© St. Petersburg Times, published January 19, 2003
SPRING HILL -- With the spotlight shining down in the darkened gym, Hernando took center stage at the Masada Springstead Invitational. For their collective performance on the mat, the Leopards earned the team title with 209 points, edging Tampa Jesuit's 198-point effort.
It was the second tournament victory of the season for Hernando, which also won a five-team dual meet at Zephyrhills. On Saturday, Hernando had five wrestlers reach the finals. Stephen Pritz (140 pounds), Charlie Combs (152) and Thomas Lyle (189) captured titles. "We're working hard in practice and the kids are starting to listen to the coaches," Hernando coach Matt Smith said. "This is a huge win for our kids."
Host Springstead, which finished seventh, was led by 130-pound champion Fabien Lewars, who was named the tournament's most outstanding wrestler. Lewars also could have earned a survivor award for competing with a sprained ankle, several jammed fingers, an injured knee, a black eye and a busted lip.
Lewars took a 14-4 majority decision over Hernando's Chris Malvesti despite the injuries.
"Pain is temporary, pride is forever," said Lewars, who improved to 19-0. "I went out there and did what I had to do."
Zephyrhills' Nick Spine won a 4-3 decision against Durant's John Kauderman at 119 to help his team to a fourth-place finish.
"All the kids I wrestled earlier I was beating in less than a minute and this kid was competition for all six minutes," Spine said.
Teammate Doug Burden pinned Pasco's Devon Bryant in 1 minute, 50 seconds to win the 145-pound class.
Crystal River's Mike Kotsifakis (215) was Citrus County's lone winner.
The senior improved his season record to 21-3 with a decisive pin of Chamberlain's John Thomas in 51 seconds.
"I was getting mentally prepared because I knew he was going to try to be physical with me," Kotsifakis said. "He came into me and I just tossed him down and used his momentum against him."
"Mike's fearless, you never know what he's going to do," Crystal River coach Bill Tovine said.
Brady Pratt also reached the final at 160 for the ninth-place Pirates. In the 275 class, Hudson's Walter Truzack won by pin in 3:59 against Hernando's Windham Rotunda. Gulf finished sixth and got a win from Joey Pospisil at 103 and a runner-up finish by Bryan Ryder at 135.