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Stevenson wins 3 matches against the nation's best
By GREG AUMAN
© St. Petersburg Times, published March 29, 2000
Jimmy Stevenson won his first three matches against the toughest wrestlers in the country last weekend, but he still wasn't totally happy.
"I was pretty happy," the Springstead senior said, "but I think I should have done better."
It's hard to be disappointed when you're competing at the National High School Coaches Association Wrestling Championships, held in Pittsburgh, Pa., and Stevenson acknowledged he was glad just to have the chance to go up against such competition.
"These kids are great at this level," said Bob Levija, Stevenson's coach at Springstead who attended the championships. "Jimmy wrestled excellent. He showed he can wrestle with the best kids in the nation."
Stevenson, the Class 2A 125-pound state champion, wasn't the only county wrestler in attendance. Hernando senior Robbie Pritz, who won a state title in the 142-pound class, lost both of his matches but took consolation in staying competitive at such a high level.
"It was fun, even though I didn't do so good," said Pritz, who was pinned by Maryland's David Hicks in the final period, then lost to Virginia's Will Carroll 10-4. "They're so good. You can't make any mistakes. You do one thing and they jump right on you. I think I did all right, though. I didn't win, but I didn't get beaten too badly either."
Stevenson pinned his first opponent, Alabama's Bryan Bramlett, then defeated Nebraska's Matt Morkel 4-1 and California's Rick Guzman 4-3. The three wins put him one victory away from earning All-America honors with a top-eight finish, but he lost his next two matches by one point each.
"I was leading going into the final period in both losses, but I just made mistakes and they capitalized," said Stevenson, adding that the two wrestlers he lost to finished in the top four in his weight class.
Both wrestlers had the chance to talk with college coaches at the meet, and will be following up with hopes of wrestling at the next level. Pritz will be filing an application to Appalachian State in North Carolina after talking with Mountaineers coaches this weekend, and he also spoke with coaches from Cumberland University in Tennessee.
Stevenson is interested in two junior colleges in Kansas and California and plans to visit both with fellow Springstead senior Anthony DeCristofaro during Springstead's spring break next month.
Pritz said he's glad to get a break from wrestling after being dedicated to the sport almost non-stop since attending a month-long wrestling camp in Minnesota last year.
Stevenson isn't ready to leave the mats just yet -- he's hoping to participate in a national freestyle qualifying meet in Winter Springs this weekend.
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