PCAC meet: Palm Harbor University returns to the top
CLEARWATER — The 31st annual Pinellas County Athletic Conference championship was back at its traditional venue, Countryside High School, after a one-year hiatus at Osceola in 2016. The 2017 meet was a return to form for the Palm Harbor University Hurricanes.
Last season, a young PHU squad yielded to Dixie Hollins but the 'Canes rode high all season long and put an exclamation point on the regular season with a landslide victory totaling 298 points. Northeast took second with 174, narrowly outpacing Dunedin (171). Dixie Hollins took fourth with 159.
“I think we have the best program in the county and we have the best staff in the county. They’re second to none,” PHU coach Brad Sakevich said. “Each one of these guys could run a program of their own and you can’t trade the amount of hours they put it; they’re great.”
It was Palm Harbor U. all the way. They led after Friday’s matches, they led through the championship semis and led 268-168 over Northeast heading into the finals. The 'Canes had nine wrestlers in the finals. Dixie and Dunedin had four.
Osvaldo Granados (106 pounds) set the table for PHU, upsetting Gibbs’ Danya Jones 13-2 in the final. Granados got a cradle and ran it through getting back points in the third period to win his first PCAC title.
“We knew he (Granados) was solid when he started two years ago but he had to wait with Chris (Fragale) and Gabe (Naranjo) in front of him,” Sakevich said.
Defending county champ and state finalist Chris Fragale won the next title at 113, stopping East Lake’s Jason Leggett 9-2. Gabe Naranjo (120) had to wrestle his own teammate, Nick Caputo, just for the chance to wrestle at PCAC. Naranjo won the wrestle-off on Monday and on Saturday won his second PCAC title (last year at 106) with a 10-2 defeat of Dixie’s Hugh Herring.
“I feel like either one of us (Caputo or Naranjo) could have won this weight class,” Naranjo said.
Dixie’s Drew Harrington was back after an ankle injury sidelined him for a couple weeks but watsed no time tearing through the 126 class. Harrington improved to 30-1 on the season and won his second straight PCAC title, all by pin fall over the weekend.
Dunedin’s one-two punch in 132-pounder Thomas Bujalski and 138-pounder Grant Cardwell both punched through. Bujalski scored an 11-0 major decision against PHU’s John Schreifer for his first PCAC title after placing second the last two seasons. Bujalski also notched his 100th win in the championship semis with a second-period pin of Countryside’s Keegan Branch.
“It’s definitely given me a lot of confidence going into next week at districts,” Bujalski said.
Cardwell had to work a bit harder for his title as he drew a very tough Dylan Whitman of PHU. Whitman scored a take down going out of bounds with 46 seconds left in the match to tie it 3-3 but with 20 seconds left, Cardwell got the escape and the 4-3 win for his first PCAC title.
PHU’s Gavin Mitchiner was a take down away from a PCAC title in 2016. This year, he left no doubt, pinning his way to the 145 finals and pinning Northeast’s Rafael Perez in the second period after being up 10-0.
Mitchiner’s nemesis in 2016, Dixie’s Coleman Bryant, is coming back from a broken hand and has wrestled sparingly this season but up at 152, he plowed through the bracket, drawing a very tough Eric Bunch of St. Petersburg in the finals. Bunch downed Logan Kushner champ Jacob Kampman in the semis but Bryant caught him with a ball-and-chain and pinned him in the third period.
PHU’s James Totten, in his very first PCAC tournament, scored a pin off an inside trip of Dunedin’s Joshua Felix in the first period.
“I’ve been ineligible the last two years but this is big time,” Totten said. “I was in there every day, over the summer, it’s nice to see that hard work paying off.”
Northeast 170-pounder Shaq Johnson continues to have a stellar season. Johnson led East Lake’s Lucas Cortes 7-2 heading into the third period and scored a pin with two seconds left in the third to claim his first PCAC title.
“There’s a board in our wrestling room with county, district and state champs on it, I look at it every day,” Johnson said. “My goal has been to get on one of those boards.”
At 182, Countryside’s Anthony Burburija scored a 20-5 win over St. Pete’s Desmon Marshall for his first PCAC title. At 195, PHU’s Jacob Mason topped East Lake’s Isaiha Torres 11-6 for his first county title.
At 220, Countryside’s Andrew Brown improved to 15-0 on the season by scored a lateral take down in the third period to take a 3-1 win away from Dunedin’s Anthony Siegrist. Both wrestlers survived over time matches in the semifinals.
Dixie heavyweight Jesse Smith improved to 45-0 and won his first county title with a 1-0 win over PHU’s Matt Westbay. Smith’s only point came on a second-period escape. Smith was able to ride Westbay for the entire third period to hold on for the win.