FLAGLER PALM COAST - Fleming Island High wrestling coach P.J. Cobbert has had the best of a few worlds the past decade or so as the Golden Eagles’ wrestling leader, but 2020, according to …
FLAGLER PALM COAST - Fleming Island High wrestling coach P.J. Cobbert has had the best of a few worlds the past decade or so as the Golden Eagles’ wrestling leader, but 2020, according to Cobbert has been one of the most challenging seasons in his 12 year tenure, but one thing remains.
“A lot of people thought this year with COVID and a strong graduating class would be the one where we might slip a little and maybe be vulnerable,” said Cobbert, as his Golden Eagles again took care of business by running away with the region 1-3A championship for a sixth year with three champions crowned; Hunter Herrington, Hunter Williams and Ethan Hofstetter. “We just keep grinding and believe in the process.”
Cobbert’s woes may have started with his history which includes an astounding seven graduated wrestlers competing in college at the highest level including Xavier Sampsel, an NAIA nationals qualifier; Jason Davis, the first Fleming Island state champion, and an NAIA All American for Southeastern; state champion Paul Detwiler, now ranked No. 1 in NCAA Division III for the Coast Guard Academy and state champion Ryan Smenda, Jr., a starting linebacker at NCAA Division I Wake Forest University. Add the COVID summer shutdown and then a slew of season-ending injuries to two stalwarts; Gavin Smith and Raul Gonzales.
“Those guys that graduated set a super high bar of excellence here and the kids that are following know that,” said Cobbert. “But they have bought into the process and the program is solid. We told them Monday in practice, the state meet is just another meet except that it is in a big arena with the word state on it. Those guys before this team never let the state meet get bigger that themselves. We just wrestle and we can make some noise.”
At the region meet, Fleming Island, prior to the finish of the semifinal rounds, was in a five point tussle with Orlando’s best challengers in Timber Creek, who Fleming Island beat in the state duals tournament to advance to the Final Four, and Lake Mary.
“We had a bunch in the semifinals and that got us points and four guys in the finals,” said Cobbert. “In the consolation rounds, we had enough depth to score a lot of points to kind of pull away from the rest of the field. Hunter (Herrington, a third place finisher last year at 113) won a tough semifinal against a top ranked guy. Catfish (Hunter Williams) must have thrown six Eastons out there like his big brother (Tyler Williams, another Fleming Island grad and state placer), and Ethan just is a big, athletic kid that doesn’t get tired.”
Herrington had the toughest road to his region with two state qualifiers in his path; Timber Creek’s Fernando Dominguez in the semifinal (a 3-2 win) and Apopka’s Tamarion Kendrick (a 7-4 win in the final). Williams blew up Mandarin’s Jaelen Simmons in this semifinal after a batch of three-point Eastons ended with an Easton pin in the semifinal, then a 6-3 decision over Buchholz’ Jason Martin in the final. Hofstetter took a tough 2-1 win over Oakleaf’s Jordan Mitchell in his semifinal before winning in overtime over Ocoee’s Jordan Phillips in the final.
“The Oakleaf guy beat us and we knew he was a good athlete and we told Ethan to be smart and don’t make a mistake,” said Cobbert. “The Oakleaf guy got us on our own mistake last time. In the overtime, Ethan just never lets things phase him and he keeps going forward.”
Also in the semifinals, Sandoval pinned late on Hagerty’s Ethan Gomez before losing via pin to Creekside’s Hunter Brown in the final.
Prior to the semifinals, Fleming Island and Lake Mary were tied at 97.5 with Timber Creek at 92 and Hagerty just off the mark with 89, but after the semifinals and with Fleming Island scoring five third place finishers, the score bolted to a 189 to 138 win for the Golden Eagles over Hagerty with Buchholz emerging in third at 127.5 and Flagler Palm Coast fourth at 115.5.
“Our young kids may not have got to the finals because this is a little overwhelming atmosphere for some, just like the Clay match we had, but they come to wrestle hard and the thirds get us team points,” said Cobbert. “We adjusted our practice for this week to get them to wrestle a little tired just to know what to expect down there.”
Fleming Island got a runnerup finish from Joshua Sandoval at 170 and thirds from Riley Holton at 126; Xavier Logan at 132; David Parkes at 160, and Grant Travis at 220. Fleming Island also got a fourth place finish from Joseph Forte at 106.
Oakleaf advanced four wrestlers with Kevin Gilley, third at 120; Marcus McGee, fourth at 126 with a loss to Fleming Island’s Riley Holton, Trevor Owens at 138, and Isaiah Shevchook getting third at 195. Shevchook, who beat Williams earlier in the season, did not get to wrestle Williams in the region tournament.