His high school soccer career is over, but Ian Flores is still picking up accolades for his contributions at Wiregrass Ranch High School.
Last month, Flores was named the 2018 National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) Florida State High School Player of the Year.
That followed another prestigious designation he earned recently: 2017-2018 United Soccer Coaches Winter-Spring Boys High School All-America.
Flores, who graduated in May, was one of just two players from Florida (and 20 total nationwide) to be selected to the All-America team.
In the last six years, just 11 players from Florida have received the award.
As a senior, Flores tallied 20 assists in more than 1,900 minutes of play— an integral part of a Bulls team that went 24-6-1 and reached the Class 5A regional semifinals.
Flores, however, wasn’t anticipating such individual honors as he played out his senior season.
His main goal instead was to try and help his teammates win a state title.
“Really, getting All-America or high school player of the year wasn’t in my head at all. It just kind of happened just from playing naturally with my teammates,” said Flores, also a First Team All-Sunshine Athletic Conference selection.
Even so, the state and national recognition is “very exciting” to Flores, who was a team captain and three-year varsity player at Wiregrass Ranch.
“I know that not a lot of people have gotten such honors like that before,” Flores said. “I didn’t know that would reach Pasco County.”
Flores and other 2017-18 United Soccer Coaches All-Americans will be formally recognized at the 2019 United Soccer Coaches Convention in Chicago, Jan. 9 to Jan. 13.
Longtime Wiregrass Ranch head coach Dave Wilson said the postseason awards bestowed on Flores are well-deserved.
“Skill-wise and talent-wise, he was fantastic. The little things that make one a great player is really where Ian shined, too,” Wilson said.
“There were games that he would score goals, and there were other games we’d score goals because of him,” Wilson said. “He was pretty much picture perfect on the field.”
Size, or lack of it, is a trait Flores often had to overcome to become a top player.
At 5-foot-6 and 125 pounds, Flores has relied on his soccer IQ as much as his quickness, footwork and passing skills.
“It’s always about being smarter than your opponents,” Flores said. “If someone’s bigger than you, you have to adjust. If you’re going up against a 6-foot-4 striker, you have to play smarter to beat him to the ball.”
The impact on the field speaks for itself.
But, Flores’ leadership qualities stood out, too, his high school coach said.
“He was such a good leader and such a good, positive role model,” Wilson said. “Even when he was younger, just his work ethic and everything he did, he was just so positive that it’d be really hard to measure how important he was to our team.”
Wilson has had many elite players come through the Bulls over the years. As many as 14 of his players have gone on to play collegiate soccer scholarships.
Flores, however, was the most sought after in program history, receiving dozens of scholarship offers and inquiries from over 60 colleges of all levels — Division I, Division II, Division III, and NAIA schools.
Said Wilson: “He had more offers and more interest from colleges than any player we’ve ever had. To have someone get as many offers as Ian did and then all the accolades that came along with it — it’s pretty impressive.”
Out of the many postsecondary suitors, Flores signed with Oglethorpe University, a Division III program in suburban Atlanta.
Flores feels it’s the right fit over other Division I and Division II schools and the handful of professional invites he received.
“I was looking for a place where I was just going to be happy playing. I knew that if I came here, I would’ve had a great opportunity to play,” Flores said.
Now in preseason practices at Oglethorpe, Flores is adjusting to a higher level of play and training. That includes 5 a.m., daily workouts.
“The level is much more intense once you get into college,” Flores said. “The level of play is much more different, much more faster. More people play one, two touch instead of dribbling.”
But, Flores seems to be handling the transition well, looking to make an immediate impact.
He recently recorded the top mark of all Oglethorpe freshmen in the program’s Yo-Yo intermittent endurance test, used to measure a player’s cardiovascular fitness level.
The feat obviously caught the eye of Oglethorpe head coach Jon Akin, who played soccer at Saint Leo University and was inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame in 1999.
“Everything that we recruited him for he’s delivering on,” Akin said of Flores. “He fits in well with the team, and I think he’s going to be a player who — on a very, very talented team— will be able to contribute this season.
“We’re very glad he’s with us. We think he’s going to be extremely successful,” Akin said.
Published August 29, 2018