HOLIDAY — By the midway point in Saturday's tournament, it was obvious to the programs involved that a third consecutive Sunshine Athletic Conference championship was in the cards for Gulf.
The Buccaneers built a lead of more than 100 points after the semifinals and finished with 280.5, easily outdistancing runnerup Fivay (190.5 points).
Gulf had three individuals win their third consecutive SAC championships: Anthony Ayers (130 pounds), R.J. O'Connor (160) and Ladarious Jackson (171).
"You have to have that tough mentality," Jackson said. "Being able to go into the state series with a good conference tournament performance is huge."
Friday Karr (189) and Jeff Kruse (285) also won conference titles. For Kruse, who finished third at state last season, it was his second straight SAC gold.
Chris Palasky (215), who was one of the favorites in his weight class, was upset in the semifinals by Pasco's Zack Jordan. The other state-ranked wrestler at 215, Zephyrhills' Frank Morrison, suffered a left knee injury in the semifinals and was forced to forfeit the remainder of his matches. He is questionable for district this coming week.
The opening led to Fivay's Mike Hahn taking the title in that class by pinning Jordan in 3:32.
The Falcons, a first-year program, put five wrestlers in the finals, led by Sean Speer (119). Speer, the state-ranked lightweight, defeated Gulf's Forrest Swartsel 11-5 to capture his first individual conference title.
Wiregrass Ranch, which placed right behind the Bucs last season, had three individual champs — David Hill (125), Dylan Koesling (130) and Elliot Morales (140) — but only managed third place in the team standings.
"They know that we're the underdogs, and I love being the underdog," Wiregrass Ranch coach Kris Simmons said. "We are just going to keep rolling on this success and work our butts off."
One notable wrestler was missing. River Ridge's Andrew Herr (189) suffered a rib injury last week and was unable to participate. He expected to be ready for the district tournament.
Sunshine Athletic Conference Championships
Anclote High, Holiday
Individual finals: 103: Sorrick (ANC) dec Agazarm (GUL), 16-13; 112: Gamez (PAS) pin Reed (FIV), 3:16; 119: Speer (FIV) dec Swartsel (GUL), 11-5; 125: Hill (WGR) dec Timberlake (MIT), 7-4; 130: Ayers (GUL) pin Perez (WC), 3:01; 135: Koesling (WGR) maj dec DeAugustino (PAS), 14-4; 140: Morales (WGR) pin Baxter (GUL), 3:58; 145: Wertheim (MIT) dec Hart (SUN), 9-5; 152: Popolillo (WC) pin Hayes (GUL), 1:15; 160: O'Connor (GUL) pin Grilli (FIV), 1:47; 171: Jackson (GUL) maj dec Hahn (FIV), 20-9; 189: Karr (GUL) maj dec Corrin (RVR), 18-9; 215: Hahn (FIV) pin Jordan (PAS), 3:32; 285: Kruse (GUL) pin Wilson (PAS), :35.
Team standings: 1. Gulf 280.5, 2. Fivay 190.5, 3. Wiregrass Ranch 140.5, 4. Pasco 139, 5. Mitchell 135, 6. Sunlake 110.5, 7. River Ridge 102.5, 8. Wesley Chapel 90.5, 9. Anclote 76, 10. Zephyrhills 58, 11. Land O'Lakes 48, 12. Hudson 37, 13. Ridgewood 34.5