Matanzas returns two state qualifiers from last season.
Matanzas’ boys wrestling team had one of its most successful seasons in program history in 2018-19.
The Pirates made history by becoming the first Flagler County wrestling team to qualify for the Florida High School Dual Wrestling State Championship, where they finished in a four-way tie for fifth. The Pirates steamrolled rival Flagler Palm Coast, traditionally one of the top teams in the state, 51-24 on Jan. 23 for the Pirates’ first win over the Bulldogs in 10 years.
And to top it off, S.J. Culbreth, Quenteen Robinson and Lawrence Russo (since graduated) all placed at the FHSAA wrestling state tournament. Robinson and Culbreth, both juniors at the time, placed fifth and sixth, respectively. Russo finished sixth.
The Pirates begin the 2019-20 season ranked No. 6 in the state, according to Matmen, and they do so under a new head coach: T.J. Gillan, an assistant coach of four years, who was hired to replace longtime head coach John White, who stepped down in May to focus on the Pirates’ girls wrestling team.
“There was just a lot of anticipation building up to this season,” Gillan said. “Our room is tough. We’ve got some hammers.”
Matanzas set a goal of bringing home hardware from the state championship. That hasn’t changed. “This year we’re trying to find the toughest competition we can find,” Gillan said. “Every day we try to learn and get better.”
Culbreth and Robinson return to lead the Pirates in their final high school seasons. Robinson is currently the No. 1-ranked grappler in the 170-pound class.
“It feels great being a part of the best team in the area,” he said. “I feel like we’re going to take the state by storm this year.”
Culbreth added: “If we keep getting tough kids and the coaches keep coaching the way they have been, this team will go far even once all the seniors graduating. We’re going to be a tough team.”