Hillsborough: District wrestling preview

GIBSONTON — The four "Amigos" have fueled East Bay's wrestling turnaround over the past two seasons, but they have been reduced to three after Roel Pecina's season-ending shoulder injury. The 125-pound junior finishes his season 10-2.

Coaches and teammates alike, however, are undaunted by the loss and are determined to continue the program's record run. Just one year after a school-record 22 dual-match victories, the Indians are 23-2.

"When we beat the school record last year, I knew we'd do better this year," said Morquez Forest, a 171-pound junior who transferred from Hillsborough before last season.

Coach Erik Matricardi gives a lot of credit to the aforementioned Amigos, juniors who have made an impact on the mat since they were freshmen. That group includes Jonathan McEaneney (112), Omar Soler (140), Ismael Calderon (160) and Pecina.

"We were really blessed with a great group of freshmen," Matricardi said. "They're juniors now, so it's a good core group."

East Bay's success from last season continued with not only the team's dual-meet mark, but its tournament results. For the first time in school history the Indians won the Jerry Mita Invitational at Pinellas Park in December. Leading the way were individual champions McEaneney and Calderon.

More recently, the Indians took ninth in last weekend's Tony Ippolito Memorial tournament, marking their best-ever finish in that event and the first time in seven seasons that they placed a wrestler in the finals.

The Indians' best wrestler in that event was Forest, a runnerup in his weight class. The team's other top finishers were Nissan Anderson (145 pounds, fourth) and Tevin Franklin (285, sixth).

Undaunted after being pinned by Brandon's Kyle Koziel in the championship match, Forest believes better things are to come in the near future. He has his sights set on a district title, with region and state berths to follow.

"This year is a big opportunity for me," Forest said. "The key is listening to my coaches. When I listen to them I do a lot better."

Joining Matricardi, who wrestled at King (Class of 1989), are two other former county wrestlers. Assistants Robbie Parsons wrestled at East Bay (2001 graduate) and Remy Ferrario at Brandon (1995). Matricardi lauded Parsons for his work with the high school team as well as getting a club program started last year.

"He's easily the most dedicated and best assistant I could ask for," Matricardi said of Parsons.

The respect is mutual. For his part, Parsons is thrilled to coach at his alma mater, saying, "I wouldn't coach anywhere else."

With just two seniors — Franklin and Nathan Graham (152) — among East Bay's top wrestlers, the team's resurgence is not likely to end anytime soon.

Aside from the group's rise together, team camaraderie and recent accomplishments, Matricardi said there are more goals to achieve and that his team is in shape to make a solid postseason run. That would include several state qualifiers, something the Indians have not had since Tyler Hooks (171) in 2009.

"We plan on having a bunch this year," the coach said.

Schedules

Admission: Two sessions, $5 per session; one session, $6

Class 3A-7

Where: Palm Harbor University

When: Friday, first round, 11 a.m.; finals, 6 p.m.

Teams: Chamberlain, Clearwater, Countryside, East Lake, Gaither, Northeast, Palm Harbor University, Pinellas Park, Seminole, St. Petersburg

Class 3A-6

Where: Brandon High

When: Saturday, first round, 11 a.m.; finals, 4 p.m.

Teams: Alonso, Bloomingdale, Brandon, Freedom, Newsome, Plant, Riverview, Tampa Bay Tech, Wharton

Class 2A-10

Where: Boca Ciega High, Gulfport

When: Friday, first round, 11:30 a.m.; finals, 5 p.m.

Teams: Boca Ciega, Dixie Hollins, Gibbs, Jefferson, Largo, Leto, Osceola

Class 2A-9

Where: East Bay High, Gibsonton

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

Teams: Armwood, Blake, Durant, East Bay, Hillsborough, King, Plant City, Sickles

Class A-10

Where: Northside Christian, St. Petersburg

When: Friday, first round, 1 p.m.; finals, 5 p.m.

Teams: Admiral Farragut, Berkeley Prep, Calvary Christian, Clearwater Central Catholic, Indian Rocks Christian, Lakewood, Northside Christian, Robinson

Class A-9

Where: Jesuit High, Tampa

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

Teams: Jesuit, Lennard, Middleton, Spoto, Steinbrenner, Strawberry Crest, Tampa Bay Christian, Tampa Prep

Hillsborough: District wrestling preview 01/29/11 [Last modified: Saturday, January 29, 2011 11:35pm]

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