NEED TO KNOW: Six seniors are gone from last season, so Gulf will have four or five first-year wrestlers starting. But the core seniors are strong, led by Pospisil and Ryder. Newcomer Jonathan Neptune - no relation to Cameron - could make a splash as a sophomore at 189. And this should be a much improved team in two months from what the Bucs are lining up now.
COACH SAYS: "I don't consider us a favorite at all; not right now. I have a lot of holes, and we need to fill the holes if we want to win anything."
COACH: Dana Bentley (seventh season).
2003 SAC FINISH: Seventh.
KEY RETURNEES: Tim Bentley (Sr., 215), Landon Barabas (Sr., 160).
NEED TO KNOW: Bentley jumps from 160 to 215. Brothers Landon and Lance (sophomore, 119) are solid as is 103-pounder A.J. Reyes. Among the new faces are 125-pounder Craig Opie, a transfer from DeLand, and 171-pounder Brad Bliton, who wrestled as a freshman. The team includes three girls: sophomore Jennifer Jurek, whose cousin, Luke Jabron, wrestled for the Cobras, and freshmen Jessica Stafford and Amanda Feagley.
COACH SAYS: "I think this year's team is a little better than last year. There's a little more experience with the upperclassmen, and I'll have all the weight classes filled."
COACH: Brett Murray (third season).
2003 SAC FINISH: Fourth.
KEY RETURNEES: Scott Mays (Jr., 189), Clay Hulsey (Sr., 160/171), Billy Suter (Sr., 140/145).
NEED TO KNOW: The Gators graduated only two from last season, but Devon Kearney and Glenn Shipe opted not to return, leaving a young lineup. Mays will contend for a state crown, and Murray sees promise in junior Luke Novak, a district runner-up last year at 125, and senior Jeff Ramer, who moved from Pennsylvania and will wrestle at 145.
COACH SAYS: "We'll have six or seven weight classes with first-year wrestlers, but as long as the kids develop, it'll be a different team by February. The kids come through every year, getting the experience, figuring out the sport and doing well. We have to count on that happening again."
COACH: John Marretta (fourth season).
2003 SAC FINISH: Fifth.
KEY RETURNEES: Gregg Steiner (Jr., 140), Kyle Hagerty (Sr., 171); James Lawless (Sr., 160), Adam McManus (Sr., 215), Sean Pearsall (Sr., 119), Nate Posey (Sr., 145).
NEED TO KNOW: Mitchell's preseason label as the team to beat might work against it. "Starting off so well has made us a little of a marked team," said Marretta, whose team lost a dual meet to Zephyrhills then beat it to win Pasco's Tough Team Tournament.
COACH SAYS: "We already have most of our kids down at the weight we want them at, so that's helping us. They started early, watching their diets and staying in shape."
COACH: Mark DeAugustino (sixth season).
2003 SAC FINISH: Ninth.
KEY RETURNEES: Justin Craig (Sr., 171/189).
NEED TO KNOW: The Pirates are very young with 11 freshmen or sophomores among the starting 14. DeAugustino can fill all his classes for the first time in his six seasons, and he likes the youth, especially the poise of sophomore co-captains Brandon Wheaton (119) and John Clarke (171). Craig is a rare senior along with fellow football player Chris Taylor (heavyweight.).
COACH SAYS: "All my freshmen and sophomores are athletes. If they can learn how to wrestle, they could be real special. Unbelievably special."
COACH: Vinnie Lowe (ninth season).
2003 SAC FINISH: Third.
KEY RETURNEES: Matt Bullwinkel (Sr., 135), Billy Bullwinkel (Sr., 130), Keith Coghlan (Sr., 135), Anthony Jackson (Sr., 125).
NEED TO KNOW: The four core seniors are as talented a quartet as you'll find in the county, but filling the rest of the lineup has been tough. Senior Josh Rupe (112) and junior Shane Higgins (103) also are back, though Lowe was disappointed three who combined for more than 50 wins last season did not return.
COACH SAYS: "It's a shame to see girlfriends and TV more important than being involved in high school sports. But we have 13 guys in the room right now. They're all working, and the attitude is very positive."
COACH: Carlo Parente (second season).
2003 SAC FINISH: Eighth.
KEY RETURNEES: A.J. Agazarm (Jr., 125/130), Seth Perry (Sr., 160), Zach Perry (So., 119/125).
NEED TO KNOW: Anthony Daugherty and Steve Johnson, the Knights' top wrestlers last season, surprised Parente by opting not to compete. "I don't know. Senioritis? I was so disgusted," the coach said. Still, he has more depth than last season, including senior Matt Heckler (130), whose brother, J.T., was a standout for the Knights.
