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If you thought Bucs were good, just wait

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

Travis DeWalt's season didn't finish the way he wanted it to, but for Gulf, his third season as coach was another step in the right direction.

"The first time kids go to state, they're sightseers," said DeWalt, who had five wrestlers qualify for the state tournament in Lakeland, including three who will be back next season. "It's hard to overcome the ooh and the aah when they get there and see eight mats going at once."

Only one Gulf wrestler -- junior 103-pounder Joey Pospisil -- placed at state, but the Buccaneers' path to Lakeland was memorable, with a Sunshine Athletic Conference crown, a close second at districts and a third-place region finish.

"It was awesome," said DeWalt, a 1990 Gulf graduate who won the school's first state title as a senior. "At regionals, we get a win here and there, and we win a title there. And I went to state with five guys I thought were capable of placing."

Pospisil will return as will fellow state qualifiers Steve Manzione (130) and Bryan Ryder (135), giving the Buccaneers one of the county's top returning casts. What helped Gulf to a conference crown this season was a strong lineup from top to bottom, one that finished 14-1 in dual meets.

The lone loss came in the final dual meet of the season and was a close loss to Ridgewood, one that DeWalt said would keep him fired up for next season all by itself.

"Let me assure you this: There was not a lot of sleep to be had that night," said DeWalt, who rebounded with a conference win that saw 11 of 13 Buccaneers finish in the top four in their weight class.

Zephyrhills edged the Bucs in a district rematch a week later.

But DeWalt said that only adds to his excitement for next season with a young but promising lineup.

"Zephyrhills was an unbelievable team that has some senior horses. So when it came to individual tournaments, I knew they would be tough," said DeWalt, who took a group of wrestlers to Russia last summer and took the team to a tournament in Iowa in December.

"Next year means a lot because it will be my fourth year with the kids. So that senior class will be more like a true product for me."

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