FPC placed fifth in the annual Flagler Rotary tournament.
The Flagler Rotary wrestling tournament — held Saturday, Feb. 1, at Flagler Palm Coast High School — was a grueling affair. Each wrestler squared off against multiple opponents throughout the day.
It was win and survive.
FPC’s A.J. Cinelli, who grapples in the 285-pound weight class, was one such wrestler. Cinelli advanced to the semifinals behind two pins and a 1-0 quarterfinal victory over Fleming Island’s Raul Gonzalez. Cinelli, however, lost to Seminole’s Curtis Ruff.
Cinelli pinned Oakleaf’s Josh Murrell in the consolation semifinals, and faced Harmony’s Darren Davis in the match for third place.
They were tied 1-1 at the end of the third period and went into a 1-minute sudden-victory overtime. Cinelli almost had a takedown, but the clock ran out. They went to a second and third overtime — 30 seconds each, where each wrestler received a choice. Cinelli started down and earned his point. He was able to hold Davis down long enough in the next period to earn the victory.
“I thought I had won after the first overtime,” Cinelli said. “I knew this was going to be a tough one. It was going to be a long one. I think it’s a testament to our conditioning.”
Cinelli was one of six Bulldogs to place in the tournament. FPC’s Blaine DeFord (152) and Kyle Peacock (138) took third in their respective weight classes. The Bulldogs placed fifth as a team.
The Bulldogs are only a couple of weeks off their win at the Class 3A-District 2 duals championship.
The Bulldogs’ second-year head coach, Zach Sanford, attributes the success his team has seen so far this season to the work they put in going back to this past summer.
Sanford said there were at least 12 guys in the wrestling room nearly every day in the summer, working on their skills.
“They've put the work in,” he said. “We’ve got a great culture in that room of hard work and accountability. That’s translated into the success we’ve had so far this year. They’re reaping the rewards of their hard work.”
Up next, the Bulldogs will compete in the Five Star Conference Championship on Saturday, Feb. 8, at New Smyrna Beach High School. They host districts on Feb. 21.
“We have big expectations,” Sanford said. “But I don’t want to think too far ahead.”