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Pinellas wrestling preview

County coaches focus on actual wrestling

By BOB PUTNAM

© St. Petersburg Times, published November 23, 2000


This was supposed to be a season where wrestling in Pinellas County entered a mad, mad world.

During the summer, coaches at Northeast, Pinellas Park and Tarpon Springs declined to schedule dual meets against Countryside because they believed the Cougars abused transfer rules.

Also, St. Petersburg decided it was not going to wrestle Northeast for the same reason.

This made for some potential juicy subplots. Who was going to wrestle? Would the finger pointing continue? Which rivalries would still remain?

Well, sorry folks, but the soap opera that was to be the 2000-01 wrestling season will not happen.

Bob Hosack made sure of it.

Hosack, the county athletic director, cleared Countryside and Northeast of recruiting charges and said the aforementioned schools would wrestle each other or he would take away their scheduling privileges and handle it himself.

"I met with all the coaches in the county and told them we had to take care of our own," Hosack said.

So now the coaches are playing a much happier tune and getting along.

"The boss man spoke and said he have to wrestle," Tarpon Springs coach Russ Schenk said. "So we wrestle. No big deal."

"I'm disappointed with the way some of the coaches acted, but I don't hold any grudges," Countryside coach Dave Frayer said. "As far as I'm concerned, it's a dead issue. Let's move on."

It's a good thing the coaches have moved on from their off-season jousting. After all, there is some work to be done.

Last season, Pinellas County had a subpar performance with no state champions and only two semifinalists. The decline comes five years after the county had a record eight individual state champions.

"It's going to be a different year," Largo coach Kevin Kennedy said. "There's a lot of rebuilding."

Kennedy was speaking more for his team. The Packers, the defending district champion, are down to 19 wrestlers after 15 quit during the first three weeks of practice.

Other schools are starting over with coaches, not wrestlers. Clearwater Central Catholic, Dixie Hollins, Gibbs, Lakewood, Northside Christian and Palm Harbor University have new coaches.

One team that already has its foundation is East Lake. The Eagles won their first conference title last season.

"I'd say they're the front-runner right now as the top team," Frayer said. "They're still the conference champs."

East Lake has eight starters back, including four returning district champions -- Jarod Prior (119), Josh Lutz (125), Randy Mills (140) and Tim Dresser (160).

"I'm surprised at how we're coming along," Eagles coach Pete Collins said. "We've got a lot of good kids, and I think we're going to be strong."

Countryside, Pinellas Park and Tarpon Springs have younger teams but also will contend.

Top returners

103 -- NATE NAUMANN, Boca Ciega, Jr.: Naumann, a conference, district and regional champion as a sophomore, is ranked No. 1 in his weight class by wrestleflorida.com. He placed fourth at the state tournament last season. Other notables: Martin Otano (Dixie Hollins), Cesar Grajales (Northside Christian).

112 - ROBERT NORVELL, Seminole, Sr.: Norvell, a district champion last season, should benefit from other top wrestlers who have moved up in weight classes. Other notables: Eric LaVenture (St. Petersburg Catholic).

119 - SEAN KELLEY, Palm Harbor U., Sr.: A two-time state qualifier, Kelley was the Hurricanes' lone district champion last season. He is mentioned as a wrestler to watch by floridawrestling.com. Other notables: Charles Carbonaro (Pinellas Park), Jason Plomatos (Gibbs), Josh Prior (East Lake), Mike Flood (Countryside).

125 - SEAN THOMPSON, Seminole, Sr.: A consistent performer, Thompson was third-team all-county as a sophomore and first-team last season. His next goal is to make it to state. Other notables: Josh Lutz (East Lake), Jon Feingold (PHU), Jesse Floyd (Northeast), Charlie Thompson (Dixie Hollins), Richard Ramos (Boca Ciega).

130 - GABE PETERSON, St. Petersburg, Jr.: Peterson came out of nowhere last season and beat two-time conference champion Chase Brendle of Countryside in the final. He now is the leader for the Green Devils. Other notables: Jon Rowe (Countryside), Casey Sheelan (CCC).

135 - DONTE WHITING, Northeast, Sr.: Named the most valuable wrestler of the Northside Christian Invitational, Whiting went on to win a district title and was named second-team all-county last season. Other notables: Josh Sullivan (Tarpon Springs), Bryan D'Angelo (Boca Ciega).

140 - MATT TURTZO, Countryside, Soph.: As a freshman, Turtzo finished third at conference and won a district title. He moves up from the 125-pound class. Other notable names: Chris Feinberg (Dixie Hollins), Randy Mills (East Lake).

145 - JESSE LANE, Tarpon Springs, Sr.: Lane was a district champion and state qualifier last season and is ranked fifth by wrestleflorida.com. He also recored the fastest pin in school history (7 seconds). Other notables: Thimios Kyriazis (Northeast), Andrew Edwards (East Lake), Bart Knellinger (PHU).

152 - TONY CIANCIOLO, Osceola, Sr.: After wrestling more than 70 matches in each of the past two summers, Cianciolo, a conference champion who is ranked fifth in his weight class by wrestleflorida, used the off-season to lift weights. Other notables: Dallas Haffner (East Lake), Mike Horan (PHU).

