The Nease wrestling program celebrated senior night Jan. 11 before defeating the Atlantic Coast Stingrays 39-26.
“It’s always a big night,” said Nease Coach Craig Muckle. “We preach family. We’re really tight. Any guy that leaves, I always have a hard time. I’m a big, emotional guy. It’s always tough.”
The team honored seniors Aidan Pagana, Jon Walter, Derek Alexander, Matt Valdivieso, Cayse Clouse, Dylan Martinson and Dalton Koike. Parent and team assistant Brian Pagana said these student athletes are true leaders.
“Too often, athletes, and in this case wrestlers, are thought of as ‘jocks,’” said Pagana. “But if you look at the senior class we have this season, you will see they are a much more diverse group than just athletes. We have class presidents, National Honor Society members and accomplished musicians.”
A team captain, Aidan Pagana picked up a win at 138 pounds after pinning his opponent. Throughout his career at Nease, the four-year varsity letterman has advanced to both districts and regions. Off the mat, Pagana served as class president from ninth to 11th grade as well as student council advisor in 12th grade. He plans to major in pre-dentistry at University of Central Florida, Florida State University or University of Florida.
Also a team captain, Walter suffered a mild concussion during his match at 220 pounds after Muckle said the opposing Atlantic Coast wrestler committed an illegal move. Walter was taken to a local hospital and forced to forfeit the match.
“He didn’t control him back to the ground,” said Muckle. “It wasn’t malicious. He didn’t do it on purpose. It was a scramble, they got caught in the air and he landed on the back of his head.”
A two-year varsity letterman, Walter also advanced to districts and regions while at Nease. In addition to wrestling, Walter played on the football team for four years and served as a chief petty officer in the Nease ROTC. He’s interested in admission to the U.S. Coast Guard Academy as well as political science.
Alexander won his match by forfeit at 160 pounds because Atlantic Coast didn’t have a wrestler at that weight class. In addition to wrestling at Nease for two years, Alexander has been a member of Nease ROTC. He also plays piano and oboe for Nease’s wind ensemble as well as the Jacksonville Symphony Youth Orchestra. Alexander plans to attend Florida State University.
Valdivieso was not in the varsity lineup against the Stingrays. A four-year wrestler for Nease, he is also a member of the student council, senior class vice president and ambassador for the communications academy. He plans to travel and then join the U.S. Air Force.
The wrestling program also honored Clouse, who has served as the team’s manager for three years. She plans to attend the Arizona Academy for Emergency Services and major in paramedic studies. Martinson and Koike were recognized but unable to attend the match.
Throughout the match, Nease juniors Brenden Teaman and Jacob Sorgen won via pins at 126 pounds and 145 pounds, respectively. In the most exciting match of the night at 170 pounds, junior Grayson Suggs defeated his opponent 5-3 in overtime.
“Our guys worked hard,” said Muckle. “They kept going. They never stopped.”
Freshman Colin White lost his match at 152 pounds in a close 2-2 contest that ended in a pin. Junior Jarrod Case and freshman Nick Thoressen also lost their matches at 182 pounds and 195 pounds, respectively.
Moving forward, Muckle said his message to the team is to focus.
“Work and get better each day,” he said. “Each day is a new day.”