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Bulldog finally found his sport

Doug Burden had to be talked into wrestling. Now it's his favorite sport.

By GREG AUMAN, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published February 15, 2002


ZEPHYRHILLS -- Zephyrhills assistant wrestling coach Matt McDermott first discovered Doug Burden as a freshman on the junior varsity football team, and even then, he knew he saw a wrestler.

Burden opted for basketball that winter, but McDermott kept recruiting him and convinced him as a sophomore that at 5-foot-7, his athletic frame wasn't best suited to the hardwood.

What got Burden into the Bulldogs' wrestling room was a simple truth, reinforced as Burden helped Zephyrhills' football team into the playoffs this fall as a 150-pound nose guard: In wrestling, there is no such thing as being undersized.

"I didn't let up, kept on him about wrestling, wrestling, wrestling," McDermott said. "In basketball, he's athletic enough he would have played, but he saw the writing on the wall. He has the body of a wrestler."

Last fall, Burden finished second in the county in sacks, routinely beating offensive linemen nearly twice his size to key the Bulldogs' pass rush. Now, he's thriving in a sport that allows him to pick on someone his own size.

"It takes explosiveness and it takes speed, and Doug has both of those," said McDermott, who also is Burden's defensive line coach. "He's real fast, and his speed comes with power. That's a hard combination to stop."

Heading into today's Class A Region 2 tournament at Hernando, Burden is among the county's best bets to finish among the top four in his class and advance to next week's state tournament in Lakeland. He carries a 41-5 record with 26 pins in the 135-pound weight class. He's already won Sunshine Athletic Conference and district titles in only his second year of wrestling.

"I have a lot of confidence. I think I can go in there and win it," Burden said of this weekend's regional. "The coaches make us work hard, but it's well worth it. I want to win this for them."

Burden isn't the only Bulldogs lineman dominating on the mats. Junior Shane Hand, who placed sixth in the state last year, is 43-1 as a heavyweight. The teammate who has helped Burden most is 119-pounder Nick Spine, a state qualifier last year and a frequent sparring partner when the Bulldogs go to live drills in practice.

"I love going live, because I can go all out," said Burden, who said wrestling is now his favorite sport, because of the camaraderie among his teammates. "It just makes us better. When I first got here, he was tearing me up, but now, we're pretty even."

Two of Burden's five losses this season have come against Crystal River's Brian McErlaine, who ended his season last year in regionals. The two district champions are on opposite sides of the bracket, setting up a potential reunion in the regional championship match, one that could be revisited a week later in Lakeland.

"Doug was leading into the second period of both matches they wrestled this year," said head coach Kevin Epifanio, who advanced 13 wrestlers from last week's district tournament. "Both times, the kid's come back and beaten him, but that's a different Doug, from early in the year. Will it be a good match if they meet? Absolutely. It'll be a scrap, it'll be a war, they'll go at it hard, and hopefully we come out on top."

REGIONAL TOURNAMENTS

CLASS 2A, REGION 2

WHEN: Today -- Weigh-ins, 10 a.m., opening rounds, noon. Saturday -- Weigh-ins, 8 a.m., semifinals, 10 a.m., wrestlebacks, 12:30 p.m., consolation finals, 6 p.m., finals, 7:30 p.m.

WHERE: Brandon High. From State Road 52, take Interstate 75 south 28 miles, then take the State Road 60 (Brandon) exit. Make a left off the exit and continue east about 2 miles. Make a left on North Hilltop Road, then a right on Victoria Street, where the school is about a half-mile ahead.

ADMISSION: $5 per session.

WHAT'S NEXT: With 16 wrestlers in each weight class, the top four advance to next week's state tournament at the Lakeland Center.

