EAST LAKE — When Brad Sakevich took over as Palm Harbor University coach this season, he said he knew nothing about the history of the team. He just wanted to win.
The former New Jersey resident did just that Saturday night. The Hurricanes surprised many by winning the Class 3A, District 6 team title.
"It's been a goal of our's all year to win the district," Sakevich said. "We wrestled every team here and beat every team here in duals except St. Petersburg and we lost to them in the first match of the season."
If Sakevich knew his history, he would have known Palm Harbor wasn't in the championship picture last year. East Lake and Countryside battled for the title and the Eagles finally won it after the 285-pound bout.
This year, however, Palm Harbor U. trailed Countryside 126-122.5 heading into the championship finals when Jack Stewart scored a pin at 140 pounds, Scott Santangelo scored a pin at 145 pounds and Paul Riggs scored a 4-3 decision at 215 pounds. The Hurricanes won the championship 138.5-134 over the Cougars.
PHU qualified eight for regionals, Sarasota and East Lake seven, and Pinellas Park, St. Petersburg, Largo and Mitchell six each. Nick Andries (40-1), Anthony Yingling (23-7) and Tray Butler (29-4) won titles for Pinellas Park. Jameel Bryant (33-4) won a title for St. Petersburg.
The clincher for the Hurricanes came at 145 pounds when Santangelo pinned East Lake's Nick Sholley in a rematch of last year's final. In 2008 Sholley pinned Santangelo in 37 seconds. Saturday Santangelo pinned Sholley in 4:42.
"I did more shots and I didn't do any tie ups," Santangelo said. "I waited for my shots."
Countryside still had a chance to overtake Palm Harbor at 160 pounds, but St. Petersburg's Bo Kennedy edged Countryside's Chad Brown 7-5 in the night's biggest thriller. Kennedy led 5-1 after two periods, Brown tied it 5-5 with 11 seconds remaining, and just before the buzzer Kennedy scored a takedown.
"He got out of position and I caught him," Kennedy said. "The last (11 seconds) was improvising. I just got on top of him."
For the past two years, the district team title has gone down to the wire. When the dust settled Saturday, Countryside led all foes by qualifying 10, including champions Layton Ayers at 130 pounds and Jordan Frease at 135 pounds.
Kyle Grueninger, a 2008 state champion, lost his first match of the season in the 119 finals. He fell 10-8 to Robert Herrera of Sarasota. Grueninger will enter regionals 36-1