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Zephyrhills' Hand captures a title

By GREG AUMAN, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published February 24, 2002

LAKELAND -- Every other state champion had been crowned, so Shane Hand found himself the last wrestler in the Lakeland Center, fighting to avoid a pin in the first period as volunteers rolled up the mats on the circle next to him.

The workers stopped to watch as the Zephyrhills junior got out of the jam, took control of the Class A heavyweight final and beat Cardinal Gibbons' Leon Harrington 8-4 to earn his school's second state championship.

"The conditioning paid off for me. My coaches ran me to death and I hated them for it, but now I love them," said Hand (51-1), who needed to go the full six minutes only four times before Saturday's final. "Speed and conditioning, that's all that won it tonight."

Hand clung to a 5-4 lead in the final period, got an escape point with 41 seconds left, then clinched the win with a takedown with 15 seconds remaining. Fans in the crowd counted down the final seconds of his championship.

"He's a really good kid, and he's worked so hard," said Bulldogs coach Kevin Epifanio, whose team finished 12th, two points behind Pasco for best on the North Suncoast. "You want good things to come to kids that put all they have into something like he has."

Pasco's Nate Engel, the only other North Suncoast wrestler to reach his final, came agonizingly close to a title of his own, losing an 11-9 decision to Miami Belen Jesuit's Jason Machado.

After trailing 4-1 in the first period, Engel rallied to take a 7-5 lead in the second period. The two were tied 9-9 for most of the final period, but Machado got a takedown with 35 seconds remaining for the deciding points.

Springstead's Matt Booker, a defending state champion who took his first loss of the season Friday, went through the consolation bracket with a vengeance Saturday.

After a 6-5 decision, Booker pinned his next opponent in 1 minutes, 40 seconds and earned a technical-fall victory in the consolation final with a 17-2 win against Fort Pierce Central's Bobby Ledbetter.

Pasco County had two state medalists in the 119-pound class, where Hudson's Luke Jubran beat Zephyrhills' Nick Spine 7-3 in the consolation semifinals and went on to finish fourth. Spine lost a 3-2 decision in his next match and took the podium at sixth.

Hernando's Billy Woods (130 pounds) won his final consolation match to finish fifth, one spot better than last year. Pasco's Juan Trevino (152) and Lecanto's Billy Simmons (189) also finished fifth when their final opponents took injury defaults.

Pasco had a third medalist in 140-pounder Devon Bryant, who tried to wrestle with a hyperextended elbow but took a 10-3 loss and took an injury default in his last match to finish sixth.

Land O'Lakes' Chris Bowen won his first consolation match to lock up a spot on the podium, then took an injury default on his last two matches to take sixth as well.

Eight other wrestlers advanced to the final day of competition but lost their first match, still finishing among the top eight in their class: Wesley Chapel's Kevin Boyd, Hernando's Billy Combs, Lecanto's Mike Duca and Terence Hollis, Central's Sergio Matos, Springstead's David Kachiroubas, River Ridge's John Gilmore and Land O'Lakes' Matt Embry.

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