Matanzas beat Middleburg and Creekside to win their region.
Matanzas’ boys wrestling team made history on Thursday, Jan. 17, after the Pirates became the first Flagler County wrestling team to qualify for the Florida High School Dual Wrestling State Championship.
The Pirates pummeled Middleburg 78-6 in the quarterfinal round and faced District 4 rival Creekside in the regional’s final match at Matanzas High School. The two teams had just met five days earlier at Nease High School, with the Pirates winning by 8 points.
The Pirates, who missed out on qualifying for states by a point last season, hammered the Knights 44-27 to win the regional tournament.
“Last year hurt us a lot,” Matanzas’ 14-year head coach John White said. “We wanted to be a lot more decisive this year. They wanted to make sure there was no chance of us missing out again.”
Thursday’s win showed the Pirates’ growth over the past several seasons.
Matanzas’ Lawrence Russo, who went 2-0 at regionals, said there were about a dozen kids on the team his freshman year. Now in his senior year, there’s over 30 kids on the team.
“It’s awesome,” said Russo, who wrestles in the 132-pound class. “This program is going to go on for years and years.”
Fellow senior and heavy weight grappler Cecil Bermudez is only in his second year with the team. Although if he had high school to do over again, he would have joined the team much sooner.
He said the difference in this year’s team has been their belief in themselves.
“We have a lot more belief and a lot more heart,” he said. “With out that, you don’t really have a wrestling team.”
With state powerhouse Flagler Palm Coast to contend with, White said being the first Flagler team to accomplish such a feat was an added bonus.
“It’s nice for us to finally have something over them,” he said. “Hopefully we continue this tradition.”
The state duals tournament is on Friday, Jan. 25, and Saturday, Jan. 26, at Osceola High School in Kissimmee.