The Wild Shark Migration
The 2021 and 2022 Florida Grid League Championship Runner-Up team, Gainesville Wild, has had 4 of their key players sign for the 2023 Season with the Southwest Florida Sharks. Blake Kidder, Sammy Nalley, Sam Martin, and Nick Shappee join the already stacked team of the Southwest Florida Sharks, who just missed their bid to last year’s Conference Finals to the Wild. These four will fill in the missing gaps from last year’s team and anchor in their strengths.
Rewind to the end of the 2022 GRID season. The Gainesville Wild lost in the Championship Final to the Fort Lauderdale Lions with a final score of 16-20. Post-season, the Wilds coach has a season wrap-up meeting with the team. In this meeting, he let everyone know he would no longer be coaching the Gainesville Wild and would be transferring the team’s ownership. In that meeting, many of the current Wild players stated they would not be returning for the 2023 season due to life obligations they had that year. This left the remaining players confused with a lot of unanswered questions. Nick Shappee remembers feeling betrayed because the team was like a family to him, and everyone was leaving; he even left mid-call and wasn’t sure if he would return this year either.
During the athlete re-signing period, Dan Jackson, the new head coach and owner of the Gainesville Wild, was still trying to figure out his team ownership status and had yet to make any athlete re-signs. No re-signs and little communication left the players confused and open to free agency. At that time, other coaches contacted the Wild players about playing for their teams. Nick Habich did not sign all 4 at once – it happened within a 4 week time period. Habich signed Sammy first, but Blake and Sam took a little longer. Blake and Sam are well-known in the league and were likely heavily scouted to be on other teams. By the time Dan was confident he would be able to take on the role as owner of the Wild, the former players were already signed to a new team. He was disappointed but also understood they had to do what was best for them.
Nick Habich knew they had lost their best female utility player going into the 2023 season and needed to find another strong female utility player to fill that position. During athlete re-signing, he noticed Sammy had yet to be signed to a team, she was a free agent, and he messaged her about joining the Sharks.
Sammy Nalley is the reigning league MVP. She is a utility player who has been to the CrossFit games in 2021 on team Timberwolf CrossFit. She is an athlete capable of clearing the ladder and also performing high-level gymnastics movements such as ring forward rolls and uprises. As coach Nick Habich states, “She is one of the strongest well-rounded females in the league, and if he couldn’t get Sammy, he needed to find someone like her.” He let Sammy know they have some of the strongest females in the league already signed to the team, so if she signed with them, she would not have to carry as large of the workload as she has had to in the past. Even the current team captains of the Sharks knew they wanted Sammy on the team if they could get her.
Nick Shappee was a player all the current Sharks members wanted on the team. Nick Shappee is a secret ninja; the current Sharks players always considered Shappee one of the best players in the league. He can move fast for large amounts of reps. Chipping away at that amount of reps quickly is a game-changer in the league. Shappee has not gotten as much attention in the league in the past, but he will be a big-impact player this year for the Sharks.
Sammy and Nick had been discussing their plans for the upcoming season. They knew they wanted to be part of a team with a similar family culture to the one they had with the Wild. The excitement about flying down multiple weekends in the summer was more than just competing in a match; it was their camaraderie and family-like feeling with their teammates. Both talked to the owner of the Southwest Florida Sharks and liked the culture and the position they would have on the team for this upcoming year. In addition, they knew the former Wild head coach was close with the Sharks owner and head coach and would vouch for him. They had mutually decided that if one signed with the Sharks, the other would go with them to keep some of that camaraderie alive.
ir At this time, several other teams were scouting Sam Martin and Blake Kidder. Sam Martin is one of the fastest male bodyweight specialists in the league. Like the other former Wild players, he was confused about what was happening. He was torn between staying on the Wild, going to the Aces, or signing with the Sharks. He loved the Wild and felt it was his team, but his “family” was leaving and going their separate ways. Taylar Stallings, the head coach of the Orlando Aces, was the reason he got into the league in the first place. He felt if he wasn’t going to come back and play for the Wild, he should play for the Aces. Then he saw that Sammy and Nick had officially signed with the Sharks. Knowing that some of his Wild teammates were returning to play for the league changed his thought process. Now if he signed with the Sharks, he would have the opportunity to play with his teammates and close friends again.
At this point, he was torn between playing for the Aces or the Sharks. He spent over a week thinking and praying about his decision, and then Blake Kidder called and said, “What are we doing? Wherever you go, I go. If you sign with the Aces, I’ll be an Ace; if you want to join Nick and Sammy on the Sharks, I’ll be a Shark.” They both decided that the camaraderie they built was one of the most important aspects of their GRID experience and signed with the Sharks. Unfortunately, Blake will not be able to participate this year due to personal obligations.
Joining the Sharks was an interesting move for Sam Martin, as the Sharks were already the home to the fastest bodyweight specialist in the league, Quentin Ambrioso. Nick Habich commented on having two extremely strong and fast bodyweight specialists on the team this year. Having both will allow Quentin to get the rest in areas he does not need to be in so that he can perform at his peak when he has to come out and perform high-level gymnastics. Nick states. “Quentin would say cardio/endurance is not his strongest point, so giving him the rest he needs between races will help set the team apart. Having Sam will keep that speed consistent in races like Jack and Jill.”
Sam followed up, saying he’s mostly excited to be back on a team again with Blake, Nick, and Sammy. He’s always looked up to Quentin with gymnastics stating, “I guess I’m turning into him, first the back uprises and now the mustache” referring to how Quentin helped give him tips and tricks at a match to get his ring back uprises and Sam’s new mustache he grew out this off-season.
Adding these players to the Sharks roster will allow the current team to showcase the whole athlete, abilities, and strengths. The Sharks are no longer the underdogs. They can play this year, knowing they are a team to beat.
Article by - Carissa Macay
Former Body Weight Specialist for the Gainesville Wild 2020 & 2021. Returning this year to capture the athlete's perspective of the FGL Season.
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