QUALIFIERS (WEIGHT CLASS, DISTRICT PLACE): Land O'Lakes (9) -- Bobby Castillo (103, 4th), William Suter (135, 1st), Mike McCarthy (140, 2nd), Chris Peterson (145, 4th), Scott Mays (152, 1st), Chris Bowen (160, 1st), Stephen Pruden (171, 3rd), Clay Hulsey (189, 3rd), Matt Embry (215, 1st). Mitchell (8) -- Greg Steiner (103, 2nd), Robert Ryan (112, 4th), Nicholas Dreger (119, 4th), Kyle James (135, 3rd), Seth Perry (145, 3rd), Kyle Hagerty (152, 3rd), Robert Metz (160, 4th), Cory Miller (275, 3rd). Ridgewood (8) -- Billy Bullwinkel (112, 2nd), Matt Bullwinkel (119, 2nd), Keith Coghlan (125, 1st), Pat Potter (130, 3rd), Dean Brooks (140, 4th), Bobby Shields (171, 2nd), Patrick Kelly (215, 4th), Bryan Presley (275, 4th). River Ridge (10) -- J.T. Heckler (119, 3rd), Tommy Parente (125, 3rd), Steve Giaratano (130, 4th), Steve Jacobsen (135, 4th), Tom Starala (140, 3rd), Jerry Studer (152, 4th), Kyle Englands (171, 4th), John Gilmore (189, 1st), Joey Mayo (215, 2nd), Steve Johnson (275, 1st).

CLASS A, REGION 2

WHEN: Today -- Weigh-ins, 10 a.m., opening rounds, noon. Saturday -- Weigh-ins, 8 a.m., semifinals, 10 a.m., wrestlebacks, 12:30 p.m., consolation finals, 6 p.m., finals, 7:30 p.m.

WHERE: Hernando High School, Brooksville. Take U.S. 41 north to Brooksville. Make a left on Main Street, which becomes Howell Avenue. School is on the right, about 0.7 miles ahead.

ADMISSION: $5 per session.

WHAT'S NEXT: With 16 wrestlers in each weight class, the top four advance to next week's state tournament at the Lakeland Center.

QUALIFIERS (WEIGHT CLASS, DISTRICT PLACE): Gulf (14) -- Joey Pospicil (103, 2nd), Steve Manzione (112, 2nd), Patrick Gallagher (119, 4th), Keith Delgado (125, 3rd), Ken Shinafelt (130, 4th), Chris Scott (135, 2nd), Bryan Ryder (140, 2nd), Austin Ryder (145, 3rd), Jordan Stewart (152, 4th), Butch Payne (160, 1st), Andrew Mendonca (171, 3rd), Tim Tracy (189, 1st), Fred Liriano (215, 4th), Cameron Neptune (275, 2nd). Hudson (7) -- Arnold Reyes (103, 4th), Luke Jubran (119, 1st), Albert Mezquita (125, 2nd), Zenon Herrera (152, 1st), Tim Bentley (160, 3rd), Ivan Henderson (171, 4th), Walter Truzack (215, 1st). Pasco (9) -- Nate Engel (112, 1st), Jack Bailey (130, 1st), Timur Amons (135, 4th), Devon Bryant (140, 1st), Weston Ward (145, 4th), Juan Trevino (152, 2nd), Justin Craig (171, 1st), Joe Howell (215, 3rd), Clay Pippin (275, 4th). Wesley Chapel (12) -- Kevin Boyd (103, 1st), Phillip Cleek (112, 4th), Bill Zeranski (119, 3rd), Gabe Lopez (125, 1st), Chris Wipper (130, 3rd), Scott Johnson (135, 3rd), Justin Owens (140, 4th), Michael Apanovich (145, 2nd), Jason Duplantis (160, 2nd), Nathan Reichner (189, 2nd), Jason Boyd (215, 2nd), Carlyle Nelson (275, 3rd). Zephyrhills (13) -- Josh Calhoun (103, 3rd), Anthony Giannola (112, 3rd), Nick Spine (119, 2nd), Chris Clark (125, 4th), Johnny James (130, 2nd), Doug Burden (135, 1st), Patrick O'Connor (140, 3rd), Matt Engels (145, 1st), Nathan Darrough (152, 3rd), Brandon Crall (160, 4th), Scott Calhoun (171, 2nd), Justin Cobb (189, 3rd), Shane Hand (275, 1st).

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