The Sandcrabs' Victor Lipsey made it to states for the second straight year, while Kobe Baert qualified for the first time.
Seabreeze wrestler Victor Lipsey competed at the state meet for the first time as a junior last season.
The experience was a shocking one — but it prepared him.
Lipsey was one of two Seabreeze wrestlers to qualify for this year’s Class 2A FHSAA Wrestling State Championships, held March 6-7 at the Silver Spurs Arena in Kissimmee.
“I took every match like it was my last. I gave it everything I had.”
KOBE BAERT, Seabreeze wrestler
“Last year was a bit of an eye-opener,” Lipsey said. “This time around, the stadium seemed smaller.”
Lipsey, who wrestles in the 160-pound weight class, was joined by teammate and 120-pound wrestler Kobe Baert, a senior who was wrestling at the state level for the first time in his high school career.
“It was really cool,” Baert said. “It was not like any other tournament I’ve ever been to. We didn’t get the result we wanted, but it was a great experience.”
Both Sandcrabs fell just short of placing in the tournament. They both fought in the blood rounds, where Lipsey (52-11) lost to Charlotte’s Sean Taft and Baert (49-14) was defeated by Fort Myers’ John Vadya.
“I took every match like it was my last,” Baert said. “I gave it everything I had.”
This was the second season leading the team for head coach Mike Fries, who won two state titles of his own when he was a wrestler at Flagler Palm Coast High School. The Sandcrabs showed rapid improvement in 2019-20. They won several meets, including the first district duals championship in the program’s history.
Fries attributed the team’s success to the amount of work they put in. The Sandcrabs practiced often — even during holiday breaks.
“Endurance, mental toughness, we really pushed for that kind of stuff,” he said. “Our kids got good at the basics and were able to fight through adversity because of it. We outworked everybody we went against, and that’s really what made this team successful this year.”
Lipsey added: “I think that this team grew a lot. We became a lot more mature. I had the best senior year I could have possibly imagined, and having Kobe with me at states was awesome.”
Although they are graduating, Lipsey and Baert wished for one more year with Fries as their coach.
“If coach Fries is behind the wheel of this team, there’s nowhere to go but up,” Lipsey said. “Hopefully, our boys will take advantage of what’s in front of them."
Baert added: "Coach Fries can only do so much. He gives them the tools, but they’ve got to use them.”