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Pirates seniors claim first title

By FRANK PASTOR
© St. Petersburg Times
published February 10, 2002

BROOKSVILLE -- After placing second twice and third once, Crystal River's six seniors wanted more from their final district tournament.

Saturday at Hernando, the Pirates struck gold.

Crystal River put eight wrestlers in the finals, and Brian McErlaine (135 pounds), Billy Larder (171), Chauncy Miner (215) and Matt Hinman (275) won titles as the seniors claimed their first district championship.

Crystal River's 172 points were 30.5 more than second-place Dunnellon. Hernando was third with 139, followed by North Marion (134), Lecanto (94), Citrus (72.5) and West Port (8).

"They're a blue-collar team," Pirates coach Bill Tovine said. "There's nothing fancy about them. They work hard. They're a good group of guys. It's nice to see them win a district championship."

Among the highlights for Crystal River included Drew Lepinski's first finals appearance at 140 and Larder's first victory against Hernando's Thomas Lyle -- a former Pirates teammate -- in three tries this season.

McErlaine, Lepinski, Josh Stone (152), Miner and Hinman were among 10 Pirates who qualified for the regional meet Friday and Saturday at Hernando. Larder, Cale Trenary (119), Jeremy Cates (125), Brady Pratt (145) and Mike Katsifakas (189) were the others.

One year after only seven wrestlers came out for the team, Hernando advanced 11 to regionals. Of them, only two -- Billy Woods and Jimmy Taylor -- are seniors.

"If these kids stick together, they're going to be good over the years," Leopards coach Matt Smith said.

Woods, a sixth-place state finisher last year, pinned Lecanto's Dustin Cummings in the 130-pound final for Hernando's only individual title.

Lecanto's Mike Duca (125), Terrance Hollis (160) and Billy Simmons (189) also won championships.

Brothers Billy and Charley Combs of Hernando advanced to the finals before losing by injury default.

Citrus' Mike Howard was taken from the gym on a stretcher after injuring his right shoulder during the 135-pound consolation final. North Marion's Cody Carlisle won by injury default.

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