PINELLAS PARK — Northside Christian coach Chris Wilmington knows what it's like to watch other coaches take a seat ringside during the championship matches and see them remain there for several straight matches.
On Saturday night it was his turn to enjoy that feeling for the first time.
At the 17th annual Jerry Mita Invitational hosted by Pinellas Park, the Mustangs qualified wrestlers for the first five championship matches of the night. By the time Wilmington had worn his chair out, Northside Christian had crowned four individual champions and won the team title. All that even though it was Northside Christian's first time ever competing in this tournament.
"It felt good to see my guys work hard and see them really want this," Wilmington said. "I knew anything less than first would have been a failure for my guys."
Osceola held a 179.5 to 179 lead over the Mustangs in the team standings heading into the consolation and championship finals, but the Warriors couldn't keep up. Aaron Hartman (103), Brian Travis (112), Dalton Dennis (125) and Anthony Melillo (130) all won titles for Northside Christian, and Dryden Dennis (119) was a runnerup as Northside pulled away 204.5 to 188.5.
Osceola coach Dan Smalley watched Luis Tonge win the 145-pound title and Jared Willett take second at 215.
"We knew Northside was going to have a lot in the finals, and they were going to win a lot of matches, but we definitely did enough to take second place, and I'm very proud of that," Smalley said.
The tournament's most valuable wrestler was Thomas Gorman, who became the first Admiral Farragut Academy competitor to ever win an individual title at the Mita event.
Gorman, a two-time state qualifier in New York, is competing in Florida for the first time. He was not seeded for this tournament at 160 pounds, but he opened by pinning No. 1 seed Bo Kennedy of St. Petersburg and finished by pinning No. 2 seed Garrett Campbell of Seminole in the final.
Host Pinellas Park had a good run. Patriots fans watched Dennis Homol capture the 215-pound championship and Trey Butler win the heavyweight bracket. The only other team with two champions was Palm Harbor University. Jack Stewart earned the 140 title and Scott Santangelo won at 152.