PINELLAS PARK — The Palmetto Ridge and Lely wrestling teams appear to be using Pinellas County as a battleground for bragging rights back home in Naples.
Last week, Palmetto Ridge won the East Lake Invitational. Saturday night, Lely won the Jerry Mita Invite, but it didn't come easy.
Dixie Hollins trailed the Trojans by 8.5 points heading into the finals, and with two weight classes remaining the Rebels had pulled to within two points of the lead. But Lely crowned its first champion at 215 pounds and clinched first place as a team with a 177.5 total.
Dixie Hollins finished 9.5 points back in second (168), Palm Beach Gardens was third (161.5), Sarasota was fourth (152.5) and Northeast fifth (148).
Rebels junior Taylor Cooper said he was aware how tight the team scores were when he battled for the 135-pound title, but was told by his coaches to just concentrate on his own match.
Cooper, who was sixth at the Mita tournament last year, took his coaches' advice, and won an individual title this year.
"I've practiced hard, went to camps during the summer and I've worked hard," Cooper said. "Going in I was going to give it my best."
Northeast crowned one champion — Austin Yelko at 171 pounds. He started the tournament as the No. 3 seed, but beat No. 2 seed Jean Augustin of Palm Beach in the semifinals and edged No. 4 seed Jameel Bryant of St. Petersburg 5-3 in the final. This was Yelko's fourth Mita tournament. His previous best placement was fifth last year.
"I was going for it," Yelko said. "I was seeded third, but I knew I could beat all the kids."
Overall, Pinellas County had four individual champions, including Oshain Goslin of St. Petersburg at 130 and Spencer VanBuskirk of St. Petersburg Catholic at 152. The host Pinellas Park Patriots had seven medalists, including Nick Andries, second at 112 pounds.