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NFM wrestlers looking forward to good season
January 24, 2018

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The North Fort Myers High School wrestling team over the past few seasons has been living proof that filling out a roster is half the battle on the mat.

Under head coach Jesse Nester, the Red Knights have not given up a match by forfeit in three years. In a sport where filling out the roster can be a struggle for a lot of programs, it has paid dividends at North.

"It's important to have kids in every slot, because they mean points. It's not easy for every school to do that," said assistant coach Chris Sneddon, who also coaches the offensive line for the football team. "A lot of the kids are football kids and they've been asked to give the sport a try to help them stay in shape."

Many of the kids have bought into the program while others do it to stay in shape and help the guys who are good at it.

For the first time, the Florida High School Athletic Association held team state championships. North used its numbers to finish runner-up in the District 2A-11 tourney to area power Riverdale, which allowed them to advance to regionals at Riverdale, where they were beaten by Palmetto Ridge.

That doesn't mean the season was a failure. It won the Best of the West dual meet on Dec. 21, besting all the Cape Coral schools for the second straight year.

"These kids come in and they work hard. They do everything that's asked of them, get on the mat, and have more physicality than some teams because of the football mentality," Sneddon said.

Now, the focus is on the individual championships, which start in a few weeks. The Red Knights figure to have several kids make it to regionals, and depending on the brackets could have a state qualifier like they did in Jason Snukus last season.

The two best candidates for states are freshman Caleb Massari at 106 and junior Adolphus Taylor at heavyweight. Michael Chase (170) and Chris Brown (113) are also expected to go to regionals.

Taylor won the Captain Archer tournament at Charlotte, while Massari and Chase were runners-up.

Taylor admits he isn't a big fam of wrestling, doing it just to get in shape for football. But wrestling has helped him with his athletic skills.

"It's made me faster and a lot more durable, I last longer when I run," Taylor said. "I'm a football player who wrestles."

Massari is truly a wrestler, having done it in youth meets from age 6 to middle school when he took a break before taking it back up in high school.

"It's fun to be on the team. Team duals are more fun because you have your buddies with you cheering you on," Massari said, who is ranked 15th in the state. "Individually, it's about getting your rank up so you get easier matchups early on."

It has been a long grind for this team's trek toward respectability. One of those who knows that is Jade Ciganek, who wrestlers at 138 and is the only girl on the team.

"Each year we've brought in more and more wrestlers and they stick with it and get better," Ciganek said. "We got bigger and won more tournaments and became more a team than just individuals."

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