© St. Petersburg Times, published February 10, 2002
NEW PORT RICHEY -- The top four wrestlers in each weight class advance to regional competition, so with only five teams competing at Saturday's district meet, survival wasn't the overriding concern it often is.
Fifty-five of 61 wrestlers advanced, including all 14 from host Gulf as the Buccaneers edged Zephyrhills for the title 172-162. Wesley Chapel was a close third.
"I knew we'd get the numbers in the finals," Bucs coach Travis DeWalt said. "A couple of guys fell short, but we picked it up in the consolation championships. We qualified the whole darned team, and that helped a lot."
Gulf had just two individual champions -- Butch Payne (160 pounds) and Tim Tracy (189) -- but advanced five others to the finals, enough to hold off the Bulldogs.
"I thought we could get seven in the finals, but I came up one short," said Zephyrhills coach Kevin Epifanio, who got titles from Doug Burden (135), Matt Engels (145) and Shane Hand (275). "Seven was my magic number. (Gulf) got seven in the finals and they finished ahead."
While the team score was close, the individual matches were far from it.
Of the 14 finals, five had first-period pins, including three within the first minute. Six more were major decisions of eight or more points. The closest matches were at 119 pounds, where Hudson's Luke Jubran edged Zephyrhills' Nick Spine 6-5, and at 160, where Payne pinned Wesley Chapel's Jason Duplantis 30 seconds into an overtime period.
Pasco had a district-high four champions -- Nate Engel (112), Jack Bailey (130), Devon Bryant (140) and Justin Craig (171). Even last-place Hudson had three winners in Jubran, Zenon Herrera (152) and Walter Truzack (215).
Rounding out the champions were Wesley Chapel's Jason Boyd (103) and Gabe Lopez (125).
The numbers crunch will be significantly tougher at next week's Region 2 meet in Brooksville, where 16 wrestlers from each weight class meet and the top four advance to the state meet in Lakeland.