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After earlier loss, Pirate won when it counted most

By GREG AUMAN, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published April 13, 2003

DADE CITY -- Two years ago, Tanner Orr left Pasco High halfway through his sophomore year, a promising wrestler who was honorable mention all-conference as a freshman.

After a season and a half in North Carolina, Orr returned to Dade City, missing his friends and the program he learned the sport in, with two goals: win a state title and earn a scholarship.

"Just winning states," Orr said Friday on the way home from a visit to Carson-Newman College in Jefferson City, Tenn., where he would like to wrestle next season. "That was it. I had to do it."

In two seasons in North Carolina, he moved progressively closer, finishing third as a sophomore and second as a junior. He starred at Avery High in Asheville, learning from his uncle, Richie Trammell, who wrestled for the University of North Carolina.

And when his mother, Renee, moved back to Dade City, he had a chance to finish his high school career where it started: on Pasco's mats working with coach Mark DeAugustino, who believed he had a state title in him two years earlier.

"Definitely," said DeAugustino, who coached another champion two years ago in Tye Reedy, who was Pasco's fourth state champion. "This year, he did everything I asked him to do. He never missed practice, worked hard every day. When I picked up the pace, he picked up the pace and never looked back."

Orr began wrestling in the summer before eighth grade, and his mother remembers it as a quick courtship with a sport that soon became a major part of his life.

"He had been after us to wrestle since he was little, but one day, out of the clear blue sky, he just stopped and said, 'Mom, I want to wrestle,"' she said. "We didn't know what a wonderful sport it is."

Orr lost only twice in his senior season, and as was the case with Zephyrhills' Shane Hand, a familiar foe from nearby helped him reach the sport's pinnacle.

Orr's closest rival was Hernando's Charley Combs, who beat him during the season, getting a five-point throw for an 8-7 victory that motivated Orr, even after he evened the score in the region semifinals.

When the two met one last time in the state final, Combs jumped out front with an early takedown, a 2-0 lead that triggered some of Orr's best wrestling of the season.

"Tanner got his wake-up call early," said DeAugustino, whose senior rallied and held on for a 5-4 decision. "The key to him winning was Charley taking him down. Right off the bat, Tanner realized that he had to wrestle if he wanted to win."

Orr won the 152-pound state title in those six minutes at the Lakeland Center, but what made the championship possible was a commitment that started months earlier and set the standard in the Pirates' wrestling room, in practices and in competition.

"He left no doubt," DeAugustino said. "The way he prepared himself, whether he won or lost, he was ready for the moment. And when he got there, he seized it."

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