© St. Petersburg Times, published February 16, 2003
SPRING HILL -- The "What's Florida with a recount?" jokes will not be very funny at Ridgewood High.
Because the proper scoring values were not originally inputted into the official scorekeeper's computer, the final team standings in the district wrestling tournament had to be recounted with pencil and paper seven times at Springstead High on Saturday night.
First Ridgewood won by a 1 1/2 points, then by the same margin with a lower total score. After Land O'Lakes coach Brett Murray, a math teacher, asked for another tabulation, the Gators claimed the title, 159-158.5.
As Ridgewood coach Vinnie Lowe became resolved to the final recount, he had 130-pound district runner-up Matt Bullwinkel bring the champion's trophy to the scorers' table. Ridgewood's would-be first district title took a dead man's walk into the arms of the exuberant Gators.
"That will drive you nuts," Lowe said. "The difference turns out being some points you gave up along the way."
Mitchell was third with 148, followed by Springstead (136), Central (78.5) and River Ridge (57). Springstead's streak of 11 consecutive district championships was broken.
"My numbers and theirs were not the same at any point (in the tournament)," Murray said. "I sat in the stands and did my little figuring, and when they announced the team scores, I just wanted to see the totals. It could have been my mistake."
Lowe thought the Rams had managed the narrow win when a Land O'Lakes heavyweight lost in the consolation finals, but it turned out that championships by Clay Hulsey (160), Chris Bowen (171), Scott Mays (189) and Devon Kearney (215) by disqualification provided the difference.
Mitchell's strong third-place showing was highlighted by its first-ever individual district championship. Michael Trinidad's pin of Land O'Lakes' Sinclair Hugh at 4:51 gave him a place in Mustang lore.
"That means a lot," Mitchell coach John Marretta said. "Now we have a name to put on the wall in the 'district champion' column."
Two, actually, as heavyweight Cory Miller pinned River Ridge's Steven Johnson in 3:36 to become the second Mustangs champion.
The most competitive match came in the 130-pound class, where Springstead's Fabien Lewars beat Bullwinkel in the district finals 5-2 for the second year.
"I knew I had to stick with him early," Lewars said, "because he wanted to get me tired and see if I would crack."
The top four finishers in each weight class advanced to regionals. Land O'Lakes, Springstead and Mitchell advanced 11; Ridgewood 10, Central seven and River Ridge four.
ZEPHYRHILLS -- Wrestling on its home mats, Zephyrhills advanced all 14 wrestlers to next week's regions, winning five individual titles and beating Sunshine Athletic Conference champion Gulf for its first district crown in five years.
"We wanted to win districts, and we wanted to take everyone with us," said heavyweight Shane Hand, who needed a two-point takedown with five seconds left to beat Hudson's Walter Truzack and remain Pasco County's only unbeaten wrestler.
"We hadn't done this in a while. With all the seniors on this team, we wanted to leave a mark. This will always be hanging on the wall."
Gulf matched Zephyrhills' five champions and won five of eight head-to-head matchups with the Bulldogs but took second because it didn't fare as well against the other three teams. While Zephyrhills went 15-5 against Wesley Chapel, Hudson and Pasco, Gulf went 9-7 against those three. Zephyrhills had 11 finalists to Gulf's six and outscored it 198-1661/2. "We didn't get beat by Zephyrhills. We got beat by the pairings," Gulf coach Travis DeWalt said. "We had the same amount of champions and beat more Zephyrhills kids. But the pairings, you can't argue that. They're the champs."
Hand wasn't the only Bulldog to pull out a title late. Doug Burden, facing another returning state qualifier at 145 pounds in Pasco's Devon Bryant, trailed 4-3 with 40 seconds left but regained the lead then got a pin with 24 seconds left.
Randy Mueller got a reversal with 30 seconds left in a 4-3 victory at 112. Marvin Johnson broke a 1-1 tie with 25 seconds left against Gulf's Steve Manzione at 130, and Nick Spine, on pace to be his school's first four-time state qualifier, got a third-period pin to win at 119. "We put an unbelievable amount of work in during the last three weeks," said Bulldogs coach Kevin Epifanio, whose team last won district titles in 1997 and 1998. "We've been knocking at the door for a long time. At this time of the year, my attitude is that it doesn't matter how you win. Winning 3-2 is just as good as 15-1 in my book."
Gulf went 5-1 in the finals, getting first-period pins from Joey Pospisil (103) and Bryan Ryder (135), who needed only nine seconds for his. Andrew Mendonca got a pin with 24 seconds left at 171. Tim Tracy won 9-6 at 189, and Fred Liriano earned an 8-3 victory in overtime at 215.
The main priority was qualifying for regions, though that was nearly a formality with four wrestlers advancing in each class and five teams competing, most with incomplete lineups. Only three wrestlers were eliminated, and of the 52 who advanced to the Region 2 meet at Sebastian River, 17 have losing records and two are winless. Each school had at least one individual winner. Wesley Chapel's Bill Zeranski earned a 16-3 major decision at 125, and Pasco's Tanner Orr got a 19-4 technical fall at 152. Hudson, which brought only six wrestlers but put four in the finals, got a third-period pin from Landon Barabas at 140 and a 5-3 victory at 160 from Tim Bentley.
-- GREG AUMAN
CITRA -- Hernando dominated the Class A, District 5 tournament as all 13 Leopards qualified for the region tournament. "Our kids have been working hard the last two weeks getting ready for the tournament," Hernando coach Matt Smith said. Hernando's Chris Malvesti won the 130-pound class with a 17-10 victory against Crystal River's Jeremy Cates.
Billy Combs, a state qualifier last year for Hernando, pinned Lecanto's Corbin Glantz to win 135. "It went very well for me," Combs said. "I wish I would have gotten maybe a cradle or two more in the first period. I needed to shoot more. I feel really good about regionals."
Combs' brothers, Michael and Charley, won their classes as well. Michael beat Dunnellon's Keith Migliaccio 19-4 in the 145 final, and Charley pinned Crystal River's Arlando Madison in the 152 final. Austin Chipoletti (171), Thomas Lyle (189) and Windham Rotunda (heavyweight) also won titles for Hernando, which scored 2201/2 points. Crystal River, led by 160-pound champion Brady Pratt and Roderic Sparks (103) scored 144 points, good enough for second. Pratt beat North Marion's Cody Hoppel 10-6 in the final. "I wrestled him last year in regional finals," Pratt said. "For him, aggressiveness is all I tried. That is what my coaches tried to tell me. Just pound, pound pound, attack, don't let up on him. I wrestle better when I'm just going out of control. You can't let up on him."
Sparks improved to 32-7 with a pin of Ocala West Port's Darryl Peck in the final.
"I feel I did pretty good," Sparks said. "But I have a couple of things to work on, like making my moves run together. I just have to step it up this week in practice."
Dunnellon and North Marion finished with 102 points. West Port had 73, Citrus 65 and Lecanto 57.
-- THOMAS GEMKOW