Countryside trio grabs elusive prize
After coming close last year, DeNunzio, Hixon, Walker all finally can say they are state champs.
By BOB PUTNAM, Times Staff Writer
Published February 29, 2004
LAKELAND - Countryside wrestlers Dominic DeNunzio, A. Jay Hixon and Wes Walker made a pact not to discuss winning a state title.
The three came agonizingly close last season with DeNunzio and Hixon each taking second and Walker third.
This year the pressure was enormous and they decided to keep their lips sealed in hopes of not jinxing themselves.
On Saturday, they finally had something to talk about.
DeNunzio, Hixon and Walker each won what had become elusive state titles. DeNunzio (140 pounds) and Walker (152) recorded pins and Hixon (145) won by decision.
Pinellas Park's Mike Falgoust also won his first title with a technical fall in the 130-pound final. He became the first Patriots wrestler to win since 1996.
Countryside's three champs equaled last year's total and the 157.5 points was a half-point shy of the school record set a year ago.
But the Cougars did not have enough to catch Brandon. The Eagles won their state record 15th title with 261 points.
"I'm proud of those guys," said Countryside coach Dave Frayer, who is retiring after 24 seasons at the school. "They got the monkey off their back. No more shadows or ghosts following them."
No one had more pressure to win than DeNunzio.
The senior took silver twice, bronze once and was down to his last shot.
He finally struck gold with his pin of Riverdale's Zach Brown at 2 minutes, 42 seconds in the final.
"It's about time," DeNunzio said.
DeNunzio's brother, Dustin, a Clearwater Central Catholic state champ in 1994, came from Boston to help coach.
"That was neat to have him there," Dominic said. "We both won state titles as a senior, so it was a nice way to go out."
After winning, DeNunzio became a cheerleader, standing on the Lakeland Center floor and coaxing his teammates. "There was pressure for all of us," Hixon said. "When you're at Countryside, it's almost a sin if you're not a champion. I was so nervous I had to close my eyes and listen to music."
The Cougars had five other place winners. Casey Schreiber (135) took second, Kent Costell (103), Greg Vernon (112) and Sean Murphy (160) were fourth and Ben Rzymek (171) was sixth.
Pinellas Park's Greg Anderson (215) and Travis Youngs (275) were the county's other place-winners. Anderson took third and Youngs sixth.
[Last modified February 29, 2004, 01:15:11]
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