By SHANNON HEATON
Northeast Florida Matmen
PALM COAST — Michael DeAugustino and Narek Stepanyan have known what it’s like to be close to a state championship.
DeAugustino, a three-time placewinner for Flagler Palm Coast as a junior, and 2017 3A state finalist Stepanyan, a Fletcher senior, headlined the Northeast Florida contingent in contention at the 2017 Florida AAU state tournament, hosted by Flagler Palm Coast on Saturday, as both won AAU state championships.
At 132 pounds, DeAugustino — wrestling for Flagler Attack — won five matches for his title Saturday, with three bonus-point wins en route to an 8-3 decision in the final over RIverdale’s Coleby Barnes.
“I’ve had to start learning to open up more, no matter who it is. Right now, I’ve been training with Lake Highland Prep three times a week and those guys have helped me a lot. There’s nationally-ranked kids everywhere in that room and I can hang with them, I’m just as good,” DeAugustino said. “Right now, it’s 50% figuring out what I have to do and 50% actually doing it. You can say you’re doing it, but you’re not until you actually are doing it.”
Fresh off an appearance the previous weekend at the Journeymen Classic tournament in Schenectady, NY, Stepanyan (wrestling for Beach Rats WC) pinned his way through the 220 bracket, with four falls on the day — the last over Team Wakulla Wrestling’s Chayton Bussey in the final.
“I saw some of the best competition in the nation, and in the world,” Stepanyan said. “My goal is to be in the Olympics. It definitely gives me more confidence. If I can go with the best in the country, I can defeat the best guys locally. I have a pretty good idea of where I want to go (for college), but it’s always good to get out, beat the competition and get better.”
Two area competitors reached the finals in their weight classes, both falling to wrestlers from Camden County just over the state line in Kingsland, GA.
At 113, FPC and Flagler Attack’s John Johnson pinned his way through to the final, but couldn’t get past Camden’s Nick Krug, dropping a narrow 1-0 decision. “I really didn’t get as much out of the season as I wanted before breaking (his ankle), so I’ve just been working on my conditioning, working on technique a lot,” Johnson said. “(At 106) I could just muscle kids around and do what I want, but (as he’s gone up in weight) I have to learn to use technique and not just my strength.”
At 120, Yulee’s Stevie Chopek won three times — including a 5-3 semifinal win over UC Jax’s Daniel Porter — before dropping in a loss by fall to Camden’s Tyler Crew, a Georgia state champ, in the final. “I’ve learned from the mistakes I made (at states and now is the time to polish moves and fix mistakes,” Chopek said. “I’m hungrier now (from the state experience) and I do have a target on my back.”
Two local juniors reached the semis Saturday afternoon. Porter had one fall to get there before losing to Chopek at 120, but then left the tournament for the day, which ran well into the evening before the finals were all posted to Trackwrestling. “I’ve been working mainly on freestyle and Greco, working on getting better, just like to hit as many tournaments as I can. Get my name out there so I can attract college attention,” Porter said.
At 138, Ridgeview junior Saeid Ejmali, wrestling for Panthers WC, reached the semis as well, but had to injury-default out at that point in a tournament that he had a solid shot to win. “I can’t rely on (Panther senior teammate) Marcus (Reid) anymore. I’m just wanting to get as many matches as I can,” Ejmali said. “I wasn’t humble enough last year. I had a lot of wins but I know I didn’t give it 100%. I want to go in next year, full-out, and try to win the whole thing.”
Nicholas Vugman of Bartram Trail was third at 126, while Damion Figouera of host Flagler Attack took third at 138. Beach Rats’ Carlo Grasso added a fourth-place effort at 195.
Palm Coast Mutiny’s Samuel Russo won the JV title at 182 pounds, while middle-schoolers Ethan Vugman (Clay, 70) and Kevin Beverly (Yulee, 180), along with Clay elementary-schooler Gunner Ivey (firsts at both 85 & 92), also all won titles on Saturday.
Complete results can be found here: