Pirates shed runnerup status

Pasco wins three finals to edge host River Ridge for the conference title.

Published January 29, 2006

NEW PORT RICHEY - Pasco sent six wrestlers into the finals, winning three, to capture the Sunshine Athletic Conference title on Saturday and improving on last year's second-place finish.

The Pirates ended the day with 195.5 points, 12.5 ahead of second-place River Ridge. The host Royal Knights sent five to the finals, but only came away with one victory. Land O'Lakes won three of their four finals to finish third with 162.5 points.

"Certain things happened during the tournament that I wish would have been different," Pasco coach Mark DeAugustino said. "So that kind of dampened my happiness. The conference championship is great for the community, the school and everything else, but the kids realize how much tougher they're going to get. We haven't even hit our peak yet.

"Next week they'll be even tougher at districts. The week after they'll be tougher at regions. Then, come states, hopefully they're on."

Zephyrhills, which won one of their four championship matches, finished in fourth with 140 points, followed by fifth-place Ridgewood with 113.

Pasco was paced by John Clarke, who won his second straight 171-pound title with a pin of River Ridge's Brian Beck 1:28 seconds into the match. Clarke, who improved to 29-1, had arguably the day's easiest route toward a title with only four wrestlers in his weight class. Mikey Cowell (103) and Eric Stroud (215) also were victorious for the Pirates.

Gulf's Mike Calafiore, last year's champion at 103, won his second title, this time at 119, with a pin of River Ridge's Sean Hitchcock 4:31 into the match. Land O'Lakes' Josh Kweller (135) also won his second straight conference title; last year's came at 152. Kweller won a 6-4 decision over Ridgewood's Aaron Jackson.

Teammates Brian Rushing (130) and Evan Stack (145) also won individual titles. Rushing won a 3-0 decision over Pasco's Jacob Hinkle, last year's titlest at 125, while Stack pinned the Pirates' Brendan Wheaton 1:03 into the second period.

Other individual champions included River Ridge's Tyler Fleming (112), Ridgewood's Travis Bronder (125), Hudson's Vince Ferlita (140), William Bentley (160) and Travis Tindell (275), Wesley Chapel's Alex Turner (152) and Zephyrhills' Justin Collura (189).