By TERRY JONES
© St. Petersburg Times, published November 23, 2000
BRANDON -- With one of its best teams, 27 years of undefeated dual seasons and five-time masters world champion Russ Cozart still coaching, Brandon still is the team to beat in Hillsborough County.
However, with a two-time state champion, two state placers and two other state qualifiers back, Bloomingdale will challenge Brandon for local supremacy. The dual season ends Jan. 31 with Bloomingdale visiting Brandon. Then they will go to districts to begin a quest for the Class 2A state title and Bloomingdale the 3A title.
Two-time state champion David Mason and two-time state qualifier Joe Dinzeo lead the Bulls. A preseason poll has Bloomingdale ranked third behind Miami Southridge and Miami South Dade.
"This is the best team we have ever had, and we are going for everything this year," Dinzeo said. "We really want a state title. I don't know that we will beat Brandon, but we hope to give them a good match. We are best in the lower weights, but to beat them, we will have to win some of the close ones."
Mason should be at 125 pounds (currently, he is at 135) by the end of the season. He won his state title last year at 119 and was at 103 the year before.
"Brandon is not part of our thinking right now," Mason said. "They have a good team, and we have a good team. But I imagine both teams are more concerned about the state battle.
"Our team is close and ready to have our best season together."
For the past few seasons, the Bulls have been toughest in the lower weights (103,112, 119, 125 and 130). If they are to have a chance to make history by giving Brandon its first dual loss in 27 years, Bloomingdale must win at least four of those matches. They will have to come through again if the Bulls are to win a state title. Junior Robert Hagins (32-7 and fifth at state last year), sophomores Nick Miles, Bobby Smith and Nick Perrone and Mason will fill those lower weights. Justin Diaz, a junior middle weight at 160, and Dinzeo are the best for Bloomingdale in the middle and upper weights.
"We expect to keep our momentum going from last year," Bulls coach Scot Tipton said. "We won district, regional and placed fifth in the state and have all of our top wrestlers back.
"The kids are very excited about this year. They will need to intensify but still have fun. With no serious injuries, we should have a good season."
Although Brandon and Bloomingdale are in different classifications, the dual match between them is serious.
The Eagles counter in the lower weights with four-time national champion and two-time state placer Ryan Joyce, returning starter junior Kyle Sill, two sophomores and four freshmen scrapping for the five starting spots.
In the middle and upper weights, Brandon will be tough against anyone in the state. Senior state contenders David Emch and Brian Burgman power the middle. Both placed third last year at the state meet. Mike Manza in the middle and Joe Papp and Nick Farriero in the upper weights are three more seniors with power. The other slots have yet to be decided. "I am pleased with the guys on our team so far," Cozart said. "Granted, we need the most work with our lower weights. We have some tough kids there. They have a long way to go. They are all young with a lot of club experience and several national championships between them, so they will do all right.
"Our big guns are our seniors. They have to lead this team. They will."
ADMISSION: Most schools charge $4.
REGULAR SEASON: Schools began the regular season Monday. They can participate in 20 meets. Tournaments count as two meets.
KEY DATES: Dec. 8-9 -- Cougar Invitational; Jan. 13 -- Raider Invitational; Jan. 26-27 -- Ippolito Tournament; Jan. 31 -- Bloomingdale at Brandon; Feb. 3 -- Western Conference meet.
PLAYOFFS: The top four wrestlers in each weight class advance from districts and regionals. The district tournaments are Feb. 5-10. The regional tournaments are Feb. 16-17. The state tournament is Feb. 22-24 at the Lakeland Center.
CLASSIFICATIONS: Schools are divided by enrollment into three classifications, ranging from the largest in Class 3A to the smallest in Class A.- Compiled by MIKE READLING
DAVID MASON, Bloomingdale, Sr., 119-130: A two-time state champ with back-to-back undefeated seasons, Mason is excellent at takedowns and riding. Currently ranked No. 1 in 3A, he will meet tough competition at state from Miami Southridge and Miami South Dade. But he should prevail and lead the Bulls to a top-three finish.
