From a county standpoint, story lines will be as plenteous as singlets when the wrestling season culminates with a three-day weekend at the state finals in Lakeland. Naturally, Brandon’s quest for a 23rd state title should snag most of the attention, but a few other locals are sure to make medal stand cameos. Stick around Sunday, and you’re likely to see undisputed champs crowned in each weight class (more on that later). On the eve of Day One, we weigh in with our comprehensive county outlook.
In pursuit of perfection
The county’s undefeated wrestlers entering state:
Rossi Bruno, Sr., Brandon, 126 (57-0)
Dylan Lucas, Fr., Brandon, 106 (30-0)
Kevin Norstrem, Jr., Brandon, 32 (58-0)
Wharton senior Tyler Liberatore was among the undefeated locals entering last week’s Class 3A, Region 2 tournament, but dislocated a shoulder in the semifinals. The Class 3A 135-pound state champ last season at Brandon, Liberatore has signed with Arizona State.
Ray Lewis would be proud
What do these guys have in common with the Hall of Fame-bound Ravens linebacker? All are prep state wrestling qualifiers who also shined in football (Lewis excelled in both at Lakeland’s Kathleen High):
Nissan Anderson, 152, East Bay (3A)
28-8 wrestling record; 62 tackles as undersized Indians LB in 2011
Christian Hardegree, 182, Berkeley Prep (A)
22-2 wrestling record; 596 receiving yards, four INTs in ’11 as WR/DB
James Wiehle, 195, Bloomingdale (3A)
44-10 wrestling record; 67 tackles, two caused fumbles as LB in ’11
Javon Woods, 285, Robinson, A
22-9 wresting record; 23 tackles, 1 1/2 sacks as senior DL
Nacho Libre would be proud
Tampa Bay Christian eighth-grader Kyle Norstrem, a Class A favorite at 106 pounds, can just taste a state title — and it’s slathered in ranchero sauce. According to Norstrem’s dad, Tim, the Rams standout has developed a gastronomic ritual for tournament weekends: 6-inch Subway BLT the night before weigh-ins, foot-long pressed Publix turkey sandwich with sweet tea on the tournament’s second day (after weigh-ins), Mexican pizza from Taco Bell to celebrate a victory. Don’t expect to Norstrem to deviate this weekend; he’s 37-1 and ranked first in the state in his weight class by Scout.com.
The ‘other’ streak
Brandon’s national-record dual-match win streak may have ended with the Bush administration (in 2008), but its streak of team state championships is well into its second decade. The Eagles, seeking their 12th title in a row and 23rd overall, have qualified 11 wrestlers for state and are a huge favorite in 3A.
Hold off on Sunday brunch
For the first time, the two-day state championships will be followed by a mini-tournament Sunday (not sanctioned by the FHSAA) to determine undisputed champs in each weight class. This event, sponsored by American Dreams Foundation, is open to the top three weight-class finishers from each classification (A, 2A and 3A). The first round starts at 10 a.m., with the finals set for 3 p.m. Winners could receive up to $3,000 (to be disbursed by ADF for qualified educational purposes, according to its news release).
Where: The Lakeland Center
Admission: $9 per session
Parking: $7 per day
Schedule: Action begins at 10 a.m. Friday and 9:30 a.m. Saturday. Semifinals will follow the third round of wrestlebacks, which start Saturday at 9:30. Championship finals are set for Saturday at 5:30 p.m. On Sunday, single-elimination, head-to-head competition among the top three place finishers from each weight class (A/2A/3A). First round begins at 10 a.m. with the finals at 3.