Room at the top of PCAC field

Unlike in past years, no one team is expected to crush the competition.

Published January 12, 2006

Before most sporting events, fans usually can come close to picking an odds-on favorite to win it all.

That might not be the case Friday and Saturday during the Pinellas County Athletic Conference tournament at Boca Ciega.

There may not be a favorite.

Off the top of his head, Largo coach Jeremy Frioud speculated Countryside, East Lake and Palm Harbor University would be the leading candidates to take home the title. Then he added his team to the mix as the Packers could contend with consistency.

Frioud also recalled last weekend's city tournament in St. Petersburg and threw Northeast, which won its first city title, in as a contender.

Countryside coach Greg Chapman agrees his Cougars are near the top. He said the toughest battles will be East Lake and PHU, but he didn't rule out another strong team, Pinellas Park.

PHU coach Bill Perry's prediction? "It all depends on who shows up with the healthiest team and who makes weight."

Frioud has athletes he considers "top level" wrestlers, but because of their age and experience, they have yet to rise to the top of their weight classes. He said this weekend is a chance for the Packers to make a statement.

"If they can come out of their shells, we can surprise someone," Frioud said. "We can do it. We have to have our better wrestlers win their matches."

Largo will be led by its only senior, Adam Gibson, who is 22-2 at 189 pounds. Frioud said Gibson is a team leader and motivates younger wrestlers by his actions on the mat. Frioud hopes at least seven of his kids place.

"It's going to be a really good program this year," he said. "I want to be in the top four after Day 1 to have a chance to win this."

Countryside has been the traditional favorite to win the PCAC tournament, but last year East Lake stole the glory.

Chapman is not worried about putting Countryside back on top just to bring back tradition. This is his first year as coach and he considers this a new chapter.

"What happened in the past, happened in the past," he said. "We are a very young team. If they wrestle to their abilities they will do very well."

The Cougars have only two seniors, but both are should be in the hunt for individual titles: Ken Costell at 119 pounds and Dustin Incorvia at 152 pounds.

Perry thinks he has a good chance to see at least three of his PHU wrestlers in the finals. His standouts include Franklin Smith (22-0) at 152, Jon Dinsmore (22-1) at 171 and Jon Foster at 130. But Perry points out that by the time the championship round is in motion, it may be too late for a team to make a move toward a title.

"Tournaments are never won in the championship bracket," he said. "They are won in the consolations. In order to win a championship in wrestling, you need to place a lot of kids third and fourth."

So the PCAC should be extra competitive, each placement could be very important and there are several schools that think they have a shot at the big prize.

Despite all this, Perry thinks he knows who will be No. 1.

"I'm looking forward to hoisting the trophy Saturday night," he said.