Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Durant wrestles its way into contention

PLANT CITY — When it comes to high school wrestling in Hillsborough County, there's certainly no shame in being second best.

That's exactly where Durant High, 26-3 in dual meets, stands going into district competition this weekend.

"If you eliminate Brandon, we're by far the best team in the county," senior Alex Hamm said.

Although the Cougars already thought they had the No. 2 team in the county, they can now say so with certainty based on a second-place finish at last weekend's Hillsborough County Championships. The winner, of course, was perennial powerhouse and nationally-known Brandon High.

Just as Brandon won easily, claiming 13 of 14 individual titles at the meet, Durant distanced itself from the rest of the competition. The Cougars' 112-pound wrestler, sophomore Chase Haley, won his division, while Durant put together its best group effort in coach Dennis Kitko's eight years at the school.

"I'm not saying it's the best team we've ever had," Kitko said. "But as a team they wrestled better — up to their potential — than any team I've ever had."

It has been a season of turmoil for Durant. Kitko was dealt a two-week suspension early in the season after arguing with an official. And just last week, wrestle-offs still took place to decide several varsity spots.

Despite the adversity, Durant seems to be peaking at the right time. The Cougars have a lofty goal for today's Class 2A, District 9 tournament: to advance wrestlers in all 14 weight classes to the regional meet.

"All year long, it's been a grind to stay motivated," said Kitko, 34, a three-time state champion at Brandon (which competes in 3A). "It's been one of the longest, most stressful (seasons), but it looks like it might turn out to be one of the most successful seasons at the end."

Along with Durant's bid to win districts and regionals, Hamm, who is 37-4 at 125 pounds, has his sights on a state title. "He's just worked his butt off and became one of the best wrestlers at his weight class," his coach said. "He's right there and ready to make a run for everything."

Hamm was a state qualifier two years ago and has already beaten one of 2A's top wrestlers at his weight. He pinned Springstead High's Virgil Toms at the Cougar Invitational on Dec. 5.

"I think I'm on the road to finishing (my career) the way I want to," he said.

Haley, the lone non-Brandon winner at the county meet, likely would've been on junior varsity this year if not for an injury to Durant's starter at 112 pounds. Others have stepped up as well, Kitko said, rising from average to the level of the team's best.

Even wrestlers in the weights that took all season to distinguish a starter have flourished.

"They had to be competitive just to earn the spot," said Hamm, a team captain. "And once they got the spot they started blowing through competition."

Durant has won five of seven district championships, failing to claim the title last year. Of the schools it will face today, only Plant City (fourth) and East Bay (seventh) finished in the top 10 at the county meet. Neither was close to catching the Cougars.

Kevin Smetana can be reached at or (813) 661-2439.

fast facts

If you go

Today's Class 2A, District 9 tournament at Plant City

When: First round, 11 a.m.; finals 5 p.m.

Teams: Armwood,

Blake, Durant, East Bay,

Hillsborough, King, Plant City, Sickles

Durant wrestles its way into contention 02/04/10 [Last modified: Thursday, February 4, 2010 3:30am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Tampa man driving ATV killed in Gibsonton crash on U.S. 41

    Public Safety

    GIBSONTON — A 24-year-old man driving an all-terrain vehicle died Monday afternoon in a crash on U.S. 41, the Florida Highway Patrol said.

  2. Questions about Russia chase Trump during first Israel visit


    JERUSALEM — President Donald Trump solemnly placed a note in the ancient stones of Jerusalem's Western Wall on Monday, sending a signal of solidarity to an ally he's pushing to work harder toward peace with the Palestinians. But his historic gesture- and his enthusiastic embrace of Israel's leader - were shadowed …

    President Donald Trump shakes hands with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after making joint statements, Monday in Jerusalem. [AP photo]
  3. Data breach exposes 469 Social Security numbers, thousands of concealed weapons holders


    Social Security numbers for up to 469 people and information about thousands of concealed weapons holders were exposed in a data breach at Florida the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. The breach, which the agency believes happened about two weeks ago, occurred in an online payments system, spokesperson …

    Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam on Monday that nearly 500 people may have had their Social Security numbers obtained in a data breach in his office.
[Times file photo]

  4. Trigaux: Can Duke Energy Florida's new chief grow a business when customers use less power?


    Let's hope Harry Sideris has a bit of Harry Houdini in him.

    Duke Energy Florida president Harry Sideris laid out his prioriities for the power company ranging from improved customer service to the use of more large-scale solar farms to provide electricity. And he acknowledged a critical challenge: People are using less electricity these days. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]
  5. Editorial: Preserve wild Florida before it's too late


    The last dairy farm in Hillsborough County has milked its final cow, the pastures sold to developers who will build 1,000 new homes. The remnants of the last commercial citrus grove in Pinellas County, where the Sunshine State's famed industry began in the 19th century, were sold last year to make room for 136 homes. …

    As dairy farms and citrus groves disappear, much more needs to be done to avoid paving over Florida’s wild spaces.