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BRANDON -- With 1031/2 points after two winners' rounds, Brandon took a solid lead after the first day of matches of the 19th annual Tony Ippolito Memorial Tournament on Friday.
The Eagles flexed their muscles early against stiff competition by sending all 14 of its wrestlers into the semifinals, scheduled to start at noon today. Jon Santana (112), Tommy Hutchinson (140), Matt Juncal (189), Rashard Goff (215) and Keith Simmons (275) won their first two matches with pins. In second place with 69 points, Bradenton Manatee is in a battle with St. Cloud (66), Bloomingdale (61), Riverview (52) Durant (511/2) and Bradenton Bayshore (511/2) for runner-up honors. Last year, Bloomingdale edged eventual Class 3A state champion St. Cloud and Manatee for second place.
St. Cloud graduated six from its state championship team, and Bloomingdale and Manatee also lost several wrestlers, but the three teams are right in the thick of things.
Manatee and St. Cloud each have six wrestlers in the semifinals, and Bloomingdale has five. Durant has three in the winners' bracket and Riverview three.
"So far, this tournament has been going real well for us," St. Cloud coach Victor Lorenzano said. "After losing six seniors last year, we have had to reload. There have been a lot of intense matches in the second round; the kind you normally don't see until the semis. We have had some lumps, but we are still doing well for this tournament."
Some of the best semifinal matches today include Sarasota's Alex Brown facing Manatee's Jose Vega at 112 pounds, Brandon's Cesar Grajales against St. Cloud's Adam Wilson at 119, state champ Trevor Fair of Manatee against Durant's Wade Petterson at 152 and Wharton's Larry Edwards against Tampa Prep's Ettore Ewen at 215.