'We want to be the best': FPC wrestling geared up for successful season
When John Johnson walked into the gym at Flagler Palm Coast High School for his first wrestling practice with the Bulldogs, he was nervous.
Before the freshman — who had never wrestled prior to high school — took to the mat, he anxiously peeked around at the gym’s walls.
“It was completely nerve-wracking,” said Johnson, who is now in his third year of wrestling for FPC. “They were always either state champs or placing really high. It’s a challenge I want to live up to.”
The Bulldogs have a legacy of great wrestling teams, and nearly halfway into the season, this year’s squad appears to have shouldered the school’s long-held tradition.
FPC (3-0) pounded Orange Park 67-12 on the night of Wednesday, Dec. 13, at FPC High School. The Bulldogs steamrolled their previous opponents by a combined score of 131-25. In addition, the Bulldogs’ Michael DeAugustino, who did not compete against Orange Park due to injury, was named the “Most Outstanding Wrestler” of the Capital City Wrestling Classic on Dec. 8-9 in Tallahassee, where FPC finished second out of 25 teams.
Bulldogs coach Thomas Bartolotta said he doesn’t feel the pressure of living up to the success of past teams.
“It’s not pressure. It’s just, as a competitor, it’s what I believe the program should strive for,” he said. “We want to be the best. We want to be a state championship team.
“We’ve got a great program here and a lot of support. The kids are great, the parents are great and it just means the world to me.”
And despite the team’s hot start to the season, none of the Bulldogs — coaches and players alike — think FPC is nearing its peak.
“Not even close,” Johnson said. “Obviously, we want to be state champions, but we’ve got a lot of work to get there and a lot of hard wrestling to look forward to.”