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District's strength shows down road


© St. Petersburg Times, published February 16, 2001

There's an upside and a downside to being in what local coaches call the state's toughest district.

The downside: Due to the depth of talent, most of the teams will not bring as large a contingent as they might against weaker competition. The upside: Those who did survive last week's Class A, District 7 meet should be well prepared for the competition in this weekend's Class A, Region 2 Tournament at Central.

"Our district is full of good teams and good coaches, and every weight class has tough athletes," Crystal River coach Bill Tovine said. "I think it makes us a better team. Last year our district dominated the regionals, and this year it's much tougher."

The addition of Springstead, ranked among the state's elite in a number of Web-based polls, has made the district even tougher. As expected, the Eagles are a heavy favorite -- along with defending champion Titusville Astronaut -- to claim the regional title.

Most Citrus County coaches have conceded the championship to Springstead and are focusing on the efforts of selected individuals. The county contingent in the regional will consist of 20 individuals -- five from Citrus, eight from Crystal River and seven from Lecanto -- who won their respective weight classes or finished in the top four. All have been battle-tested over a long season and a difficult district tournament.

"It does prepare us well," Citrus coach Ed Kilpatrick said. "There are not going to be a lot of kids there who are better than the kids we just wrestled. And, if there are, they will not be much better."

Of those 20, five come in after winning championships last week, including defending state runner-up Harold Skidmore (130), Jimmy Rodriguez (112) and Ishmeal Brown (189) of Lecanto and A.J. Davis (125) and Nate Stone (145) of Crystal River. Brady Pratt (135) and Josh Stone (152) of Crystal River enter as runners-up.

"Last year we qualified eight to regionals and took eight to state," Lecanto assistant coach Dana Wilkes said. "Last year we lost most of them at district and we expect to do the same this year. I think this district is the toughest in state, by far."

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