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BROOKSVILLE -- It was business as usual Saturday at the Brooksville Kiwanis Invitational. Nothing came easy for any wrestler looking to stake an early-season claim as one of the best around.
Host Hernando finished second out of 19 teams with 135 points. The Leopards had six wrestlers place in the top four but no champions.
"We wrestled pretty tough," coach Matt Smith said. "We're young, but we have to get more physical as a team. It was great competition and the kids all worked hard."
Zephyrhills was fourth with a 128 and was the only other North Suncoast team in the top five. Bulldogs standout heavyweight Shane Hand, the 2002 state champ, led the way with a 3-1 decision in the final over Hudson's Walter Truzack. It was Hand's second Kiwanis title after finishing third as a sophomore.
"It was good to find some competition in the finals like that," Hand said.
Zephyrhills teammate Nick Spine, competing at 119 pounds, was responsible for a fall in :50 to win. The Bulldogs tied with Lake Weir and Central for the most individual champions.
At 112, Central's Bucky Solomon won a 7-2 decision by using his legs to maneuver his Ocala Vanguard opponent.
"I got the reversal and put him on his back and just kept moving," the senior said.
The winner of the most outstanding wrestler award, 145-pounder Sergio Matos of Central, wrestled Zephyrhills' Doug Burden in the final. Matos said at first he was intimidated by Burden's muscles, but remained undefeated with a 16-8 major decision.
"This is a big tournament that sets you apart from the other wrestlers as being good or okay," he said.
Fabien Lewars of Springstead won an 8-2 decision over Ridgewood's Billy Bullwinkel to take the 130-pound class.
"I was pacing myself and waiting for him to burn himself out," Lewars said.
Wrestling at 135, Matt Bullwinkel of Ridgewood decisioned Hernando's Billy Combs 6-1.
Bryan Ryder of Gulf won a 12-10 overtime duel at 140 with Keith Coghlan of Ridgewood.
Pasco's Devon Bryant took the 152-pound title over Hernando's Charley Combs by injury default.
River Ridge's Seth Perry won a 9-5 decision against Sickles' Mike Aquino to secure first place at 160.
Tampa Sickles was the team champ with 156 points despite placing only Aquino in the finals. Sickles was without last year's 2A state champ at 135, Jegan Gabbidon, and 112 runner-up Stan Liberatore.
"I'd say we got a whole team of overachievers," Sickles coach Terry Brockland said "This just shows you it's a team effort, not an individual effort."