By BOB PUTNAM
© St. Petersburg Times,
published December 7, 2001
Seminole knows it sounds like revenge.
A year after not receiving an invitation to the Jerry Mita Invitational, a 16-team tournament hosted by Pinellas Park the past 23 years, the Warhawks have decided to host their own tournament.
Moreover, Seminole scheduled the Hooters Classic for Saturday, the same day as the finals of the two-day Mita tournament and is charging teams nearly $100 less in entry fees.
And among the eight teams competing in the Hooters Classic is Countryside, which was kicked out of the Jerry Mita last year by Pinellas Park coach Scott Stern because he suspected abuse of transfer rules.
Still, the Warhawks insist they have not reserved special venom for being snubbed.
"That's not the case at all," Seminole assistant coach Kevin Kennedy said. "It would take too much work to do something like that."
The idea for the tournament started about a year ago. The Seminole coaching staff befriended the Hooters management team of Neil Keifer, Ed Drosty and Dennis Johnson.
"They (Hooters) already hosted a basketball tournament," Kennedy said. "So we figured, why not a wrestling tournament? The Hooters people were wrestling fans, so it was a perfect fit."
Kennedy and head coach Jim Berrill invited the top four teams in each class from last season's state tournament. But there wasn't a venue available to hold a tournament of that size. So it was scaled down to an 11-team tournament at the school.
Other teams competing are Flagler Palm Coast, Kissimmee Gateway, Miami Southridge, Osceola, Pasco, Punta Gorda Charlotte, Ridgewood, Springstead and Venice.
Drawing teams is one thing, drawing fans is another. The Hooters Classic still is competing with the Jerry Mita, the Rose Bowl of wrestling tournaments in Pinellas County, featuring a strong fan base.
"We have a strong tournament with a lot of tough schools," Stern said.
That's why Kennedy said he would rather have the tournament on a different date.
"This hurts us in a lot of ways," he said of having both tournaments the same weekend. "We would like to have had it at a later date, but this was the only time we could schedule it. Eventually, we would like to have it during the winter break so we can invite some out-of-state teams."
WHERE: Seminole High, 8401 131st St. N.
TEAMS: Countryside, Flagler Palm Coast, Kissimmee Gateway, Miami Southridge, Osceola, Pasco, Punta Gorda Charlotte, Ridgewood, Seminole, Springstead, Venice
SCHEDULE: Wrestling starts at 9:30 a.m. and continues through wrestlebacks. The consolations are at 6:30 p.m. and the finals will follow.
WHERE: Pinellas Park High, 6205 118th Ave. N.
WHEN: Today and Saturday
TEAMS: Bloomingdale, Bradenton Manatee, Chamberlain, Clearwater, Dixie Hollins, Dunedin, East Bay, East Lake, Land O'Lakes, Miami Palmetto, Northeast, Palm Harbor University, Sarasota, Tarpon Springs, Wharton
SCHEDULE: The tournament starts at 5 p.m. with preliminaries, followed by quarterfinals and wrestlebacks. Wrestling resumes at 10 a.m. on Saturday with semifinals and wrestlebacks, then consolations at 5:30 p.m. followed by the finals.