Ultimate goal for Gulf's Pospisil is winning state.
By GREG AUMAN
Published December 5, 2003
NEW PORT RICHEY - He is the county's top returning wrestler, having stood higher on the podium in Lakeland in March than anyone back on the mats this season.
Joey Pospisil finished third in the state as a junior, his only postseason loss coming to the eventual Class A champion. As dominant as he was in amassing a 42-4 record and helping Gulf to a conference crown last season, the senior is admired most for the way he handles himself off the mat: quiet, humble, unassuming and still the perfect leader for a young team.
"Joey doesn't walk around thinking he's better than anybody," coach Travis DeWalt said before practice Wednesday. "But he'll be the first person to tell you he'll outwork you. He shows you can be good, can be a leader without any of that cocky stigma."
Last season, Pospisil won district, conference and regional titles in wrestling's lightest class, 103 pounds. He'll move up to 112 this season, but his goal is the same. "Winning states is my main goal," said Pospisil, who liked the challenge of a new class better than trimming weight to get down to 103. "I would definitely be disappointed if I don't win."
DeWalt won a state championship at Gulf in 1990, also as a senior at 112 pounds, and said Pospisil has the attitude to give the Bucs another champion.
"I have no doubt in my mind that he can't fathom anything but first place this year," DeWalt said. "That's how he's been working. It's not confidence, but just goals set. He's very hungry. Some kids would be happy with third place, but it bothered him."
He and teammate Bryan Ryder spent 28 days in Minnesota at the J Robinson Intensive Camp, a camp so grueling its survivors, er ... , graduates proudly wear T-shirts reading, "I DID IT. 2003."
Wrestling is Pospisil's only sport and his preparation is as much mental as physical. He's constantly searching for new moves and techniques, asking coaches during practice, before and after.
"Anything we give him, he picks it right up," DeWalt said. "He doesn't think there's ever enough out there to learn. I've seen him go up to kids on the side and say, "Hey, can you show me that?' "
He also has a clearer path to first place. Sean Joyce, the nationally ranked eighth-grader who beat Pospisil in last year's semifinals with a second-period pin, transferred to powerhouse Brandon. That puts him in Class 2A, opening the door for he and Pospisil to both win crowns in February.
Few other wrestlers challenged Pospisil last year, as his other four matches in the state tournament were two pins and two technical falls. He'll have new competition in the 112-pound ranks, where four of the top six in Class A last season were underclassmen.
The comparisons between wrestler and coach are easy to make, starting with size and reinforced with work ethics and love for the sport. Pospisil's first season in wrestling was DeWalt's first as a head coach and the former state champion would like nothing more than to see his senior finish his high school career the way he did 14 years ago.
"He's a mat rat. I can't get rid of him. He's my little shadow," DeWalt said. "But he's a great kid. I wish I had 14 of him, for sure."
MEET JOEY POSPISIL
NICKNAME: His given name is Edward, but he goes by his middle name, and enough teammates butcher his last name (stress the same syllables as "hospital") that his unofficial nickname is "Popsicle." Weighing only 110 pounds as a high school senior probably helps the nickname stick.
FAVORITE SUBJECT: History, any kind. Liked U.S. history as a sophomore, world history as a junior and "definitely" U.S. government this year.
LATE STARTER: Didn't take up wrestling until his freshman year, but now has a passion for the sport. He's gone on wrestling trips with Gulf teammates to Russia and Iowa and competed in a national tournament as part of Team Florida this summer.
WHEN NOT WRESTLING OR STUDYING HISTORY: "I don't know if I should say this, but I definitely like to play a lot of video games. Coach isn't going to be happy with me for saying that." He likes the sports games, and if you're playing Madden, he'll take the Falcons, where Michael Vick is healthy and fast.
CD ON HIS HOLIDAY WISH LIST: "I like OutKast. I haven't gotten a CD yet, but if I listened to something to pump me up, it would probably be that."
FIVE MORE TO WATCH
BILLY BULLWINKEL: Ridgewood, Sr., 130
LAST YEAR: Went 35-4 at 125 pounds, taking third at region and winning two matches at state.
NEED TO KNOW: He's the older but lighter one of Ridgewood's twin stars, half of a dominant foursome (with Keith Coghlan and Anthony Jackson) that has shined since they were sophomores.
MATT BULLWINKEL: Ridgewood, Sr., 135
LAST YEAR: Went 38-3 at 130 pounds, taking third at region and winning two consolation matches at state.
NEED TO KNOW: Had best record of the Rams' top four last season and could be better as a senior. "They're right up there with the best kids in the state," coach Vinnie Lowe said.
JUSTIN CRAIG: Pasco, Sr., 171/189
LAST YEAR: Went 25-9, qualified for regionals but missed conference tournament with illness.
NEED TO KNOW: Short but strong, the football player could compete at 171, leading a young Pirates team that could surprise people late in the season.
SCOTT MAYS: Land O'Lakes, Jr., 189
LAST YEAR: Went 41-4 at 189, finishing second at region and sixth at state.
NEED TO KNOW: Standout linebacker is a two-time state qualifier - went to Lakeland as a 152-pound freshman - and was one of only two sophomores to win conference crowns last year.
BRYAN RYDER: Gulf, Sr., 135
LAST YEAR: Went 35-5 at 135, winning conference and district titles and winning two matches at state.
NEED TO KNOW: Helped Gulf to a 14-1 record in dual meets last year and needed nine seconds to pin his opponent in district finals.