A never-in-doubt victory Thursday against Lakewood Ranch, Palmetto head coach Bryan Wilkes will say, cannot be indicative of his Tigers’ success so far this season.
Palmetto wrapped up a 48-30 win in about half an hour and won only two matches on the mat. The rest of the Tigers’ scoring came via forfeits. Palmetto won six weight classes because the Mustangs didn’t have a challenger, including a match scheduled for Dom Bass, the Tigers’ top performer from a year ago.
“A little disappointing,” Wilkes said. “But we’re ahead of where we wanted to be, actually.”
Wilkes pointed to Palmetto’s two early-season performances at the East Lake Invitational and the Captain Archer Tournament. In East Lake, the Tigers finished third. At the Captain Archer in Punta Gorda, Palmetto logged a program-best sixth-place finish. Two Tigers finished second at the prestigious tournament, which draws some of the best teams from the region. Only one of those two wrestled Thursday.
Travis Merway was one of Palmetto’s two on-the-mat winners, securing a pin in 5:09 in the dual meet’s first match. The senior is planning to wrestle in the 106-pound weight class for the fourth straight year, but went up to 113 to get a match at William “Butch” Hughes Gymnasium.
“We moved some of our guys up to at least try to get matches,” Wilkes said, although he couldn’t find a match for Bass or 182-pounder Alonzo Houston.
So Merway wound up with the toughest challenge of the Tigers’ stalwarts. He reached the regional final a year ago despite being undersized for the 106 division. Wrestling up a weight class on Thursday simulated some of the struggles he encountered during his first three years in Palmetto in the 106 weight class.
He took a beating at times in previous seasons, and Wilkes said he’s primed for some revenge as a senior. He grew a couple inches during the summer and packed on about 20 pounds. Now he even has to cut weight to get down to the 106 weight class he expects to once again compete in.
“It’s made me not want to give up,” Merway said. “It made me know what it is to lose, and I just go out there and always wrestle strong and give it your all at all times, no matter how far you are down.
“It gave me a good experience. That’s all you need.”
The only other winner for the Tigers was Kevin Schneider, a promising sophomore who recorded a pin in 57 seconds to win at 126 pounds. Lakewood Ranch won all of the other matches contested. Michael Seaman won at 120, Hunter Reed won at 138, Chase Sharp won at 195 and Logan Bounds won at 220.
“We’re going to be a good team. We’re going to be tough to beat,” Merway said. “Districts, I think we can win. I just think we can place high in every tournament we go to.”