FLEMING ISLAND – Powered by four individual champions, the Fleming Island High wrestling team scored a strong second place team finish at their own Keystone Invitational on Dec. 2 behind Georgia powerhouse Camden County High School.
“We used to get a handful of teams to this meet, but this weekend we had 17 teams come with four from Georgia including one of the best high school programs probably in the southeastern United States,” said Fleming Island coach P.J. Cobbert, who guided the Golden Eagles to a second place team finish in Class 3A last year behind South Dade High School.
“Camden County has four state titles in the past four years and for them to come here is an honor for our program. We still wanted to beat them, but we were without three of our varsity athletes that just
finished football playoffs.”
Powered by an impressive performance from state third placer Paul Detwiler, a senior, Fleming Island garnered solo titles from Detwiler at 170, Lou Gagliardo at 106, Jaquan English at 132 and Trace Insalaco at 160 while getting 787 team points behind Camden County’s 979 points. Camden County has won three straight state titles; two (2015, 2016) in Georgia’s 5A class and last year in the 7A class.
Behind Fleming Island were Richmond Hill (GA) with 752 points, Camden County’s B team with 610 points and Valdosta (GA) with 580 teams with Boone High of Orlando the closest Florida school at fifth at a distant 332.
“We invited the Georgia schools knowing we could make this a super competitive meet just because of their history,” said Cobbert. “We travel to Richmond Hill in a few weeks to battle in their gym.”
Detwiler, third at 152 last year, scored 92 team points on his six pins for the afternoon including a first period fall against Camden County’s Hunter Malson in the championship match.
“Paul is the leader of the team by action,” said Cobbert. “He doesn’t say much, but he just executes and works hard.”
For English and Gagliardo, two recent transfers; English from Raines and Gagliardo from nearby Clay High, both rifled through their matches with power and finesse with English winning eight of nine matches (one bye) with six pins, one major decision and two decisions; 9-2 and 6-1. Gagliardo, who only had six wrestlers in his 106 weight division, got a first round bye, then dominated with three pins, one tech pin (17-1 decision) and a major decision (13-0) before trouncing Camden County’s Nathan Orum 8-0 in the final.
“Good athletes want to be part of a good program,” said Cobbert. “They have both learned our way of doing things with no gap in their learning process.”
Insalaco, who joined the Fleming Island team last year, pounded his 160 pound division with a final 8-5 win over Valdosta’s very rugged Dominique Dale in the final.
“He had to keep his cool for that match because his guy was very strong and did not give Trace much room to work,” said Cobbert. “A guy like that frustrates a smooth wrestler like Trace, so we just instructed him to wrestle hard, compete and score points.”
In other championship matches for Fleming Island, at 113, Briar Jackson lost a 6-4 decision to Camden County’s Nicholas Krug, a defending Georgia champion, and Jacob Sandoval, at 126, lost 8-0 to another Camden County defending state champion, Brandon Orum.
Getting thirds for Fleming Island were Albie Snedeaker at 120, Vincent Hauser at 145 and Luke Chop at 152. Chop was awarded the Keystone Trophy, named for former Fleming Island wrestler Robert “Keystone” Northway, for his courageous wrestling efforts. Northway lost his life at 16 in 2010 to a tragic car accident.
Also competing from Clay County, Middleburg High finished 12th with 154 led by third place finisher Tazz Hampton at 106 who beat Valdosta’s Trent Broome 5-4 in their championship match.