The University of Miami’s turnover chain spawned many imitations throughout football. The buzz surrounding it spilled into wrestling, too.
Manatee High wrestling coach Andrew Gugliemini, with his team-first mentality, liked it as well. But Manatee’s 23-year coach put his own spin on the turnover chain that is quite unique.
Welcome to Manatee High’s pin stick, equipped with a Hurricanes logo and the words, ‘Manatee Mafia.’
“(It symbolizes) being flat on your back, pinning somebody,” Manatee senior Josh Booker said. “That’s just how the wood is, flat and thick. That’s all I want. Put them on the mat.”
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The goal in wrestling is to pin your opponent, so the last person to earn a pin during any Manatee match is awarded the pin stick.
“They can all have their own interpretation of what it means to them,” Gugliemini said.
The small wooden block was passed around Manatee High’s wrestling team six times when Booker walked onto the mat.
Already securing Wednesday’s sub-district dual meet title, Booker had a second objective.
Booker accomplished it with Manatee’s last pin in the Class 3A-8 sub-district dual championship. Wrestling in the 220-pound weight class, Booker pinned North Port’s Jacob Bartlet en route to the Hurricanes claiming a 48-31 victory over the Bobcats.
Even a jammed finger wrapped tightly with tape was going to prevent Booker from securing the symbolic piece of wood.
“Everybody’s like, ‘I’m going to get it,’ ... it’s a dogfight to keep it,” Booker said.
Only four teams competed in Bradenton, while none competed against Palm Harbor University in the north sub-district tournament. The Canes travel to PHU in Thursday’s district championship at 7 p.m.
The top two teams in each district advance to the regional tournament held Jan. 11. Manatee earned its way through victories over Riverview and North Port.
Riverview, with only five wrestlers, still competed while Sarasota bowed out just one day before Wednesday’s tournament.
“I understand everybody’s got injuries, everybody’s got kids sick, everybody’s got issues,” Gugliemini said. “But we’ve worked our butts off to get the FHSAA to approve this type of an event, and then to have teams back out is very disheartening to me. Me being a member of the committee that created this, I hate to see teams not show up. I know once it gets to the region and state format, it’s going to be real exciting and it’s going to be great.”
A key motivating factor in the sub-district dual meet was Gugliemini’s spare wooden block that was a leftover from a home project. Introducing it to the team last week, it was an immediate hit.
“You’ve got to give these guys something to break the ice, to take away the tension,” Gugliemini said.
With the pin stick’s birth, Manatee’s wrestling team clicked in last weekend’s Sebring Duals championship and on Wednesday.
One key to the latest victory came in the 145-pound division with Blaize Colmorgen’s first-round pin after nearly getting pinned himself.
“Momentum is so big in wrestling team-wise,” Gugliemini said. “You just keep the momentum going and that definitely helped keep that.”
Lakewood Ranch was the other area school to compete, dropping a 59-12 decision to North Port in a semifinal.