160 - DELVON STANLEY, Pinellas Park, Sr.: Although he didn't win any titles last season, Stanley consistently placed. However, he is coming back from football and was beat in the preseason by East Lake's Tim Dresser. Other notables: Tim Dresser (East Lake), Danny Fanning (Northeast)

171 - BILLY HENDERSON, Pinellas Park, Sr.: A highly recruited football player, Henderson also is a pretty good wrestler. Last season, he won a district title by beating previously undefeated Trevor Blackwelder of Countryside. Other notables: Bo Arnold (Tarpon Springs), TJ Baxter (Osceola), Henry Schreiber (PHU).

189 - JOE KRAJACIC, Countryside, Sr.: Krajacic, who was used more in the dual meets than tournaments, becomes the starter and quickly emerges as a contender in a weight class that lost several wrestlers to graduation. Other notables: Hunter West (East Lake), Dallas Soles (Seminole).

215 - ED LEVERENZ, Seminole, Jr.: Leverenz won a district title and qualified for state as a sophomore. Other notables: Tom Ryan (Osceola), Nick Heinen (Countryside), Corey Bann (Pinellas Park), Caleb Naylor (Largo).

275 - DUSTY KESELESKI, Gibbs, Sr.: Keseleski entered the state tournament last season undefeated but fell out of contention with two quick losses. He is ranked second in his weight class by wrestleflorida.com. Other notables: Mike Crews (Countryside), Phil Skandalairas (Tarpon Springs), Dave Henriott (St. Petersburg Catholic).

-- Compiled by Bob Putnam.

District breakdown

Class 3A, District 7

TEAMS: Bloomingdale, Durant, Gaither, Hillsborough, Palm Harbor University, River Ridge, Sickles.

OUTLOOK: The Hurricanes have 10 starters back from last year. That gives new coach Bill Perry the experience he needs to compete in a tough district that includes Bloomingdale, which won district and regional titles last season.

Class 2A, District 9

TEAMS: Countryside, East Lake, Gulf, Hudson, Land O'Lakes, Ridgewood.

OUTLOOK: This district is tough. How tough? Every team has had at least one individual state champion in the past five years and two schools -- Ridgewood and Land O'Lakes -- finished in the top 12 at the 2A state meet last season. East Lake won conference and district titles last season and has the most returning talent among Pinellas County schools. But you can never count out Countryside, which has the tradition.

Class 2A, District 10

TEAMS: Boca Ciega, Clearwater, Largo, Northeast, Pinellas Park, Seminole, St. Petersburg.

OUTLOOK: Packers coach Kevin Kennedy has lost 15 wrestlers since practice started. That's not good news for the defending district champions. Pinellas Park, which placed third in the district with a young team, has a lot of experience. So is Seminole, which has several returners from last season's team that won a district in a different classification.

Class A, District 10

TEAMS: Clearwater Central Catholic, Dixie Hollins, Dunedin, Northside Christian, Osceola, St. Petersburg Catholic, Tarpon Springs.

OUTLOOK: All roads go through Tarpon Springs. The Spongers finished the regular season undefeated and won district and regional titles for the first time last season. The winning should continue even though coach Russ Schenk suspended two wrestlers indefinitely for disciplinary reasons. That's because Schenk still has 39 wrestlers. Osceola, which edged Tarpon Springs for fourth at conference last season, should contend. Three others -- CCC, Dixie Hollins and Northside Christian -- are adjusting to new coaches. Dunedin is caught in a low numbers game. St. Petersburg, which is fielding an entire varsity lineup for the first time, is a sleeper.

Class A, District 11

TEAMS: Admiral Farragut, Sarasota Booker, Gibbs, Lakewood, Lakewood Ranch, Manatee H.E.A.T., Pinellas H.E.A.T., Bradenton Southeast.

OUTLOOK: AFA coach Calvin Brown will field a stronger team, but it will have a tough time contending. So too will Lakewood, which only has four dual meets. Gibbs' Dusty Keseleski should dominate at 275.

-- Compiled by Bob Putnam.

For the fans

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. 1-2 -- Northside Christian tournament, East Lake Invitational; Dec. 8-9 -- Jerry Mita Invitational; Dec. 14 -- Countryside at East Lake; Dec. 16 -- Southside Wrestling Duals, Sarasota Tournament; Jan. 3 -- Pinellas Park at Countryside; Jan. 5-6 -- Hurricane Challenge and Kissimmee Gateway tournament; Jan 11 -- Seminole at Osceola; Jan. 13 -- St. Petersburg City tournament, Bradenton Southeast Duals; Jan. 19-20 -- Pinellas County Athletic Conference tournament; Jan. 25 -- Pinellas Park at East Lake; Jan 27 -- Land O'Lakes tournament, Northeast quad, Kissimmee Gateway tournament; Jan. 31 -- Countryside at Tarpon Springs; Feb. 2 -- Tarpon Springs at East Lake.

TEAMS TO WATCH: Countryside (young but still a contender); East Lake (Conference champs still have talent); Pinellas Park (veteran team); Tarpon Springs (lots of depth).

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 Bob Putnam.

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