The Bucs have potential for points in all 14 classes.
By GREG AUMAN
Published February 13, 2004
The county's Class 2A wrestlers face a reasonable challenge Saturday in advancing to next week's regional, with as many as eight in each weight class competing for four spots.
Not so in the Class A, District 8 tournament, where five schools - including a young program from The Villages - are competing, if only technically, for four spots in each weight class. In all, only a handful of wrestlers might go home.
That won't lessen the importance or enthusiasm at Gulf, where a young Bucs team, fresh off defending its Sunshine Athletic Conference title two weeks ago, is seeking the district crown that eluded a senior-laden group last year.
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The Bucs' leaders are seniors Joey Pospisil and Bryan Ryder, who won district titles last year and had first-period pins in their conference championship matches. They are two of only three seniors on roster, with heavyweight Cameron Neptune, but Gulf's strength is its ability to pile up points in all 14 classes, despite five first-year wrestlers starting.
The unsung heroes for coach Travis DeWalt in Gulf's SAC triumph were in the consolation finals, where T.J. Dickey (125), John Eden (135), Shane Leggett (160) and Jonathan "Bubba" Neptune (171) came through with pins, giving the Bucs enough points to edge rival Ridgewood. Daniel Montaniz (130) won by injury default in the third period, but earned the same bonus points as a pin would carry.
Gulf took second in the district to Zephyrhills, but the Bulldogs couldn't keep up with the Bucs in the conference tournament. Gulf's main challenger looks to be Hernando, which won its Gulf Coast Athletic Conference crown and returns state champion Addison Chipoletti, as well as state qualifiers Charley Combs (145), Stephen Pritz (152) and heavyweight Windham Rotunda.
The Bucs may face the same predicament they did against Zephyrhills a year ago, where Gulf won the head-to-head matchups with its closest challenger, but ultimately lost because it didn't fare as well against the rest of the field. Gulf's strengths don't line up with Hernando's, except perhaps at heavyweight, where Neptune and Rotunda meet in one of the district's top individual showdowns.
The deciding factor may be poise among the younger wrestlers, as Hernando has two key freshmen in 112-pounder Brandyn Kuhn and 135-pounder Thomas Nelson. Gulf's inexperience didn't show in the conference meet, and if it holds its own against more familiar opponents in Pasco and Zephyrhills, those matches could carry the Bucs to victory.