Seven Patriots Power Way to States
During the four years of Travis Flinchum guiding the Pinecrest wrestling team, the Patriots have displayed a steady progression.
It’s culminated this year in the squad reaching the finals of the state 4-A dual team wrestling championship where it fell to Parkland, a team that has won six consecutive state titles. In the three previous years under Flinchum’s watch, Pinecrest had failed to get out of the second round.
Last Saturday, the Patriots reached another pinnacle, winning the East 4-A Regional team title with 176 points and sending seven wrestlers into next weekend’s state individual championship at Greensboro Coliseum.
“We knew our potential this season, although just because it’s there doesn’t always mean it’s going to happen that way,” Flinchum said Tuesday. “We don’t have a whole lot of complaints (about the season). We’ll keep working on things, keep evolving and keep getting better.”
Having steadily evolved over his four seasons as coach, last Saturday’s performance at the regionals held at Pinecrest fit right into the pattern of continued growth. In Flinchum’s first and second season as coach, the Patriots qualified one wrestler for state competition. Last year, the Patriots sent five to states. This season, seven Patriots qualified for states, with four of them entering the competition as regional champions.
Those four individual display the staying strength of the program.
Dustin Roemer and Garrett Bateman are seniors, Luke Fetla is a junior and Irvin Enriquez is a freshman.
Enriquez captured his regional title at 106 pounds.
“He’s in the top tier of his weight class,” Flinchum said. “He wrestled some tough kids (during regionals) but he was a little bit better that day.”
Bateman claimed his regional crown at 138 pounds, overcoming injuries that plagued his senior season. But Flinchum thought the injury might have been a blessing in disguise for the wrestler who finished third in the region last season.
“He won some big matches for us,” Flinchum said, “but he got hurt. It gave him a break for a few weeks. I think that break did him good. He’s been looking really good.”
Roemer, who has signed to wrestle for Division I University of Virginia, is a defending state champion, although in a different weight class. Last year, he won the state 4-A title at 145 pounds. Ironically, he finished second in regional competition.
Not so this year, as the sturdy senior claimed the regional title at 152 pounds.
Fetla is another wrestler who has improved on his sophomore season. Last year, the 220-pounder finished third in the region. This year he worked his way to the podium as the best wrestler in the region at 220 pounds. “It was good to see him win one,” Flinchum said.
Rider Excell, a sophomore wrestling at 160 pounds, earned his slot in state competition with a second-place finish in Saturday’s regional event.
“He’s always keeping matches close,” said Flinchum. “He wrestles his way, and keeps things close. We hope he can win a lot of close ones this weekend.”
Two other Patriots advance by virtue of third-place finishes in last weekend’s regional. Zac Lupien, who won a regional championship at 106 pounds last season, moved up to 113 pounds this year and finished third in the regional. Another Patriot with state experience is Dallas Roemer, who placed fifth in the state at 125 pounds last year.
This year he qualified for state competition by finishing third in the regionals at 132 pounds.
“He came back (in the consolations) and beat the kid that beat him,” said Flinchum, “that shows a lot about his heart.”
Heart is part of what Flinchum feels has driven his team this season, that and experience. This year’s version has already taken the program to new heights, forging a runner-up finish in state duals and a regional championship.
“All I’ve told the kids is ‘Let’s do it,’” Flinchum said about the upcoming state tourney. “I don’t have to tell them a lot. Five of the guys have been there before. Their own goals should shine through.
“If each does his best, and has success, that makes the team look good.”
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