BRANDON - As the run of postseason tournaments - starting with districts and ending with the state championships - draws closer, many coaches are looking for a tough warm-up tournament for their wrestlers.
And since the Florida High School Activities Association lifted the 16-team limit last year, the 20th annual Tony Ippolito Memorial has been loaded up with top talent as a result.
The opening round of Session I is scheduled to begin today at 5 p.m. on six mats at Brandon High.
Session II will start at 10 a.m. Saturday and Session III should begin at 5 p.m. Saturday with the championship finals scheduled for 7 p.m. Tickets are $5.
"We are really looking forward to some exciting wrestling in the Ippolito this year," Brandon coach and tournament director Russ Cozart said. "A lot of good teams and top state level wrestlers want to use this tournament to get ready for the state championships. With the number of teams opened up by state officials, we have 22 teams signed to compete. It is going to be fun."
Last year, six of the Ippolito champions went on to capture individual state titles. More could accomplish that feat this year.
In addition to Brandon, the third-ranked school in the nation, St. Cloud, Manatee, Pinellas Park, Sarasota, Cape Coral, Riverview, Sarasota Riverview and Durant will be competing.
Pinellas Park is the first Pinellas County school to compete in the tournament since it was the Seminole Classic in the early 1980s. When the tournament first came to Hillsborough County 1985, it was called the Brandon Elks Wrestling Classic.
This year, seven individual state champions, including six from Brandon and one from Jesuit, plus six state runners up will be on the mats. Some of them will eventually face off.
Sean Joyce (112), Cesar Grajales (130), Ryan Joyce (135), Rocky Cozart (152), David Craig (171) and Rashard Goff (215) are the state belt holders in the Eagles lineup and Alex Enriquez (145) is the title holder from Jesuit.
St. Cloud and Manatee are two of the top Class 3A teams and they both want to sharpen their talons as they prepare for districts.