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Wrestler muscles his way to finals

Crystal River's Brady Pratt comes close to snaring the school's first state title in wrestling since 1993.

By KRISTEN LEIGH PORTER
© St. Petersburg Times
published March 4, 2003


CRYSTAL RIVER -- Brady Pratt's wonderful weekend extended to Monday morning, when his recent accomplishments were announced over the intercom system at Crystal River High. Thanks to his performance at the state wrestling finals, the senior was the Class A runnerup in the 160-pound weight class.

"All the kids were pretty excited for me, and it was pretty cool," Pratt said. "There was a lot of support."

The last time a Citrus County wrestler earned a state championship was 1998, when Lecanto's Nick Carrier won at 145 pounds. Bobby Fischer was the last Crystal River wrestler to win a title, with the last of back-to-back titles coming in 1993.

After a 14-3 majority decision against Sebring's Mike McKenna in Friday's semifinals, Pratt had a chance to change that.

"It's like a dream to be in the state finals, it's unbelievable," he said after the match. "I've got a chance to be state champ."

But during Saturday's final, Pratt fell behind early. His nose was injured and plugged with a piece of cotton, and it was bleeding so bad that the match was stopped twice. He lost the 6-1 decision to Jacksonville Bartram Trail's Jon Klinger.

Pirates coach Bill Tovine said Pratt exceeded expectations by just getting to the championship match.

"When you're in a match with a kid where you've got to work for everything and that impedes your breathing, it can wreak havoc on you," Tovine said. "He finished on his feet and like a man."

Although he came up short in a quest for a state championship, Pratt was glad for the experience. He has not been seriously recruited to wrestle in college, but he said a runnerup finish at state might help.

Pratt was the District 5 champ and finished third at the Region 2 meet.

"I'm pretty happy, just a little disappointed," said Pratt, who finished with a record of 42-7.

Pratt did not place at state as a junior, going 1-1 before bowing out. He was the county's only returning state qualifier, and one of only three to earn a trip this season.

Pirates teammate Roderic Sparks lost his first two matches at 103-pounds and was eliminated on Thursday. Lecanto's Cole Heitt went 2-2 at 112 pounds and lost to the eventual third-place finisher.

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