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NEW PORT RICHEY — For the fifth time in six years, Springstead captured the team championship at the 12th annual Gulf Holiday Duals, but that wasn’t the surprise.
Many thought defending Class A champion and tournament host Gulf would meet the Eagles in a finals showdown. Instead, the Bucs fell 40-39 in the semifinals to Dunedin, and Springstead handled the 24-team field somewhat easily.
That robbed the event of a rematch between Springstead’s Virgil Toms and Gulf’s Anthony Ayers at 130 pounds. Toms handed Ayers his first loss in almost three seasons when he defeated the state champ at the Kiwanis Invitational last weekend. In the Gulf tourney, both grapplers went 8-0 .
“Ayers understands the process,” Gulf coach Travis DeWalt said. “He’s taking it harder from the team perspective right now, and he’s looking forward to seeing Virgil down the road.”
The Eagles cruised 58-21 in the championship match and had eight wrestlers go 8-0 . Richie Bliss (103 pounds), Sean Redman (125), Nick Soto (135), Cody Ross (140), Sammy Colon (145), Shawn Landgraff (152), and John Dreggors (285) also went undefeated.
“It was fun because we’re always very stressed,” Springstead coach Eric Swensen said. “There’s nothing ever good enough with this program, but we had a good weekend. We wrestled hard, and now we can put our focus on (the Zak Jarzynka Tournament at) Oviedo.”
But Gulf came away disappointed despite having Ayers, Ladarious Jackson (171), Chris Palasky (215) and Jeff Kruse (285) ago 8-0. DeWalt was quick to point out that the veteran group found little solace in individual results.
Fourth-place finisher Nature Coast made a major leap. The Sharks lost 50-21 in the consolation final to Gulf, but this is the most success the program has had at the Holiday Duals .
“I told the kids, win or lose, let’s get some respect from the (defending) state championship team,” Nature Coast coach Mike Lastra said. “At one point, it was a six-point match. For a young team like us, that’s always a good thing.”