Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

State wrestling: Northside's Dillon Dennis finishes unbeaten season with title at 140 pounds

Northside Christian’s Dillon Dennis, top, tangles with Mater Academy’s Marcial Rodriguez during the 140-pound final.


Northside Christian’s Dillon Dennis, top, tangles with Mater Academy’s Marcial Rodriguez during the 140-pound final.

LAKELAND — In 2008, Dillon Dennis was third at district, fourth at region and went 0-2 at the state wrestling tournament as a member of the Countryside Cougars. Despite the not-so-special season, Dennis decided last February he was going to turn everything around his senior year and go undefeated.

He did it — and he has a gold medal to prove it.

"That was my plan," said Dennis, who switched schools this fall and became a Northside Christian Mustang. "I busted my butt all season and got better. My season started the week after state. I started game-planning it."

He wrestled Greco-Freestyle during the summer and competed against many of the same Lakeland qualifiers.

"I got beat up by most of the guys in the finals right here," he said. "I wrestled most of them."

The work paid off. After posting a 34-10 record last year, Dennis wrapped up a 39-0 senior season Saturday at the Lakeland Center. He preserved his unbeaten campaign by ousting Marcial Rodriguez of Mater Academy 5-1 in the Class A, 140-pound championship. Dennis scored an early first-period takedown and led 2-1 going into the third period. In the final two minutes he added an escape and late takedown to win by four.

"The first takedown usually decides who wins and who loses," he said. "The game plan was to wrestle hard and wrestle smart."

Dennis stayed unbeaten despite the distractions of moving to a different school and hearing the negative reactions. But Dennis said it was "water on a duck's back" and didn't mean anything. He put it all behind him, and apparently his entire family did as well.

Dryden Dennis (103) went 2-3 at the tournament and earned a sixth-place medal, and Dalton Dennis (112) went 4-3 for a fourth-place medal. All three brothers earned the right to stand on the award podium.

"That was pretty cool," Dillon said, "but I would have liked to have had them on top with me."

Pinellas County had two wrestlers reach the individual championship finals. Joining Dillon was 171-pounder Antonio Talley of Dunedin.

Talley posted a 15-3 major decision over previously unbeaten Maxwell Watson of Bayside (25-1) in the semifinals, but he could not get by undefeated Jacob Harmer of Gainesville (56-0) in the championship. Harmer used a third-period escape to win 1-0.

"I'm not intimidated by any wrestler," Talley said. "I wrestle as hard as I can no matter who it is."

But ending a career as a state runner-up was tough to accept.

"I can't believe I lost," he said. "I tried for takedowns, but I just couldn't get one."

There were eight other medal-round matches featuring Pinellas County wrestlers, but only Justin Zeedyk of Dunedin (2A, 189, fifth place), Tyler Paar of Clearwater (2A, 275, fifth) and Spencer VanBuskirk of St. Petersburg Catholic (1A, 152, fifth) went out on a winning note.

State wrestling: Northside's Dillon Dennis finishes unbeaten season with title at 140 pounds 02/21/09 [Last modified: Sunday, February 22, 2009 12:00am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Buccaneers WR Mike Evans previews 2017-18 NBA season, predicts Warriors will be dethroned


    Tampa isn't the greatest basketball market. In fact, it's just about the worst.

    Mike Evans and Jameis Winston celebrate after connecting for a touchdown against the Bears in September. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]
  2. Peter Budaj, Lightning lose to Devils in shootout; Nikita Kucherov scores

    Lightning Strikes

    NEWARK, N.J. — For Peter Budaj, Tuesday's season debut had a shaky start.

    The Lightning’s Vladislav Namestnikov, right, battles Damon Severson for the puck.
  3. Lightning's Steve Yzerman enjoying Nikita Kucherov's scoring run

    Lightning Strikes

    NEWARK, N.J. — If anyone knows what it is like to be as hot as Nikita Kucherov is right now, it's Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman.

    Tampa Bay Lightning right wing Nikita Kucherov, of Russia, celebrates after scoring a goal on the New Jersey Devils during the second period of an NHL hockey game, Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2017, in Newark, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
  4. Bucs journal: Offense needs to get off to a faster start


    TAMPA — The past two games have seen the Bucs offense muster furious rallies in the fourth quarter of losses, with 229 yards against the Patriots and a franchise-record 27 points against the Cardinals.

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Dirk Koetter walks the field before an NFL game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz., on Sunday, Oct. 15, 2017.
  5. NFL players, owners hold 'constructive' talks on issues


    NEW YORK — NFL players and owners met Tuesday to discuss social issues, a session Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross called "constructive" and Colts defensive back Darius Butler termed "positive."

    A coalition of advocacy groups 'take a knee' outside of a hotel where members the quarterly NFL league meetings are being held on Tuesday in New York City.  Owners, players and commissioner Roger Goodell are all expected to attend. The activists spoke of having solidarity with athletes and coaches around the country who have also kneeled in protest of racial injustice, especially in policing.
 [Getty Images]