Tobi Marez has no idea how the weekend is going to shake out, but that’s the nature of the beast.
When it comes to the state wrestling tournament, everybody is good. There are no weak links on any of the brackets, but Marez, Fort Walton Beach’s longtime coach, still likes his squad’s chances.
Four Vikings — Brandon Mallin, Patrick Adams, Eddie Alexis and Kaleb Williams —will be among seven area athletes representing the Emerald Coast when the Florida High School Wrestling State Championships begin Friday morning at Silver Spurs Arena in Kissimmee.
Where that quartet finishes is anyone’s guess, Marez said.
“It’s kinda funny because last weekend I was thinking the same thing: It could be all of ’em on the stand or a couple on the stand or none of ’em on the stand,” he said. “They’re very relaxed. They just wanna go wrestle and see what happens.
“That’s the best way to be this time of year.”
And that same mentality benefited the Vikings this past weekend at the Region 1-2A tournament.
A junior, Williams was the Vikes’ lone region champion, claiming his first career tournament championship with 4-2 sudden victory against Fletcher’s Ethan Hollenbach at 220 pounds.
“Listening to him, he was like, ‘All those things you’re yelling at me on the side, I started to kinda pay attention to those things,’” Marez said, laughing. “You could kinda see him put it all together.”
Williams will be matched up with Bayside junior Zandy Lanier in the opening round of the Class 2A tournament Friday.
Also a junior, Mallin is headed to state after placing second at regionals, losing a 5-3 decision to Pace’s Derrick Lancero in the first-place match at 120 pounds. He will match up with Poinciana’s Zayveon Mitchell on Friday morning.
A senior, Alexis placed third at regionals with a 7-2 decision against Mainland’s Doug Dittmer in the 195-pound third-place match and will face St. Thomas Aquinas’ Noah Lusk in the opening round at state.
Both Mallin and Alexis made appearances in Kissimmee a year ago.
“I’m real excited about them and their opportunities because to me when you get back here the second time, you know what to expect,” Marez said. “There’s no more surprises really.”
Rounding out Fort Walton Beach’s contenders, Adams, a 182-pound senior just in his second season playing the sport, fell to Lincoln’s Wyatt Yown 7-2 at regionals and will face Aryeh Mehl on Friday.
“For him to make it at a weight class that in our region was very well stacked was incredible also,” Marez said.
Overall, Marez said he was pleased with the first-round pairings.
“I think that we fell in the best places we could,” he said. “It’s state. We’ve got 16 of the best 2A wrestlers in each bracket, so it’s anybody’s game. There’s obviously some that are favored heavily, but you don’t know. Anything can happen.”
Additionally, Niceville seniors Jayden Pinto will represent the area at 132 pounds and 145 pounds respectively. Pinto topped Gulf Breeze’s Ian Daily 2-1 at regionals, and Creager topped Mosley’s Logan Gall 4-1, both earning third-place finishes. Daily will face Jesuit’s Jack Crook, and Creager will face Barron Collier’s Justin Ugarte in the opening rounds.
Meanwhile, South Walton sophomore Canyon Dart will represent the Seahawks in the Class 1A tournament. After placing fourth at 132 pounds with a 9-1 major decision loss against Suwannee’s Jaxson Sansouci at the Region 1-1A tournament, Dart will face Lake Highland Prep’s WIlliam Kennedy on Friday morning.