Neither Jacob Geiger of Lincoln High nor MaShawn Knight of Godby really knew what to expect when they arrived at the recent AAU Wrestling Scholastic Duals in Orlando.
Yet, the pair immediately understood the enormity of the event.
The annual five-day showdown at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at the Walt Disney World Resort featured high school wrestlers from across the country.
Twenty-eight mats were spread across two gymnasiums. More than one thousand dual meets between 138 teams in four divisions were held between the pool rounds and bracket rounds. More than 14,000 individual matches were staged.
“It was a lot of fun besides being really nerve-racking,” said Geiger, a rising junior. “There were so many good wrestlers there that if you lost, it really didn’t matter. It was a great experience that will make you better.”
Both Geiger and Knight proved their abilities and medaled in their respective weight classes – Geiger placed third in the 113-pound division at 10-2 and earned All-America status; Knight placed fourth in the heavyweight division at 9-3.
“I really didn’t know what to expect but it was great being in that environment and learning from guys who are trying to get better, too,” said Knight, a rising senior. “It teaches you that you can’t ever let up if you intend to keep wrestling and succeed at it.”
While both Geiger and Knight were first-team All-Big Bend selections last season, they were excited to test their skills against wrestlers from other states. Most matches featured plenty of intensity and drama.
“You knew every match was going to be a war and that fear of losing motivated you,” said Geiger, who suffered a one-point loss in one defeat. “It was great learning experience in being aggressive and creating more openings.”
Wrestlers who went undefeated in the tournament received a gold medal, wrestlers with one loss received a silver medal, wrestlers with two losses received a bronze medal and a wrestler with three losses received a copper medal. The event ended last Tuesday.
“It was good to face new competition, guys you never heard of or seen before,” said Knight, who suffered one defeat to the Illinois state champion. “You know they are all good wrestlers, so you compete as hard as you can and even surprise yourself at times.”
Geiger, a regional and district champion with a record of 41-7 last year, has had busy summer. He attended a pair of local wrestling camps in addition to another national tournament.
Knight, a fifth-place finisher in the state tournament last year with a 21-7 record, has turned one eye to football. He is a lineman for the defending state champion Cougars.
“Football is closer but my ultimate goal is to be a state champion in wrestling,” Knight said.
Down and Dirty
Wakulla High’s Bryce Beverly and Hunter Hurst were rated among the top-10 lineman at the Down and Dirty Camp last week at Weber International University in central Florida.
More than 400 prep players from across the state attended the four-day camp designed for offensive and defensive linemen.
Beverly, a rising senior, has received college interest from Jacksonville State, Southern Miss, Middle Tennessee and Florida A&M. Hurst is a rising junior.
The War Eagles also finished second behind FAMU High in Wakulla’s recent 7-on-7 passing tournament.