RUSKIN — Lennard's Ron Buffano said receiving the 2012 Joel Medgebow Award as the county's coach of the year gave him an opportunity to boast about his wrestlers.
"It meant a lot," said Buffano, a former Bloomingdale standout who got the Lennard program off the ground in 2009. "To me, that means that they were the team of the year."
While he might get an argument from anyone associated with the Brandon program that owns 12 straight state titles and 23 overall, Buffano listed a trio of Longhorn wrestlers with state potential: seniors Herminio Camacho (132 pounds) and Tyler Sierra (138 or 145), along with junior Darrian Mills, who placed sixth at 120 in last year's state meet but will move up to 126 this season.
"I think Lennard is going to be really tough," Hillsborough coach Mike Patrick said. "(The Longhorns) graduated two key seniors, but they're returning a lot."
As for Patrick's team that placed 15th in last year's state meet, he has two returning state qualifiers in senior Demetrius Hill, who finished fifth at 195, and Jacob West, a junior who wrestles at 113. And 160-pounder Kyle Knauer had 35 wins last year and was one match from making state.
King has three seniors to watch: Jacob Wasserman, a 2012 state runnerup at 106 who bumps up to 120, 138-pounder Joseph Affronti and Andre Accomando at 113.
Armwood's Donoven Hough won a state title at 106 and moves up to 113 as a sophomore. And count Durant's Richard Woods, Jesuit's Wyatt Roop and Robinson's Luis Peguero among the candidates aiming to return to state.
Then there is Brandon with the usual handful of state champion candidates. This year's group includes the Norstrem brothers in senior Kevin (138), a four-time state champion, and freshman Kyle (113), a state champion at Tampa Bay Christian; defending 106-pound state champ Dylan Lucas, a sophomore; junior 120-pounder James Flint, a three-time state champ; and 160-pounder Jacob Haydock, who seeks his second straight state title.
Other Eagles to keep an eye on: Travis Berridge (170, fourth at state) and Devan Berrian (132, fifth at state).
Up next on the wrestling docket is the Cougar Invitational, which returns to Plant City after a one-year stint at the Tampa Convention Center due to a remodeling and expansion of the Strawberry Festival Fairgrounds' Expo Hall.
The prestigious tournament, which began with eight teams in 1996, now annually lists 32 teams. The event begins Friday and ends Dec. 1 with teams slated to compete on eight mats in a 25,000-square-foot venue that seats 1,200.
"I'm real curious to see how big the event is," said Patrick, adding, "I really liked it at the convention center last year. It was run well."