By BOB PUTNAM
© St. Petersburg Times, published January 3, 2001
Countryside coach Dave Frayer knows there are distractions coming back from holiday break.
Illnesses, the temptation to gorge on big holiday meals and, of course, a two-week layoff from wrestling in dual meets and tournaments, can all lead to a slow start come January.
The Cougars, though, can't afford any letdowns.
They get their first big test of the month tonight when they host county rival Pinellas Park in a dual meet.
"I don't know if this is a particularly good time to be wrestling a team like Pinellas Park," Frayer said. "I probably would have liked to have scheduled this one a little bit later. It's our first action back and we haven't had a full practice squad over the break. That's always a questionable situation. We just have to stay focused. Pinellas Park always has scrappy, tough kids and if we're not ready we can be thrown on our backs in the first two periods."
Frayer knows it is tough dealing with distractions. After all, tonight's dual meet coincides with the national championship game between No. 1 Oklahoma and No. 3 Florida State. Frayer's son, Jared, is a standout wrestler for the Sooners.
"That's his school and I wouldn't mind being home watching that one," Frayer said of tonight's Orange Bowl. Instead, Frayer has to concentrate on the Patriots, a team that has become his nemesis on and off the mat.
During the summer, Pinellas Park was one of three schools that declined to wrestle Countryside because of suspected abuse of transfer rules. Pinellas Park also kicked Countryside out of its Jerry Mita Invitational this season.
In the fall, Pinellas County athletic director Bob Hosack cleared Countryside of any recruiting violations and forced Pinellas Park, as well as Tarpon Springs, to put Countryside back on its schedules this season. Both teams did, but Pinellas Park still decided not to let Countryside back in its tournament.
"It's good that we're wrestling again and getting the rivalry going," Frayer said. "But I still wish the heck I could have gotten into their tournament. I think we could have made things more interesting if we were there."
That left the Cougars one tournament short. They still found competition in December, wrestling in the Sarasota Invitational and finishing fourth behind Miami Southridge, South Miami and Miami Braddock. Countryside also is 3-0 in dual meets with big victories over Osceola and East Lake.
"We're starting to come together and we're having kids that are staying with the program," Frayer said. "We scheduled everything a little bit later this season knowing our football team had a chance for success and we wouldn't get some of those guys back here until later in the season. And even though we finished fourth at the Sarasota tournament, I thought we did pretty well considering most of the teams already had wrestled 10 to 15 times this season."
Meanwhile, the Patriots have wrestled in two tournaments and are starting to recover from injuries and absences that hurt their performance in December.
Pinellas Park coach Scott Stern said he still doesn't know how he'll approach tonight's dual meet. He said he wants to make the varsity meet competitive but he would rather not do it at the expense of his junior varsity lineup.
"We'll see what happens," he said.
RESCHEDULED: The St. Petersburg City Championships, originally scheduled for Jan. 13, have been pushed back to Jan. 27.
The tournament was rescheduled because the renovations to Northeast's gymnasium are not complete. The bleachers are being installed this week and the floor is not yet finished.
Even though there were delays, Vikings coach Bill Dudley said he still wanted to have the tournament at his school. Last season the tournament had to be held at St. Petersburg Catholic because the gym was in its early stages of reconstruction.
The only difficulty was finding another date. Dudley said he wanted to schedule it a week later, but that would have interfered with the Pinellas County Athletic Conference meet at East Lake. So the only day available was Jan. 27, which comes a week before districts.
"I'd rather have it earlier, but I've got to take what they give me," Dudley said.
THE SPRINGER SHOW: St. Petersburg's Wesley Springer did not make it to the state tournament last season, so this year he's taking it out on those who did.
Last month, Springer beat state qualifiers Delvon Stanley of Pinellas Park and Tony Cianciolo of Osceola.
"He's a tough, strong kid and if you let him stick around long enough he's going to beat you," Stern said.