Springstead beats Cardinal Gibbons for the championship in a battle of the state's top two teams.
By TERRY JONES
© St. Petersburg Times, published January 7, 2001
TAMPA -- Springstead and Fort Lauderdale Cardinal Gibbons entered the two-day Buccaneer Duals Tournament ranked No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, in the floridakids.net Class A state poll. Going head to head changed little. The Eagles beat the Redskins 36-32 in the dual match and won the tournament 455-453.
"We did it, and our kids looked good," Springstead coach Bob Levija said. "But Cardinal Gibbons has the best team we have faced this year. We started off slow, but our middleweights did an excellent job to bring us back." In a field of eight teams, Jesuit placed sixth and Berkeley Prep seventh. Alex Henriquez, a Jesuit freshman 103-pounder, was the only individual champion from Hillsborough, going 5-0. In the championship match, Cardinal Gibbons took a 23-3 lead over Springstead after the first five matches, and it appeared the polls were wrong.
However, the Eagles' power started with the middleweights, when junior Matt Booker recorded a 20-7 major decision for the first of six consecutive wins. And after Steve Garofano scored a decision at 171 pounds, the Eagles led 30-23. After Gibbons' David Spanich scored a 12-6 decision over Nate Booker at 189, Springstead had a 30-26 lead with two matches remaining and 215-pounder Springstead's John Legner forfeiting with an injured leg. At that point, Levija gambled by dropping heavyweight Jose Flores to 215, hoping for a pin.
A loss by Flores could have meant a loss in the match and the tournament. However, Flores scored a fall at 1:27 to secure the victory.
"The title match was great," Gibbons coach Frank Pettineo said.
"One more individual win and it would have been different. Springstead has a good team, and the big match will be the state tournament."
Springstead's Gerard DeCristofaro went 7-0 and was selected as the Most Outstanding Wrestler. Gibbons 125-pound sophomore J.T. Taylor, 6-0 with six pins in the first period, was selected Most Outstanding Underclassman.