Wrestling: Pool of champs dwindles on Day 2

By Terry Jones, Times Correspondent
Published February 16, 2008

LAKELAND - As the semifinals for the state tournament approached Friday, Hillsborough County wrestlers were rubbing their wounds. Only 13 of the nearly 60 qualifiers were still in the hunt for a title and nine were from Brandon.

Brandon had nine ready for the semis and its closest opponent, Palmetto Ridge, had only six. Brandon won seven and Palmetto Ridge five, giving the Eagles a team lead after two days (193.50) to Palmetto Ridge's 138.

Terry Dawson (112) scored the first win for the Eagles with a 5-4 decision over Ridgewood's Dean Stupar. The sophomore's win started a string of seven victories.

"At the end of the third period, I thought we were tied," Dawson said. "So my mind was set for more wrestling with a tough opponent. I beat him by only two points in the regional semifinals."

Perhaps the biggest upset of the night was at 125 when Brandon's Nick Hutchinson came from a 4-1 deficit to a 5-4 win, defeating Palmetto Ridge senior Elias Rey, a state champion in 2006 and runnerup last year.

The Eagles notched two other surprises. Seniors Phil Uno (215) and Aaron Fullenwider (275) scored major upsets in the top weights. Uno scored a pin and Fullenwider won with a 3-1 decision.

Tampa Bay Christian's Rossi Bruno (103), Tampa Prep's Tyler Liberatore (112) and Jesuit's Chris Kavouklis (189) in Class A were the only winner's bracket survivors. Though only an eighth-grader for the Rams, Bruno recorded a 39-0 season record with a victory. Liberatore, an eighth-grader, extended his record to 39-3 to earn his first trip to the championship match.