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Surprise! Tarpon Springs remains unbeaten


© St. Petersburg Times, published January 10, 2001

Usually when a team loses 10 wrestlers to graduation, three more for disciplinary reasons and has just two returning seniors (Jesse Lane at 145 pounds and Michael Johnson at 189), the chances for an undefeated dual season are grim.

Tarpon Springs, however, is not your usual team.

The Spongers, who went undefeated (14-0-1) for the first time in school history last season, have remained perfect this season. They are 4-0 with victories over Clearwater, Dunedin, Gibbs and Largo.

"I really didn't expect to be where we're at right now," Tarpon Springs coach Russ Schenk said. "We just have a great group of kids who want to wrestle."

A young team that finished 12th at the East Lake Invitational and 13th at the Jerry Mita Invitational in December, the Spongers have not experienced the same kind of growing pains during dual meets.

Part of the reason is depth. Tarpon Springs has a full lineup for varsity and junior varsity.

"Having 14 average wrestlers is going to win some dual meets for you," Schenk said. "We're real fortunate we don't have too many spots where other teams can catch us at. Our guys haven't wrestled a lot, but they're not weak."

Schenk said he knows his team's fortunes could change quickly. The Spongers have tough dual meets against Palm Harbor U. and Countryside this month.

"I had an idea of how I wanted to approach things," Schenk said. "I thought we should start out slow. We have our toughest meets at the end, and that gives us a good barometer for districts and regionals. You want to be peaking then. Hopefully, that's what we do."

DILLY OF A DUAL: The other undefeated team in the county, Countryside, gets its toughest test tonight when it hosts Bradenton Manatee.

The Hurricanes won the East Lake and Jerry Mita Invitational in convincing fashion and are one of the favorites for a state title.

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