TRINITY - Shortly after a run Monday afternoon, wrestlers gathered inside the Mitchell wrestling room. The newly crowned Sunshine Athletic Conference champions raised a quick toast of Gatorade to the program's first SAC title and then got to work.
There wasn't much time to bask in the glow of that accomplishment because the squad will travel to St. Petersburg High today for the Class 3A-District 6 tournament.
Once there, the Mustangs will have to deal with Countryside (ranked No. 4 in 3A by scoutfloridapreps.com), East Lake, Largo, Palm Harbor University, Sarasota Riverview, St. Petersburg and Sarasota.
The top four wrestlers in each weight class advance to the 3A-Region 2 tournament next week at East Lake.
Fresh off this past weekend's SAC showing, in which 11 Mitchell wrestlers scored pins in their first match and 11 finished in the top four, Mustangs coach John Stanjeski is hopeful it will fuel his group to a successful district performance.
"Taking first place in the conference is going to build their confidence back up again," said Stanjeski, in his third and final season as Mustangs coach. "That has a big factor on pumping a kid up. They've got to go in there with a positive attitude, and the SAC championship will help that attitude."
Shea Taylor won the 145-pound weight class at the SAC and is gearing up for the district tournament, which he missed last year after having surgery to alleviate the effects of cauliflower ear.
"It really brought us together," the senior said of the title. "When your coach is proud of you, and when you set that goal and you finally accomplish that goal, it's really an amazing feeling.
"Mitchell's never done that. It's something else. I still don't even know if it's hit me. Then you find out it's my coach's last year, I'm so happy that we could give him that before he left. That's more than anything. I'm glad we could give that to him."
Last season, Thomas Doman, Jerad Hayes and Jessey Lorentsen advanced to the region tournament for Mitchell. Lorentsen was the school's lone district champion from that trio.
Stanjeski said he expects to double the number of wrestlers who qualify for the region tournament this season, including 140-pound Vasili Kostakis, who finished second at the SAC.
"We have a pretty hard district and we're going to have to step it up a notch, I think," said Kostakis, who is hoping to better his district outing last season.
"A lot of teams have state qualifiers, especially Countryside. I've wrestled a couple of people in our district and we're definitely going to have to push it harder."