Flagler Palm Coast wrestler Ethan Laupepa had just two losses this season entering last weekend’s 38th annual Flagler Rotary Tournament. One of them was to the wrestler he would meet in the final.
“I knew I was going to see him,” said Laupepa, who changed strategies and defeated Bartram Trail’s Jacob George to win the 215-pound championship on Saturday, Jan. 27, at FPC.
Toryion Stallings also won his championship and four other FPC wrestlers placed in the top six as the Bulldogs finished second behind Winter Springs for the team title among 30 teams in the field.
“I think our guys wrestled hard (in the two-day tournament),” FPC coach David Bossardet said. “That’s one thing I asked them to do, and I feel from top to bottom they did that. It was a tough tournament. We didn't finish as a team where we wanted to, but I like the direction we’re headed.”
The Bulldogs also honored their four seniors — Laupepa, Stallings, Kelton Howard and Brandon Calidonio — before the final session.
Howard placed second in the 165-pound class. Freshman Trey Twilley placed third in the 126-pound class. Junior Carson Baert placed fourth in the 144-pound class. And Calidonio placed sixth in the 175-pound class.
George had pinned Laupepa in a regional dual match earlier in January. In that match, Laupepa took George down, but the Bartram Trail wrestler reversed Laupepa and got the pin.
This time, Laupepa continued to have success on his feet but cut away after takedowns and won a 9-4 decision.
“It feels pretty good to win this tournament,” said Laupepa who placed third last year. “This was my last year here, and this was my last time wrestling in this gym.”
Stallings won the 132-pound championship with a 7-2 decision over Liberty County’s Jay Brown. Stallings improved to 34-2 on the season. Wrestling for Matanzas last year, Stallings finished second at the 2023 Flagler Rotary, falling to eventual state champ Ethan Vugman of Bartram Trail.
“I felt good. My re-attacks were there,” Stallings said of his title-winning match. “This was the tournament I wanted to win, because I lost it last year. Winning in front of people I know is a great feeling.”
Howard (30-2) lost just his second match of the season in a 9-5 decision to undefeated Malachi Mista (31-0) of Sandalwood in the 165-pound final. The FPC senior had pinned four straight opponents entering the title match.
Twilley defeated Liberty County’s Keaton Ellis 10-3 in the 126-pound third-place match to improve to 31-6 on the season.
“Trey is going to be a good one,” Bossardet said. “He's pretty tough as a freshman. I like what we got in him, and I think he's only going to get better and better.”
Baert (29-6) fell to Fletcher’s Elias Twigg, 7-4, in the 144-pound third-place match. Twigg (30-1) lost his first match of the season in the semifinals to eventual champ Giovanni Duany of Lake Brantley.
Calidonio (28-8) lost a 5-0 decision to Lake Brantley’s Jake Jessee in the 175-pound fifth-place match.
Winter Springs led FPC by six points entering the final session and wound up winning 181.5 to 158. Hagerty was third with 156 points, while Harmony High was fourth with 155.5 points and Fleming Island was fifth with 141.5 points.
“I think if you place here, you could definitely qualify for the state tournament, and if you make the championship here I like (your) chances to place in the state tournament (on March 2)," Bossardet said. "But we’ve got a lot of work to do between now and then.”