Wrestling: Dixie Hollins edges Pasco at East Lake Invitational
EAST LAKE — With the absence of south Florida powerhouse Miami Southridge (sixth in Class 3A last season), the East Lake Invitational needed a powerhouse to replace them. No problem.
East Lake coach Joe Marzo reached out to Pasco coach Mark DeAugustino The Pirates were fourth in Class A a year ago and they proved to be the perfect addition Saturday as they hovered in third for much of the meet only to make a tremendous charge during the third-place finals and finals to come within five points of champion Dixie Hollins. The Rebels topped the Pirates 177 to 172. East Lake was third with 147.5 and Hillsborough County's Riverview jumped up a few spots in the finals into fourth with 115.
The Pirates had to be the favorites coming in, even after graduating Skyler White and Andrew Ivie, but Dixie Hollins fields a senior-heavy team and it was the Rebels who got out in front early and led the whole meet.
"We didn't add points up the whole time; we just want our guys to perform when they step on the mat," Rebels coach Nick Spataro said. "We just let the score happen."
The Rebels led by as many as 30 at one point and qualified six for the finals. Host East Lake held in second most of the day. A great semifinal at 285 went down between state placer Julian Santos of East Lake and Jesse Smith of Dixie, with Santos winning 2-1 in double overtime.
"That's the same match he's (Smith) wrestled against Santos five times last year," Spataro said. "They go back-and-forth every time and now that we're in the same district, it'll probably be three or four more time this year."
In the finals, the Pirates began to show just why they were fourth in the state last season. DeAugustino's son, John, won the 126 final 9-4 over Dixie's Drew Harrington. Lukas Twardosky won the 132 final over East Lake's Josh McGinnis 4-0, and Angel Hernandez won the thriller of the finals at 170 with a 4-3 overtime win against East Lake's George Hall.
"At the beginning of the match, I couldn't get to his legs but I knew I had to keep my mindset right, bounce back and come up strong," Hernandez said.
It helped Pasco take seven of the eight matches that they had between the finals and third-place finals, and three of the four matches they had in the finals. It was a feat DeAugustino was particularly proud of.
"Things like that are extra ordinary, we could have had eight in the finals," DeAugustino said.
Dixie Hollins, however, was just getting into its wheelhouse as the Rebels have a potent one-two punch at 182 and 195 in Brandon Nevitt and Clifton Thomas. Nevitt at 182 scored a last-second take down against Brendan Grabowski of Northeast to win 6-4. Thomas, a state placer last season, scored a second-period pin against Ben Ow of Ocala West Port.
"Those two (Nevitt and Thomas), you can always count on those veteran guys when they go out there," Spataro said. "We expect them to win."
It turned out to be just the margin of victory the Rebels needed to move up from second a year ago at East Lake to taking the title in a grueling event that crammed the whole tournament into one long day.
"It took forever, I was tired, my muscles were tired, but I knew I had to win," Thomas said.
Class 3A state runnerup Kizhan Clarke of Riverview, who verbally committed to American University last week, wrestled up at 138 at East Lake and pinned his way into the final, winning it 12-5. Clarke will settle back down into 132 for the state series.
"I felt like I could have done better in the finals match; there's always room for improvement," Clarke said.
Teammate Tony Hernandez won the 145 final with an 8-6 overtime result.
Anclote's Nathan Napolitano won the 113 class. Wiregrass Ranch's Devin Praessel pinned Dixie's Brandon Busch in the 152 final.
Falcon Duals: At Dunedin’s tourney, which was run as an invitational, the Falcons took second behind Lakeland's Lake Gibson, 299 to 193, moving up from fourth a year ago. Grant Cardwell (138) and Robby Washam (160) were both undefeated for the Falcons. Brendan Ditro (145), Thomas Bujalksi (152) and Anthony Siegrist (285) were all runners-up in their classes. Gaither took third with 123.5. River Ridge, Durant and Robinson log-jammed at fourth, fifth and sixth (117, 116, 115), respectively.