There Is a 'Me' in Wrestling Teams; Individual Results Mean Team Points as Area Teams Begin Playoffs Today

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Byline: ZACHARY SPAIN

With each successive round of the district, regional and state wrestling tournaments, which begin today, the rosters of area teams will shrink.

Because only individual wrestlers advance through the postseason, the role of the team is diminished. Instead, schools earn team points based on how far its wrestlers go.

The top four finishers in each of 14 weight classes will advance to next week's regionals.

"More now [than during the regular season], you are concerned with the individual," said Mandarin coach Jamie Harrison.

Such is the paradox of a team sport in which each wrestler competes alone.

The Mustangs have won four consecutive district meets and will likely compete with Niceville for another during Saturday's District 1-3A tournament at Sandalwood. Last season, Mandarin placed eighth in their region, one of the state's toughest, and 23rd at the 3A state meet.

For a team to place well at regional and state meets, a few standouts can be enough to out-place a school that qualified more wrestlers. For example, Bolles finished 11th in Class A last season despite having only three wrestlers in the meet.

Of course, coaches hope to advance as many wrestlers as possible.

"We set goals at the beginning of the season," First Coast coach Michael Carty said. "One of them was to send everyone from districts to regions."

And with numbers come an increased likelihood of a state championship. In Class A last season, Suwannee had 10 wrestlers in the state tournament and finished second. Clay finished fourth with seven wrestlers, including two state champions.

"[Postseason success] is very much an individual basis," said Fleming Island coach Jeff Jordan, whose Golden Eagles will contend with Tallahassee Lincoln and Columbia in District 2-2A today. …