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Juncal, Bennett shine for Florida

The Brandon duo helps Team Florida in a rout at the National Open Folk-Style Championships last week, earning All-America status.

By TERRY JONES

© St. Petersburg Times,
published July 8, 2001


BRANDON -- Brandon's Matt Juncal and Tommy Bennett helped Team Florida dominate the National Open Folk-Style Wrestling Championships in a four-day tournament last week in Birmingham, Ala.

Gerard DeChristofaro of Springstead High, All-Suncoast co-wrestler of the year, also made a big contribution by winning the national championship at 140 pounds.

With more than 300 wrestlers from age 9 to 19 competing, Team Florida amassed 645 points, followed by Georgia (526.5), Ohio (435) and Illinois (409). Florida crowned eight national champions and 18 All-Americans, including DeChristofaro, Juncal and Bennett.

Champions must win their weight and age class and All-Americans are the top six in each class in a national meet.

Bennett, a 12-year-old who will be a seventh-grader at Progress Village magnet school, is the son of former Brandon state wrestler Bobby Bennett. It was the second All-American designation for the younger Bennett, who has won national titles in other tournaments.

Juncal, 16, won the Class 2A championship at 160 last year as a Brandon sophomore and figures to be a major factor in what could be the Eagles' best team.

"The Brandon wrestling club has had a very successful summer so far," Juncal said. "For me it has been great. I work out daily with coach (Russ) Cozart, so I just keep on learning. The folk-style nationals were very tough in my weight. There were 52 strong wrestlers at 189, including a couple state champions. I was pleased with third place."

Juncal wrestled seven opponents, including a win over a Tennessee state champion in the quarterfinals.

"I don't have any more big meets this summer, but I have some tough training ahead," Juncal said. "I plan to work out with Coach Cozart every chance I get and will spend a week at camp at the University of Oklahoma later in July. Josh Lambrecht helps with the camp there and will come here the end of the summer to help with Brandon camps. I plan to work with him as much as possible."

Lambrecht, a former Brandon state champion and starter at Oklahoma, wrestles in the same weight class as Juncal.

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