Second generation of Florida wrestlers taking over for displaced fathers
|By Mike Finn, W.I.N. Editor
Jeff Davis was standing just a few feet from the mat where his son, Nick, was wrestling in the FargoDome at the Junior Nationals.
But the elder Davis appeared to be the one wrestling as he mimicked his 171-pound son; stepping back when he wanted Nick to avoid a takedown attempt by the defending champion Rocco Caponi, then one moment later lunging forward as if to help his son apply pressure to his opponent.
By the end of the freestyle match, Nick was the victor by a 7-2 score to guarantee himself All-American status at the annual event in Fargo, N.D. And though the native of Gainesville, Fla., was forced to settle for fifth place despite losing just one of nine matches in the tournament and beating runner-up Louis Socier, 9-2 the younger Davis continued his familys legacy in a state that is not considered a wrestling power.
"Wrestling is still a neophyte in our state compared to the big powerhouse states, where you have generations of families wrestling," said Nick’s mother Donna Davis, whose father-in-law John was a successful wrestling coach in Florida, husband Jeff was a two-time state champion and sired two sons, John III and Nick, who have excelled in wrestling. "Our family is the first generation of that kind of gene pool."
And like his other brother, John, who wrestles for the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga, Nick Davis also earned a scholarship from a Division I program, Minnesota.
"In north Florida you have great individuals but not teams. He wanted to be on a great team where everyone was on the same level," sai
"I wish I could stay home," admitted Nick. "The University of Florida is in my backyard but there is no wrestling there. The closest I could go was to UT-Chattanooga."
That is the dilemma the Davis family and many other Florida wrestling families face 25 years after the University of Florida dropped its wrestling program in 1979, leaving the Sunshine State without any NCAA Division I programs.
That was an especially bitter moment for Jeff, who served as the assistant coach of the Gator program, whose final two recruiting classes were ranked No. 1 in the country. Davis said the University of Florida was played by Charley Pell, the Gator football coach who was just hired in 1979.
(You can read the rest of this article by subscribing to W.I.N. Magazine. Either contact our office at 1-888-305-0606 or subscribe through this website by selecting the "Subscribe" section on our front page.)