By BRANT JAMES, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published February 9, 2002
NEW PORT RICHEY -- That Springstead would win a 10th consecutive title was a forgone conclusion by the halfway point of Friday's district finals at River Ridge. The Eagles amassed 230 points and easily held on by winning five individual titles and advancing all 14 of their wrestlers to the regional meet next Saturday.
In the battle for second place, Sunshine Athletic Conference champion River Ridge was run down by a late-charging Land O'Lakes squad that concluded the regular season with an 8-7 record.
The Gators finished with 144 points, River Ridge had 135, Central 102.5, Mitchell 96.5 and Ridgewood 94.5.
"The kids got big and wrestled their hearts out," Land O'Lakes coach Brett Murray said.
"We've been to several tournaments and we did not do any major placing or take home any trophies, but this was our goal. We told the kids we could do this, and they had their magic tonight.
"I told the kids what we did in the regualr season was just practice. All it did was get you a seed in districts. What you do from here on out is important."
Murray said he expected the Gators to finish third.
The top four individuals in each class advanced to the Region 2 meet Saturday at Brandon High.
Springstead (14-0-1) got titles from Tommy Walker (112 pounds), Fabien Lewars (119), Steve Bartke (140), defending 135-pound state champion Matt Booker (145) and younger brother Nate (171).
Booker improved to 37-0 when he scored an 11-1 decision against Central's Sergio Matos.
Advancing everyone and winning another title was a pleasant surprise for Springstead coach Bob Levija, because this was supposed to be a rebuilding year for the Eagles.
"Some of these guys have come a long, long way," he said. "I guess the babies sprouted teeth."
The Gators advanced nine wrestlers -- most in the middle weights -- and had championships from William Suter (135), Scott Mays (152), Christopher Bowen (160) and Matthew Embry (215).
Bowen (36-6) was crucial to the comeback as he "outworked," Murray said, the Eagles' Steve Garofano (38-5), a state runner-up last year, to earn a 5-4 decision.