COACH SAYS: "Last year, we didn't do that bad. We were young. I think this year, we'll have more of the weights filled with solid guys. The team seems more ambitious and hungry than last year."
COACH: Charlie Helm (second season).
2003 SAC FINISH: Sixth.
KEY RETURNEES: Kevin Boyd (Jr., 152), Mike Apanovich (Sr., 152), Joey Crespo (Sr., 145).
NEED TO KNOW: Boyd was a standout at 103 two years ago but is up to 152 and will split time between the wrestling and weightlifting teams. Apanovich was a state qualifier as a sophomore and is a leader on the mats. Among the newcomers is sophomore Derrick Dennis, who could step in at 103.
COACH SAYS: "We're a really new team, but we have a lot of guys trying hard. They're learning, but it's a lot of young guys."
COACH: Matt McDermott (first season).
2003 SAC FINISH: Second.
KEY RETURNEES: Randy Mueller (Sr., 119), Josh Calhoun (Jr., 125), Marvin Johnson (Jr., 135/140), Scott Calhoun (Sr., 160/171).
NEED TO KNOW: McDermott moves up from assistant to take over for Kevin Epifanio, who stepped down to spend more time with his family. Also gone are two-time state champion Shane Hand and four-time state qualifier Nick Spine, but Hand's brother, freshman William, could be the new heavyweight. Star linemen Chris Greene (215) and Gary Smith (189) will keep the Bulldogs strong in the upper weights.
COACH SAYS: "As a dual team, I think we look better than last year. And in tournaments, I think we'll do quite well as a team. I'm pleased with where we are right now, but we have a lot of work to do."THE DISTRICTS
CLASS 2A-9: (Tournament TBA) Central, Hudson, Land O'Lakes, Mitchell, Ridgewood, River Ridge, Springstead, Wesley Chapel.
CLASS A-8: (Tournament at Hernando): Gulf, Hernando, Pasco, Villages, Zephyrhills.
DECEMBER - 5-6: Gulf, Mitchell, Ridgewood at East Lake Tournament. 6: River Ridge, Wesley Chapel at Land O'Lakes Duals Tournament. 6: Pasco, Zephyrhills at Seminole Hooters Tournament. 10: Pasco at Mitchell, Wesley Chapel at Tampa Prep. 12-13: Hudson, Pasco, River Ridge, Wesley Chapel, Zephyrhills at Kiwanis Tournament at Hernando. 13: Gulf at Adel (Ga.) Tournament. 13: Land O'Lakes at Okechobee Tournament. 13: Ridgewood at Osceola Kowboy Tournament. 15: Mitchell at River Ridge. 19-20: Hudson, River Ridge, Wesley Chapel, Zephyrhills at Gulf Tournament. 19-20: Hudson at Orlando Lyman Tournament. 19-20: Ridgewood at Boca Ciega Southside Duals Tournament.
JANUARY - 2-3: Hudson, Ridgewood at Oviedo Tournament. 3: Gulf at Crestview Tournament. 7: Wesley Chapel at Hudson, Central at River Ridge. 8: Berkeley Prep at Mitchell. 9-10: Gulf at Episcopal Tournament. 10: Pasco at Zephyrhills Bulldog Duals Tournament. 10: Land O'Lakes, River Ridge at Ridgewood Ram Slam Duals Tournament. 14: Hudson at Crystal River, River Ridge at Wesley Chapel. 16-17: Hudson, Mitchell, Pasco, Zephyrhills at Springstead Dr. Batista Tournament. 16-17: Gulf, Land O'Lakes at North Port Tournament. 17: Ridgewood at Osceola Jones Memorial Tournament. 21: Wesley Chapel at Lecanto. 22: Gulf at River Ridge, Springstead at Hudson. 23-24: Mitchell, Wesley Chapel at Fort Myers Fries Duals Tournament. 23-24: Pasco at Jacksonville Lee Tiger Prowl Tournament. 24: Land O'Lakes hosts Duals Tournament. 28: Gulf at Hudson, Wesley Chapel at Clearwater Central Catholic, Pasco at Springstead. 29: Mitchell at East Lake. 31: Sunshine Athletic Conference Tournament at Land O'Lakes.
FEBRUARY: 4: Mitchell at Springstead, Zephyrhills at Wesley Chapel, Hernando at Ridgewood, Berkeley Prep at River Ridge. 5: Hudson at River Ridge. 6: Zephyrhills at Pasco. 13-14: Districts. 20-21: Regions. 25-28: State finals, Lakeland.