Gabby Proctor, Christina Borgmann and Tiana Fries walk with teammates, coaches and parents to gather for a parade around the school March 10 celebrating the girls wrestling team's state championship. Photo by Brent Woronoff
John White started the girls wrestling program at Matanzas and helped convince the FHSAA to sanction a state championship. Photo by Brent Woronoff
Palm Coast Observer
John White stood in the back of the courtyard, away from the stage as Matanzas High School celebrated the girls wrestling team's state championship.
The Pirates won the title on March 4 in Kissimmee. It was the first team championship in school history, and Matanzas celebrated the breakthrough on Friday, March 10, with a pep rally during each of the two lunch periods followed by a parade through the school, led by the band's drumline.
Each of the team's 10 state qualifiers were introduced. Individual state champ Kendall Bibla received the most applause. Head girls wrestling coach Mike Fries and athletic director Jordan Butler each spoke, praising the team's accomplishments.
"This is something our school never accomplished in any sport," Principal Kristin Bozeman said as she watched the festivities. "They're great kids, and they have great coaches. They worked so hard, and not just in the wrestling season. We're very proud."
The championship would not have come this soon without White, who started the girls wrestling program at Matanzas and was one of the coaches to help convince the Florida High School Athletic Association to sanction the sport.
I knew ultimately they would win a state championship, and I had a feeling it would come this year. I'm very proud of them. — JOHN WHITE
"I knew when I stepped down that the program was in good hands," White said. "I knew ultimately they would win a state championship, and I had a feeling it would come this year. I'm very proud of them."
White established both the boys and girls wrestling programs at the school. The seeds of the girls championship began in 2015-16 with one wrestler — Makayla Wilder — who finished second in the unofficial state tournament that season.
"We had two the next year, then four," White said.
By year five, the Pirates had a full girls team and, with the administration's approval, White handed the boys' team over to coach T.J. Gillin, while he concentrated on the girls' program.
Gillin, Fries and Jeremiah Marschka coach boys and girls together, with Fries the head girls coach. Fries joined the Matanzas wrestling program last year and got out in the halls and recruited girls to the team.
The team's success — the Pirates finished third at the FHSAA's first girls championships last season — helped convince Brielle and Kendall Bibla to transfer from Tocoi Creek. Brielle and Christina Borgmann's runner-up finishes and Kendall's title helped put the Pirates over the top in team points.
Of the seven Matanzas wrestlers who placed at state, six are returning next season.
"It's fortunate we've had some consistency with the coaching staff since Day 1," White said. "We wanted to build championship teams."