Sean Culbreth, Quenteen Robinson and Lawerence Russo each placed at the state tournament on March 8-9.
When Matanzas’ Shaun Culbreth stepped on the mat for his first match of the 2019 FHSAA wrestling state tournament, he was wasn’t dazed by the thousands of spectators, screaming coaches or skilled grapplers who packed Silver Spurs Arena.
He had been here before — a year ago as a first-time varsity wrestler.
Although he didn’t place at last year’s meet — he lost in the blood round, which is right before wrestlers are eligible to place — the experience prepared him for what was to come this season.
He was focused on each match.
Culbreth, a junior, finished in sixth place in the 113-pound weight class, joining fellow junior Quenteen Robinson and senior Lawrence Russo as the three Pirates to place at this year’s tournament, which took place on March 8-9 in Kissimmee.
Robinson took fifth in the 170-pound weight class, and Russo finished in sixth in the 132-pound weight class.
“The excitement that I felt when I knew I was going to be in the semifinals was awesome,” Culbreth said. “And watching my teammates place was even better.”
The Pirates’ success at the state tournament was the final touch on a season decorated with quality performances and program firsts.
Matanzas made history on Jan. 17, becoming the first Flagler County wrestling team to qualify for the FHSAA dual wrestling state championship.
The Pirates steamrolled rival Flagler Palm Coast, traditionally one of the top teams in the state, 51-24 on Jan. 23. It was the Pirates’ first win over the Bulldogs in 10 years.
“It’s just the little things that can make a difference. I expect our underclassmen to be higher on the awards stand next year now that they know what it takes.”
John White, Matanzas coach
The Pirates went back-to-back to claim in the district championship on Feb. 20, with six individual champions. And on March 3, the Pirates made history again, finishing second at the regional tournament, with nine wrestlers qualifying for the state meet — a program record.
Robinson, who joined the Pirates’ wrestling team a year ago after moving from Pennsylvania, thought back to this past summer when asked to reflect on the team’s success this season. He remembered all the running, lifting and hard practices that helped build the team.
“Matanzas wrestling has come a long way,” he said. “We took the area by storm this year.”
Matanzas coach John White said this season was the culmination of four years of hard work and dedication and that this season was not “a one-time deal.”
“Coach T.J. Gillin came to our program four years ago, and this was one of the things that he predicted: In four years, we’re going to be a contender,” White said. “These guys have been busting their butts, and we’re finally starting to see the benefits of all that.”
What’s expected: continued success.
“People are going to see the kind of team we’re becoming,” Robinson said, “and they’re going to want to be a part of it.”