By CAREY FREEMAN, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published February 17, 2002
BROOKSVILLE -- There were only two people in the Hernando gym Saturday that gave Lecanto's Billy Simmons a chance in the 189-pound championship match: Simmons and his coach, Dana Wilkes.
But doubters will be hard to find today after Simmons' heroic effort. Trailing Orlando Bishop Moore's Daniel Gardner by 11 points after one period, Simmons pulled out the victory of his career in a match that won't be forgotten any time soon.
Simmons not only eliminated the double-digit deficit, he dominated the final two periods by dealing out the kind of physical punishment one is more accustomed to seeing in that other form of wrestling. Scoring takedown after takedown, Simmons tied the match with one minute left then put away Gardner -- and with him the Hornets' title hopes -- with a pin in the final five seconds of the match.
"Billy came out and made a few bad mistakes at the beginning of the match," Wilkes said. "We talked about it and once he got his mind together and started doing what we talked about, he took over the match. And that was pretty much it."
Simmons' victory clinched the team title for Sebastian River (121 points), which was able to hang on to a three-point advantage over Bishop Moore (118). Zephyrhills (107), Pasco (94.5) and Hernando (94) rounded out the top five, while Crystal River (87.5) and Wesley Chapel (86.5) finished in sixth and seventh, respectively.
Though Lecanto (69.5) finished in 12th place, the Panthers were one of only three schools, along with Zephyrhills and Cocoa Beach, to crown dual champions. Terence Hollis scored Lecanto's other finals victory and his first regional championship with a 12-9 decision against Steven Nickerson of Titusville Astronaut.
Zephyrhills had champions in Nick Spine (119 pounds) and Shane Hand (heavyweight), along with a runner-up finish by Patrick O'Connor (140) and a third-place finish by Douglas Burden (135).
Like Simmons, Spine fell behind early only to rally for a late win. Trailing 7-0 after the first period, Spine scored a takedown and near-fall combination in the final 45 seconds to score a 12-8 decision against Hudson's Luke Jubran, who had defeated him by one point in last week's district final. Hand pinned Crystal River's Matt Hinman in 3:52.
Hernando and Pasco each had one champion.
Leopards 130-pounder Billy Woods completed one of the tournament's most dominating performances with a pin of Cocoa's Justin Barber in three minutes. Woods won all three of his matches by pin and all before the third period. Pasco's Devon Bryant was just as tough at 140 pounds, pinning O'Connor in 1:30 and winning three of his four matches by pin. The top four finishers in each weight class advanced to the state finals.