District wrestling: Hernando vaults back into championship form
BROOKSVILLE – It took five years of hard work and dedication, but Hernando coach David Pritz finally got the Leopards back to where the program was when he was still sporting one of the school’s singlets.
Hernando hosted and won the Class A, District 6 championship on Saturday, the first such title for the program since the Leopards won three straight from 2003-05.
The Leopards (218.5 points) qualified all 14 members of its lineup for next week’s Class A, Region 2 meet in Titusville, including earning five individual gold medals along the way. Leading Hernando was state hopeful Codey Maniates (152 pounds). The senior won his first district title after a runner-up performance last season, running his record for the campaign to 43-6.
Other winners for the Leopards included Josh Hulse (120), Yovanny Rodriguez (126), Devin Dennis (170), and Keegan O’Rourke (285). Rodriguez, who lost in the finals to Weeki Wachee’s Nick Marsh last season, beat his rival in the semifinals before polishing off Anclote’s Alex Roberds by 13-5 major decision in the title bout.
The team runners-up came from Weeki Wachee (152.5 points). The Hornets were the champions of the district last season, but the squad fell short this season with a new batch of grapplers all making strides.
Weeki Wachee qualified 11 for next week’s tournament, but won only one individual title. Devin Horton (106 pounds) emerged with his second straight district title, winning a rematch of last year’s final against Gulf’s Jason Freda by 10-1 major decision.
The Buccaneers (133.5 points) also did a solid job in their third-place team finish. Gulf qualified eight for region, but four of those wrestlers stood atop the podium with district gold at the end of day.
One of the most awaited matches was the 138-pound final between Gulf’s Nathan Napolitano and Weeki Wachee’s Hunter Gibson. Gibson won the 132-pound title last year, and Napolitano was the 106-pound champion two years ago. The match was tight, but it was the Buccaneer who emerged with a 5-0 decision.
Another Gulf victory came from Solen Sheppard, who backed up his runner-up finish as a freshman with his first title as a sophomore, defeating Hernando’s Dakota Ellerbee via 13-4 major decision.
Austin Agazarm did not compete in the Sunshine Athletic Conference tournament last week because he missed weight, but he bounced in style to capture the championship at 145 pounds Saturday with a 4-2 overtime decision over Hernando’s Bronson Tafelski. Justus Sheppard (195) capped off the Buccaneer victors by pinning Weeki Wachee’s Joseph Gurley.
Nature Coast senior Jordan Gibson (160) won his second straight district title in a 14-2 major decision over Hernando’s Demarcus Munford. He was joined atop the medal stand by teammate Mike Weston. The sophomore came away with a surprising 4-3 decision over Hudson’s Damien Hay in the finals.
Hudson’s James Buehrig (182), who qualified for region for the second straight season by pinning Hernando’s Harry Williams in the finals, took home the Cobras only title.
Anclote freshman Brice Arlt (113) won the lone title for the Sharks, pinning Hudson’s Francisco Gener, last year’s runnerup, in 3:22.