month where he was out of the lineup, but once he returned, he went undefeated up until the section final, where he lost to the eventual state champion.
Heaton’s Hero: Sophomore L.B. Neloms was the starter at 285 for the Wildcats in November, while the erstwhile starter was still in football, and won the Viking Challenge and took just one loss at the Gulf Coast tournament in Alabama. Thereafter, Neloms — with two exceptions — was in a backup role for the rest of the season and would not appear in the varsity lineup after December. But, he won a match at Knockout and finished fifth at Allstate Wildcat. Neloms was a solid team player for the Wildcats, and has already in this off-season competed in several events to get ready for next year. That’s what I like to see, and that makes L.B. Neloms the Heaton’s Hero for Valdosta.
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