Wrestler wants tough competition

Brandon High's Terry Dawson is eager for a challenge outside his home gym.

Published February 2, 2007

Brandon High School wrestler Terry Dawson gears up for practice the way most wrestlers approach a state or national tournament.

That's because for Dawson, a 103-pound freshman who wrestled for Temple Heights Christian School the past two seasons, practice at Brandon is when the real competition begins.

"For me, the only competition is in our gym, working with the other guys on the team, because it's such a strong lineup," Dawson said of the six-time defending Class 2A state champion Eagles. "I really don't see a lot of competition until it's a big tournament like the Ippolito or the state tournament."

The Hanover, Pa., native, who started wrestling at 5, moved to the area three years ago and took up with Temple Heights' now-defunct wrestling program.

He finished third in the Class A state tournament as an eighth-grader. Partly because Temple Heights dropped its high school sports program and partly because of the Eagles' wrestling history, Dawson transferred to Brandon, where he has posted a 21-1 record.

"I knew a lot about (Brandon's) program through the research I had done," Dawson said. "After I moved, I knew I wanted to eventually wrestle for Brandon."

Dawson had a bit of a letdown at the Tony Ippolito Memorial Wrestling Tournament in mid January, but not because of his wrestling.

Dawson expected to face stiff competition from Schuyler Swanton of Springstead, the top-ranked 103-pounder in the state, according to FloridaKids.us. Also in the tournament was Sarasota's Robert Herrera, who had lost just once all season.

Dawson defeated Herrera 5-0 in the semifinals, but Swanton was upset by Tampa Prep seventh-grader Tyler Liberatore in the quarters, depriving Dawson of the matchup he craved.

"I really wanted to wrestle Swanton in the finals," said Dawson, who won a 12-0 decision over Liberatore to capture the Ippolito title. "When he lost, it was kind of a bummer."

Last weekend, Dawson took the countywide championship for his weight class. Now, it's on to the regional and state tournaments, where Dawson will get an opportunity to improve on last year's third-place state finish.

Dawson was pinned by Life Academy's Pete Baldwin in the first round of the 2006 championships. "I wasn't feeling well going into the match," Dawson said. "I was up two to three points toward the end. But he got me with a head throw and stuck me. I was really disappointed, but I recovered in consolations."

Dawson won five straight matches in the consolation bracket to finish third. This year, he wants to place higher.

"There's a lot I'm still learning, and (Brandon head coach Russ Cozart) is helping me with that," he said. "I'm really comfortable right now with the way I'm wrestling. ... I feel pretty confident, and I have the experience from last year."