BROOKSVILLE - The seeds were planted Wednesday at Ridgewood and the previous weekend in Immokalee.
At each of those sites, Hernando, last year's Class A state runnerup, lost dual matches. Saturday, the rest of the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference paid for it.
The Leopards repeated as GCAC champions in dominant fashion, going 5-0 in the dual-meet format on their home mats by an average score of 68-13.
"Coach was disappointed (after the losses), so he really pushed us," said Addison Chipoletti, 5-0 in the 171-pound class. "We had a good two days of practice and I think it showed today."
At Immokalee, Hernando lost to Class A power Fort Lauderdale Cardinal Gibbons. At Ridgewood, Hernando lost because of three forfeits after a trio failed to make weight.
At the GCAC there were no forfeits on the Leopards' ledgers. Instead there were 11 all-conference champions in the 14 weight classes. The top two individuals at each weight were awarded conference patches, and nine Leopards were unbeaten on the day.
Some worked harder than others. Two-time state qualifier Stephen Pritz went 5-0 with three forfeits at 152, one giving him his 100th career victory. Chipoletti had a tougher draw with Crystal River's Seth Metz in his final match.
Metz, who entered the meet with two losses all year (one to Chipoletti and one to Hernando's David Pritz), started out quickly on the defending state champ with a two-point takedown at the end of the first period to get within 4-3.
Chipoletti then gave Metz a one-point escape to start the second period, tying the match. Fifty seconds later, however, it was over as Chipoletti pinned.
"I tried to stay more aggressive, tried to work a lot of stuff," Metz said. "I learned a lot that match. We'll get there."
Lecanto had a solid day in going 3-2 in its matches (Crystal River and Springstead also finished 3-2). Lucas Williams (189) and Corbin Glantz (152) had been plagued with shoulder injuries, but both returned to earn all-conference honors, Williams as the 189 champion.
"Today they felt good, this was a trial period for them to get back on their feet," Lecanto coach Sean Furniss said. "I couldn't have asked for anything more."
Lecanto beat county rivals Citrus and Crystal River, the latter coming in rare fashion. The Panthers and Pirates tied at 36 in their dual meet, prompting several tiebreakers to come into effect. Lecanto won on the seventh tiebreaker, having more near-falls.