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Preps

Mustangs believe they're ready to emerge

The seniors have absorbed losses but are primed for revenge.

By GREG AUMAN
Published December 5, 2003

TRINITY - If you check the Official New School Breakout Timeline, the fourth season is the traditional season for a young athletic program to make a splash.

In its first season, Mitchell finished last among nine schools with freshmen filling 11 of the 14 weight classes. Three years later, those freshmen are seniors, and the Mustangs are an experienced group ready to claim the Sunshine Athletic Conference title. "All those seniors got to experience Mitchell wrestling back when the bus rides were longer than the matches," coach John Marretta said. "I'm looking for those kids to really get their payback for taking their lumps."

Mitchell finished fifth in last season's SAC standings but returns its starting lineup nearly intact, led by junior Gregg Steiner (140) and a huge senior class. Marretta said he was encouraged before the season even began when his wrestlers showed up for the first practice in far better shape - and much closer to their desired weight - than in previous seasons. "The past two years, we've gotten respect, and this year is our year to take a step up and be No. 1," said Marretta, whose team will challenge for a district title as well. "That's our goal. It's a lofty goal, but I think we've been so close in the last two years.

"By the time January comes, we'll have a tough kid at every weight class and no real weak spots."

Mitchell finished third in its district but missed the crown by only 11 points, scoring 148 to Land O'Lakes' 159. Michael Trinidad and Cory Miller became the first Mustangs to win district crowns, and Trinidad returns for his sophomore year at 152 pounds. Marretta said his team lacks any superstar who will contend for a state title, but its depth from 103 to heavyweight makes it a strong dual meet team, the kind needed to win a conference crown.

"We might not have a lot of kids who will win tournaments, but we have a lot who can get in the final and come back in the consolations to win points," he said. "In dual meets, we'll do great. And in tournaments, we'll sneak up on you."

Joining the returning cast is freshman Jason Robledo, whose cousin, Javier Acquafredda, won a state title at Pinellas Park in 1996. Marretta said the team's strength is in the middle with Steiner at 140, senior Nate Posey, a transfer from River Ridge, at 145, and fellow seniors James Lawless and Kyle Hagerty at 160 and 171.

"That's our barbed-wire fence there," Marretta said.

[Last modified December 5, 2003, 01:34:13]


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