GULFPORT - A two-year program featuring 10 sophomores may not have scared many teams before the sixth annual Southside Duals at Boca Ciega High.
But Palmetto Ridge went 9-0, had four undefeated individuals and took home the first-place trophy.
Nineteen teams started the two-day event, and Palmetto Ridge coach Mark Rosenbalm was proud at the finish.
"We knew it was going to be a tough, dragout tournament," he said. "What we do is try to prepare them for districts, regionals and states. I try to get our kids to a different part of the state for the exposure. Coming down here, I didn't know what to expect."
After Friday's action, Palmetto Ridge, Palm Harbor University, Venice and Fort Pierce all went 5-0. On Saturday, those teams were placed in the same bracket.
The big match for Palmetto Ridge was a 38-36 victory over Palm Harbor U., which gave the Hurricanes second place with a 9-1 record. Venice placed third at 7-2 and Fort Pierce fourth at 5-4.
Palmetto Ridge was led by its four undefeated wrestlers: Anthony Phillips at 119, Elias Rey at 125, Richie Dehnz at 135 and Clint Hadley at 145.
PHU coach Bill Perry said he was pleased with his team's effort, including a 42-35 victory over Venice. He said Venice is known statewide for its wrestling program and to beat them in a dual was a "proud moment."
"Ten matches is tough," Perry said. "Anything can happen. I think we proved that. I don't think people expected too much out of us before this began. All of a sudden we show up, surprise a couple of teams and take second place."
The Hurricanes were led by John Foster (130), Andrew Fontain (145) and Jon Dinsmore (171), who all went 9-1.
Venice coach Dan Kelly said the competition was good. On another day, he said his kids could have won the title.
"It's a great tournament for getting your young kids as many matches as possible," he said.
Brett Nelson and Jeremie Cook both went 9-0.
Other area schools that competed were Northeast, Lakewood, Seminole, Osceola, St. Petersburg, Dunedin, Tarpon Springs, Boca Ciega, Largo, Robinson, Gibbs and Berkley Prep.
Other undefeated wrestlers were John Sanders of Seminole (171), Dane Coffee of Bishop McGuiness, N.C., (189), Jeff Bresnahan of Robinson (215), Justin Windley of Robinson (171), A.J. Yingling and Dylan Mundella of Northeast, Adam Connor of Largo, Dante Graham of Dunedin and Martin Gille of Osceola.
Cougars fall short
NEW PORT RICHEY - Springstead took a good step toward reclaiming its status as one of the top programs in the North Suncoast, defeating Countryside 37-31 in the Buccaneer Holiday Invitational at Gulf High.
The Eagles swept the 24-team tournament, winning all six of their matches to improve to 8-0 this season. The tournament came down to the 125-pound match, in which Springstead's Skylar Huff held on to defeat Mike Talhouk 11-10.
Huff, along with Skhuyler Swanton (103), and transfers Seth Metz (160, Crystal River) and Andy Leavine (275, Central), went undefeated. The Eagles won despite being without Walter Acosta (171), one of their top performers, and they sent four freshmen onto the mats.
"It's unbelievable," second-year coach Eric Swensen said. "The whole team is MVP. You know, these guys stepped it up. They just put everything on the line. We're bleeding red, white and blue for the Eagles, and it came through (Saturday). It's just so satisfying."
Even after the loss, first-year Cougars coach Greg Chapman was not disappointed.
"You have to realize two of my starters were out," Chapman said. "My 145-pounder and my 130-pounder were out. So I was behind going in. And Springstead wrestled really, really well. They deserve every bit of credit."
The Eagles reached the finals by sweeping through their pool, which included Lehigh, defending champion Chamberlain, River Ridge and Belleview. The Royal Knights finished 2-2 in the pool, and lost to the Eagles 51-18. Countryside won all five pool matches, defeating Ridgewood, Citrus, Colonial, Immokalee and Golden Gate.