PHILLIP MARSHALL, Plant City, Sr., 215: The senior is a defending state champ. Although he has been wrestling since only his sophomore year, he qualified for state in both seasons. He is intense on the mat and in practice. He went 34-1 last year, the only loss being to Bloomingdale's Joe Dinzeo by one point. Marshall should repeat as state champ.
DAVID EMCH, Brandon, Sr., 140-152: Pound for pound, Emch is perhaps the top wrestler in Florida. He recently won a top national tournament in Oklahoma. Although he has four national championships, the Florida high school state title has eluded him for three years. In technique, there are none better in Florida. With takedowns, pinning combinations and intensity, he should get his first state title and lead the Eagles to a state team title.
BRIAN BURGMAN, Brandon, Sr., 140-152: Burgman was 35-1 last year at 130 and has finished third in the state the past two years. Not only does he want an individual state title, he wants to help the Eagles win state championship No. 13. He rides well, has a number of sure pin techniques and scores big with takedowns.
JOE DINZEO, Bloomingdale, Sr., 189: He went 35-4 with a third-place finish at the state meet last year. The Bulls need him to have a good season because he is their best upper weight. He had a good off-season in freestyle and Greco tournaments and is a contender for a state championship.
CORNELIUS WIGGINS, Plant City, Jr., 135: He is only in his third year of wrestling but seems to take to the sport naturally. As a sophomore, his only loss was in the state championship. He has sound technique and is a solid athlete. He could help the Raiders take home two individual state titles. -- Compiled by TERRY JONES
CLASS 3A, DISTRICT 7
PREDICTED FINISH: 1. Bloomingdale, 2. Durant, 3. Sickles, 4. Gaither, 5. River Ridge, 6. Palm Harbor University, 7. Hillsborough.
THE SKINNY: With two-time state champ David Mason, state contender Joe Dinzeo and three other returning state qualifiers part of its best team ever, Bloomingdale should not only dominate this district, but send 12 to 14 to regionals. Durant and Sickles have enough young talent to battle for second, perhaps with Gaither and River Ridge.
CLASS 2A, DISTRICT 7
PREDICTED FINISH: 1. Brandon, 2. Plant City, 3. East Bay, 4. Armwood, 5. Riverview.
THE SKINNY: Led by seniors David Emch, Brian Burgman, Nick Farriero, Mike Manza, Joe Papp, Jonathan Wiley and freshman Ryan Joyce, the Eagles have their best team in four years. Last year, Brandon advanced its entire lineup to regionals and could easily do so again. Returning state champ Phillip Marshall and state contender Cornelius Wiggins should give Plant City some points at the state meet.
CLASS 2A, DISTRICT 11
PREDICTED FINISH: 1. Plant, 2. Wharton, 3. Chamberlain, 4. Tampa Bay Tech, 5. Blake, 6. King, 7. Leto.
THE SKINNY: Plant placed high in the regional meet last year, and the corps of that team is back. The Panthers should dominate the district and do well in the regional again. Wharton, Chamberlain and Tampa Bay Tech are young but scrappy and should battle for second place.
CLASS A, DISTRICT 9
PREDICTED FINISH: 1. Berkeley Prep, 2. Jesuit, 3. Temple Heights, 4. Tampa Prep, 5. Tampa Catholic, 6. Robinson, 7. Jefferson, 8. Riverhills Christian.
THE SKINNY: Berkeley Prep has developed an attitude, a winning attitude. Last year, a group of young Bucs, under new coach Mike Pulleo, learned it could do well. They are all back and tougher. Jesuit is always competitive, and Temple Heights has some lower weights who could advance to state, including eighth-grader Rocky Cozart, son of Bradon coach Russ Cozart.- Compiled by TERRY JONES