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Eagles barely defend Batista title

By CAREY FREEMAN, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published January 13, 2002

SPRING HILL -- There are only a handful of teams in Florida that can relegate Springstead to underdog status.

SPRING HILL -- There are only a handful of teams in Florida that can relegate Springstead to underdog status.

Homestead South Dade -- winner of the past three Class 3A state titles -- is one of them. Favorites or not, the Eagles defended their home turf like champions at Saturday's Dr. Batista Invitational, edging the six-time champion Buccaneers by three points for their sixth consecutive championship.

"South Dade is a pretty tough team," Springstead coach Bob Levija said. "It was a very tough tournament. It was fun wrestling South Dade. They're a good program and a good team, so our kids are pretty excited."

Springstead placed six wrestlers in the finals -- two more than South Dade -- and captured three championships for a total of 193 points. South Dade, which had two champions, scored 190 points. River Ridge (141.5), Crystal River (126) and Land O'Lakes (116.5) rounded out the top five in team scoring.

The Eagles clinched the title when defending state champion Matt Booker scored a 9-1 major decision against Central's Sergio Matos at 140 pounds. Booker, whose only loss last season came at the Batista, improved to 25-0 with the win.

Springstead's other champions were Tommy Walker, who scored a 13-5 major decision against Pasco's Nate Engel at 112 pounds, and David Kachiroubas, who bested River Ridge's Tommy Parente in a controversial decision at 125.

Parente held a 10-8 advantage in the final 30 seconds of the match when Kachiroubas, who had trailed throughout, scored a five-point takedown, only to be followed by a two-point reversal from Parente in the final second. Unfortunately for Parente, he came up one point short in the 13-12 loss.

Matt Embry of Land O'Lakes was the only finalist to score a pin, doing so 3 minutes, 2 seconds against River Ridge's Joey Mayo at 215.

One of the most entertaining bouts came at 160 pounds. Springstead's Steve Garofano put his undefeated record on the line against Land O'Lakes' Chris Bowen.

The match was a 4-4 draw after regulation and one period of overtime. Bowen, who was clearly fresher in the final stages, won when Garofano (24-1) was unable to pull off an escape in the 30-second, sudden-death period.

"I was watching him during the tournament and he looked a little weak and a little sloppy," said Bowen, who entered the match with a 21-5 record. "So I was thinking, "If I get him in the finals, I'm definitely going to wear him out."'

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