FORT WALTON BEACH – Tobi Marez can only laugh about navigating COVID-19 amid a historic participation in the Fort Walton Beach fight program.
It’s hard enough to bring together 34 wrestlers.
But with limited space, contact tracing protocols, travel restrictions, and health concerns, Marez “got creative” in running the program and making the most of everyday practices.
“We had a group that would stand up with one coach,” Marez said. “We had a group running around the school. Then we had a group that would be in the wrestling room.”
Marez, whose team hasn’t had a single outbreak all year, loved the organized chaos and the extra bodies.
“It was amazing,” he said. “We’ve been able to put two teams together for most of the tournaments we’ve been to and I’ve never been able to.”
The depth shown in the results.
With Tallahassee as far as they can go, the Vikings won the George Mulligan Memorial and finished third in the MY HOUSE Invitational Doubles Tournament, third in the Bash-Dual Tournament, fourth in Border Wars and finalist in the District Double Showcase, which leads to a 42-36 hard grief in regional duels.
In individual districts, the Vikings finished first in the eight-team squad with 11 qualifiers and five champions.
They followed that victory with an eighth-best place in the region, qualifying Weston Burbidge, Caleb Tourgee and regional champion Cedric Fairrow, who finished third in the state for wrestler of the year honors.
“For Tourgee and Weston to land this ticket to finally declare, they’ve been with us for four years, so that was huge,” said Marez.
It was these unorthodox practices that laid the groundwork.
“When we go to tournaments it’s nothing more than glorified practices, that’s what we call it,” Marez said. “The things we’re working on, it’s time to see whether or not they work against someone who isn’t expecting them.
“Whether in practice or in tournaments, we put the same maximum effort.”
Fittingly, Marez is Daily News Wrestling Coach of the Year, a title he plans to defend next season based on the nascent talent he hopes to develop in further qualifying for the States. by 2022.
This includes names like Spencer Mackenzie (heavyweight), Santiago Mayic (106), Zak Vosburgh (113), Alexander Davidson (138) and Marquis Muniz (152) among others joining Fairrow in the podium race.
“We had a lot of guys about to show up last year, so this year we’ll be traveling to big tournaments because we have to prepare for them,” said Marez. “I hope we can bring two teams and have the same turnout as last year.”