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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
BRANDON - During the first weekend of August, two long-time members of the Hillsborough County wrestling community were inducted into the USA Wrestling National Hall of Fame's Florida Chapter, during ceremonies in Lakeland.
Tom Lota, a retired coach of East Bay's program, and Stan Amsler, a retired referee and former wrestler in the early years of the Brandon program, were inducted into the hall, along with four others from elsewhere in Florida.
Amsler started refereeing in the early 1970s and was selected to work his first state tournament in 1978.
During more than two decades of refereeing, he saw the growth of wrestling in central Florida, and the quality of the athletes and referees.
"The induction was an emotional and proud moment for me," Amsler said. "Having my past years of service honored was very humbling. During my years of refereeing, I did all I could to help improve the quality of our sport by helping the new refs coming in."
Lota started the wrestling program at Jesuit in 1969 and coached there for three years. He then coached two years in Paterson, N.J. and two years as an assistant at the University of Tampa.
When the program folded at Tampa, he accepted the head coaching position at East Bay, serving 25 years before retiring.
During his time at East Bay, he compiled a record of 227-71. During that time, the Indians won seven district championships, nine Western Conference National Division titles, one regional title and several top 10 finishes in the state finals.
""I always had good dedicated athletes and their families' support to make my job easier," he said. ""It is hard to believe I have been inducted into the hall of fame. I never thought something like this could happen to me."