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DUNEDIN — Looking around Dunedin’s wrestling room, you see the boards that list the Falcons’ past individual district champions and state qualifiers.
After years of clawing their way toward the top, trying to get by Springstead and Countryside, last season the Falcons captured the school’s first district title as a team, edging Wiregrass Ranch in Class 2A-8.
This year, battling a few injuries and trying to keep their title as Pinellas’ best squad isn’t so important to the Falcons now. The ultimate goal in most of the wrestlers minds hasn’t been done in Dunedin coach Marc Allison’s eight years as coach. He has yet to coach a wrestler to a state title. Most of his wrestlers are vying to become the first in Allison’s tenure to sport state gold in Lakeland this February.
“I look up at that board every day,” Falcons 160-pounder Kyle Goodnow said.
“Last year I thought Tyler Smith was going to be the first to win a state title, and I was hoping he would be the first. Now I tell myself every day I want to be the first to do it. I don’t think it’s out of reach for me at all.”
Dunedin has several contenders who may be able to stand on the podium next month. Goodnow is ranked seventh in the 160-pound weight class in Class 2A according to Scout.com. He knocked off No. 10-ranked Jamil Elisis of Liberty earlier in the season, avenging a loss to Elisis at region last winter.
Another Falcon to watch out for is 112-pounder Shaun Shakoor, who is ranked sixth in the state by Scout.com. He is an impressive 37-1 this season. Shakoor knows that the district meet sometimes is merely a formality, but he said that doing well this coming week plays a vital role in confidence moving forward to region and beyond.
“It definitely plays a factor mentally,” Shakoor said. “Back-to-back district titles would be cool for the team, but for me it’s really important to take home a district title individually. It’s a really big thing moving into regionals. Coach has never had a state champion, and it would be awesome if I could do it.”
There’s that goal again.
One reason why being Allison’s first state champion is so important sits inside of a trunk Allison has hidden away for the past couple of decades. Inside is the gold medal he won as a state champion at Countryside, and Allison has said no one has ever asked him to take it out.
“I have it stowed away in a steam trunk somewhere,” Allison said.
“I want these guys to create their own legacies and not have to live in my past. I mean, if one of them asked to see the medal, I guess I could take it out and show them.”
But he doesn’t plan to just yet. If one of his guys can get through the gauntlet of district, region and on to state, then it may be time to bust out the hardware and add that little extra motivation to be “the first.”
Admission: Two sessions, $5 per session; one session, $6
Where: Palm Harbor University
When: Friday, first round, 11 a.m.; finals, 6 p.m.
Teams: Chamberlain, Clearwater, Countryside, East Lake, Gaither, Northeast, Palm Harbor University, Pinellas Park, Seminole, St. Petersburg
Outlook: Last season PHU beat Chamberlain 181.5-120.5 for the district crown, and it doesn’t get any easier for the Hurricanes, who graduated 10 seniors from last year’s group. Look for Mike May (103 pounds) and Aaron Hartman (130) to lead Palm Harbor U. to another 3A-7 title and continue with a strong run into region.
Where: Boca Ciega High, Gulfport
When: Friday, first round, 11:30 a.m.; finals, 5 p.m.
Teams: Boca Ciega, Dixie Hollins, Gibbs, Jefferson, Largo, Leto, Osceola
Outlook: Largo brings in one of its strongest teams in recent years and should be able to leave this tournament with a title in hand. Look for Clarence Longley (135 pounds), Cody McKinnon (140), Josh Jeffries (145) and David Vogheny (189) to all move on to region with state title aspirations in mind.
Where: Dunedin High
When: Saturday, first round, 12:30 p.m.; finals, 5:30 p.m.
Teams: Dunedin, Mitchell, River Ridge, Sunlake, Tarpon Springs, Wiregrass Ranch, Zephyrhills
Outlook: Dunedin is looking for consecutive district titles after claiming its first last season. The Falcons return a strong group from last year and should have seven or eight wrestlers qualify for region, including Kyle Goodnow (160 pounds), Shaun Shakoor (112), Kane Plate (135), Austin Prince (140) and RJ Luth (215). Wiregrass Ranch and Sunlake, which finished second and third, respectively, in the 2A-8 district event last winter, are expected to be Dunedin’s strongest competition. Others that should qualify for the region meet are: Wiregrass Ranch’s Elliot Morales (140), Mitchell’s Derek Wertheim (145), River Ridge’s Andrew Herr (189) and Zephyrhills’ Frank Morrison (215). A matchup to watch for is Prince vs. Morales, who rank fifth and ninth, respectively, in the 140-pound weight class according to Scout.com.
Where: Northside Christian, St. Petersburg
When: Friday, first round, 1 p.m.; finals, 5 p.m.
Teams: Admiral Farragut, Berkeley Prep, Calvary Christian, Clearwater Central Catholic, Indian Rocks Christian, Lakewood, Northside Christian, Robinson
Outlook: Northside Christian, ranked fourth in Class 1A, has several wrestlers who pose a serious threat at capturing gold at state in late February, including Brian Travis (125 pounds), Dryden Dennis (130), Dalton Dennis (135), Anthony Melillo (140) and Cliff Barker (145). Look for all five to come away with district titles.