Mainland was able to have its program's first home match on Dec. 18.
In its inaugural season in 2018-19, Mainland’s boys varsity wrestling team did not have a home match. The mats they had were more than 20 years old — beaten down, damaged, unsuitable for competition.
The Buccaneers averaged about an hour’s journey for every match. They couldn’t wrestle in front of their friends and much of their family. And they didn’t have a Senior Night.
“The guys kind of missed out,” Buccaneers head coach Matt Lawrence said.
Mainland didn’t have a wrestling program when Lawrence arrived three years ago. He started an AAU program in his first season, and they became an official FHSAA team last year.
“A lot of schools in Volusia County have wrestling programs,” Lawrence said. “I think it was important that Mainland did, too. It’s important — especially with the football program we have here. They go hand-in-hand.”
The Buccaneers hosted several fundraising efforts and were able to collect $8,500 for new mats. Mainland had its first home match on Dec. 18 against Flagler Palm Coast.
“It was nice to just have our people here,” said team captain Tommy Short, a senior who wrestles in the 182-pound weight class. “And it was just nice not to have to drive an hour to go wrestle.”
"I'm just excited that I got to help start something here. I'm happy that I'll be able to have a lasting impact on this school because this school has done so much for me."
TOMMY SHORTER, team captain
The Buccaneers had 18 kids on the roster last season. Seventeen of them were wrestling for the first time. The learning curve was steep. Many of the kids were getting pinned in less than a minute.
“We were getting smoked,” Lawrence said. “They didn’t know what wrestling looked like. But it was important for them to see the level that we wanted to be at.”
Nearly a year later, the Buccaneers field a roster 20-strong. They have fewer holes across the weight classes, and they have much more experience compared to last season.
“The kids are more competitive now,” Lawrence said. “We’re able to stick around in some matches. We’ve definitely improved.”
Doug Dittmer only started wrestling a year ago. However, he’s cemented himself as one of the Buccaneers’ top grapplers. He’s currently ranked No. 20 in the state for Class 2A in the 195-pound weight class — the only ranked wrestler on Mainland’s roster.
“We’re starting to show who we are,” he said. “Our work is getting us somewhere.”