Pace's Frank Pelegri considers Carolyna Bellon a career highlight

Wednesday, April 4, 2018 0 Comments

Pace's Frank Pelegri considers Carolyna Bellon a career highlight

In his 22 seasons as Pace High’s wrestling coach, Frank Pelegri has sent at least one student- athlete to the state championships in each of those years.

 But Carolyna Bellon is perhaps the highlight of his coaching legacy, as the ninth-grade student was ranked the No. 1 seed for girls in the state tournament this season, registering an undefeated mark during the regular season, district and regional playoffs before she lost her first match at the state competition.

 She finished with a 2-2 record in the 126-pound division, which Pelegri calls a major feat for a ninth grader competing in a male-dominated sport. 

“Winning two matches as a freshmen in a tough competition deserves high praise,” said Pelegri, who’s a member of the Florida chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame. “She has developed into an amazing talent, working very hard to get where she is today. She has attributes to be successful. You couldn’t ask for a better studentathlete than Carolyna.” Bellon, who also competes in Judo, said combining the two sports helped her reach the state championships.

 “While doing Judo outside of school, wrestling just caught my attention,” she said. “The two sports are different but compliment each other. It was hard the entire season, with a lot of hard work, practicing with the guys, training and dieting. I didn’t do anything different than the guys.”

 Bellon admitted she was nervous competing in her first state tournament but excited she made it that far. She credits Pelegri for helping her prepare for high school’s biggest stage. “Coach Pelegri is one of the best,” she said. “Though I’m a girl, he treats me the same as the guys.”

 Pelegri also guided four boys’ to the state championships this season, applauding them for grappling with an arduous task of bringing back a championship for the Spartans. The stellar performances of sophomore James Guerrier (113 pounds), senior Tivvon Cruickshank (160 pounds), sophomore Ray Lugo (220 pounds), and junior Max Benjamin, a heavyweight, added to the lore of Spartans’ wrestling. 

 Pelegri said wrestling is a tough sport and he and his players rely on their faith to reach the state tournament. 

 “You can’t take it for granted because it’s not easy getting a kid there each year,” he said. “By the grace of God, these student- athletes qualified for the state tournament. “I am extremely happy with this season, winning 17 matches and watching these great kids get better as students, athletes and people outside of school.”

 Pelegri said Bellon and his players for 2018 are on pace to win state titles next season. “I’m looking forward and excited to be coaching them again next year,” Pelegri said.

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