Wrestling: Brandon finishes second to Lake Highland Prep at Ippolito
BRANDON — For once, defending Class 2A state champion Brandon was not the favorite in the Tony Ippolito Memorial tournament, which the Eagles had won for 23 straight seasons and 30 times overall.
That streak ended Saturday with the Eagles finishing as the runnerup to nationally ranked Lake Highland Prep, the defending state champion in Class A.
Brandon tallied 232.5 points, second only to Lake Highland Prep’s 408 score. Charlotte was third at 207 and Springstead placed fourth at 177.5. Newsome and Gulf cracked the top 10 by finishing ninth and 10th, respectively.
“Streaks are meant to be broken and new streaks start,” Brandon coach Russ Cozart said. “When you have great competition you have great teams. They’re very, very good. It was a good tournament.”
The Highlanders, ranked third in USA Today’s preseason poll and currently rated as the state’s top team in Class A, won nine of the 12 divisions they had finalists in.
“Lake Highland is definitely the real deal, there’s no doubt,” said referee Jim Henrickson, a former coach at Armwood and Leto.
Unlike previous seasons when Brandon often dominated the Ippolito, named after the first state champion in school and Hillsborough County history who died of cancer in 1990, the home team had just three finalists on Saturday.
Joe Marcano was the lone winner for the Eagles. The senior took the 220-pound title with an 8-4 win against Lake Highland Prep’s Ben Goldin in a matchup of defending state champions. For his efforts, Marcano, who has missed most of the season due to surgery on his tailbone, was named outstanding heavyweight wrestler.
“He’s finally 100 percent,” Cozart said.
Brandon’s other two finalists did not fare as well. At 145, Noah Ridley lost a 12-2 major decision to Lake Highland Prep’s Kai Bele, named the tourney’s outstanding lightweight wrestler. And Alex Popke was pinned in 4:58 by the Highlanders’ Bryce Rogers at 182.
Springstead had just one finalist in Richie Rivera (113), who lost an 11-3 major decision to Lake Highland Prep’s Ryan Chauvin.
The only other local finalist was Blake’s Egan Atkins, who at 285 was pinned by the Highlanders’ Curtis Ruff n 5:38.