Manatee sending determined pair to state
BRADENTON -- Manatee wrestling coach Andy Gugliemini calls it the "Region of Doom."
When you face programs like national power Brandon and Kissimmee Osceola, it can be tough to get through Class 3A-Region 2 and earn a spot in the state tournament.
But Manatee is doing that this year when sophomore Jesse Fulk (145 pounds) and junior Dakoda Dossey (152) take the mat in Lakeland on Friday.
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"It's like a mini-state tournament," Gugliemini said. "If you can place in that region, then you can place at the state tournament. And so that's our plan."
The Fulk name is synonymous with wrestling in Manatee County. Jesse's older brothers, Andrew and Travis, excelled as Hurricanes.
Andrew Fulk won a state title in his senior year, while Travis Fulk was a four-time state qualifier who medaled in his last year at Manatee.
In 2012, Jesse fell one victory short of qualifying for the state meet. But rather than dwelling on the defeat, Fulk dedicated himself to improving in the offseason.
"He wrestled close to 100 matches in the offseason," Gugliemini said. "He went to several camps, and he's put in the work. But this year, he expected to make it. I'm not sure last year he expected to make it. This year he wrestled tough kids, up and down. We chased kids all the way up as far as 160 pounds. Right now he's at 145, and that experience is going to help him this weekend."
Meanwhile, Dossey entered the year off a strong offseason just like Fulk.
"He flew under the radar last year," Gugliemini said, "didn't have a real good regional tournament. ... He put in the work, and wrestled a tough schedule. ... We go out of our way to find the toughest competition."
Gugliemini said those guys have faced the people in their brackets already, and those experiences should help in the two-day state meet that begins at 10 a.m. in Lakeland on Friday.
Thus far, it's been a successful season for Manatee. The Hurricanes polished off their third consecutive county championship and are looking to get their two state qualifiers onto the podium after the disappointment of 2012.
Last year's meet was the first time in 14 years that Manatee didn't place any wrestler at states.
With a more determined Fulk and Dossey, that could change this weekend
-- Jason Dill, Herald staff