Wrestling: Palm Harbor University cruises in Fit2Win Invitational
PALM HARBOR — Palm Harbor University stepped up into the schedule slot, left vacant by the Jerry Mita tournament last year with the MyHouse Invite. PHU drew a sponsor for the 2016 meet, re-naming it the Fit2Win Invitational and the ’Canes look like a team poised to take back the Pinellas County Athletic Conference title this season.
Running in a somewhat close race with Steinbrenner, the ’Canes with a 153-117.5 lead heading into the finals put the cap on the title by winning two of the three head-to-head matches in the early rounds of the finals. It pushed PHU to a win with 253.5 points to Steinbrenner’s 184.5. Northeast took third with 136 and East Bay fourth with 111.5.
“We’re strong in the lightweights this year; we have to work on our heavyweights,” PHU coach Brad Sakevich said. “Our lightweights all work with each other; none of them are seniors.”
It started at 113 pounds, as 2016 state finalist Chris Fragale took an early 5-0 lead on Steinbrenner’s Anthony Vitale. Fragale chose to take the bottom for the third period and held strong, even turning a late takedown to etch the final score at 7-2.
“I didn’t get turned (in the third period) but I need to be more agile on the bottom next time,” Fragale said. “For the first finals of the year, I’m pretty happy with what I got to prove.”
Adrien Sevrin got the second head-to-head win for the ’Canes vs. Steinbrenner in a 5-3 win over Mitchell Carlson. Justin Moran got the Steinbrenner win, forcing a 14-0 major decision against PHU’s Nick Caputo.
“This was the best match of the year (for Moran),” Steinbrenner coach Paul Noble said. “He wrestled less emotional and more cerebral.”
The highlight match of the day was at 152 between PHU’s Gavin Mitchiner and Northside Christian’s Kamen Wilmington. Wilmington is just coming back from football and will likely wrestle at 145 the rest of the season. He weighed in at 148 on Saturday and drew a very tough Mitchiner, both wrestlers having pinned or tech pinned their way into the finals.
After sparring through the first period, Wilmington scored a late takedown to make it 2-0 heading into the second. Mitchiner got up quick from the down position in the second to make it 2-1, and Wilmington got him up off the ground twice but could not quite complete the takedowns and the score held into the third.
Wilmington got a quick escape to start the third but got hit with a series of cautions that awarded Mitchiner a point. With one minute left in the match, Wilmington scored a takedown but Mitchiner got right out, making it 5-3 with 30 ticks left. With 16 seconds to go, Mitchiner got Wilmington’s leg for what looked to be a single-leg takedown but Wilmington fought it off, eventually going out of bounds with six seconds left. The 5-3 margin held, making it Wilmington’s 193rd career victory.
“I wish I would have got those takedowns when I got those lifts but I just kept wrestling through it,” Wilmington said. “(On the near takedown at the end of the match) I was comfortable in that position, I kept my hips where they were supposed to be — if you freak out, things go wrong.”
Mustang teammate Mitchell Kerr won the 160 title 6-3 over PHU’s James Totten while battling through a back injury. Northeast’s Shaq Johnson, after having played in the Pinellas County All-Star football game on Wednesday, downed East Bay’s Gamaniel Calderon 13-3 to win the 170 title.
“Big difference last week to this week, his conditioning here was strong all throughout,” Northeast coach Robert Wilson said. “I’m very impressed, this is a kid with one year of wrestling experience that has a chance to go to state.”
East Bay’s Kevin Clayton, one match from placing at states last season, notched a 7-5 win over Lakewood Ranch’s Chase Sharp.
Also winning titles Saturday were: Danya Jones (106) Gibbs, Chris Sexton (126) AFA, Hunter Reed (138) Lakewood Ranch, Dylan Whitman (145) PHU, Stephen Kelle (182) Southeast, Darrien Grant (220) Southeast, Branden Bengsston (285) Braden River.