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Countryside's Grueninger not ready to forget

Kyle Grueninger’s goal for this season is nothing short of a state title, which would be the Countryside senior’s second.

LARA CERRI | Times

Kyle Grueninger’s goal for this season is nothing short of a state title, which would be the Countryside senior’s second.

The haunting memory of being pinned in the final of the 112-pound weight class at the state championships two seasons ago continues to motivate Countryside wrestler Kyle Grueninger.

After that defeat to Braddock's Eric Chandler, Grueninger, a sophomore at the time, vowed not one, but two return trips to the state title match.

"I wasn't happy," Grueninger said. "I got worked by him. He beat me, and I didn't have a chance. I laid an egg, and since that point I've made it my mission to win a state title as a junior and a senior."

Last season, he fulfilled half of that goal, avenging the loss to Chandler by winning a 4-2 decision over the previously undefeated wrestler in the 112-pound final.

On Friday, Grueninger, the Times' co-Wrestler of the Year last season, will begin leg two in his quest for the double when the Cougars host the Pinellas County Duals featuring 10 local squads.

"I want to throw those two fingers up," said Grueninger, who became the first county wrestler to win a state title since the Cougars' Greg Vernon (125 pounds) accomplished the feat in 2005. "The first one is always the best, but a second would be just as good. That's when you know that you're a champion, when you can come back and defend your title."

Last year, a leg injury threatened to derail Grueninger's championship run before it started. He broke his left ankle in a pickup summer basketball game and missed three months of training. Grueninger wore an ankle brace every match his junior season.

"I felt weird when I didn't have it on," he said. "The ankle still hurt the whole season. I always had problems with it."

Entering his senior year, a healthy Grueninger, who will jump up in weight to the 119-pound division, is looking not only to repeat as state champion, but to finish the year undefeated. He came close last season, going 50-2.

"He's hungry. He's determined," Countryside coach Mark Prince said. "He's the most aggressive kid I've got, and he's been the most aggressive kid I've had over the past two or three years. And that shows. He's been in the state finals the past two seasons.

"There have been guys with better technique on the team but nobody with his desire and determination."

District breakdown

Class 3A, District 6

Teams: Countryside, East Lake, Largo, Mitchell, Palm Harbor University, Pinellas Park, St. Petersburg, Sarasota, Sarasota Riverview

Class 2A, District 5

Teams: Central, Dunedin, Land O'Lakes, Ridgewood, River Ridge, Groveland South Lake, Springstead, Tarpon Springs, Wesley Chapel

Class 2A, District 9

Teams: Boca Ciega, Clearwater, Dixie Hollins, Gibbs, Lakewood, Northeast, Osceola, Seminole

Class A, District 10

Teams: Admiral Farragut, Berkeley Prep, Calvary Christian, Clearwater Central Catholic, Indian Rocks Christian, Northside Christian, Palmetto, St. Petersburg Catholic

Wrestlers to watch

Dalton Dennis, Countryside

Nick Travis, SP Catholic

Jordan Frease, Countryside

Dillon Dennis, Countryside

Antonio Talley, Dunedin

Justin Zeedyk, Dunedin

For the fans

Admission: Most schools charge $5.

Regular season: Schools began the regular season Nov. 17. They can participate in 18 meets. Tournaments count as two meets.

Playoffs: The top four in each weight class advance from districts and regions. District tournaments are Feb. 2-7; region tournaments Feb. 13-14. The state tournament is Feb. 19-21 at The Lakeland Center.

Classifications: Schools are divided by enrollment into three classifications, ranging from the largest in Class 3A to the smallest in Class A.

Countryside's Grueninger not ready to forget 11/17/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 19, 2008 8:00pm]
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