LAKELAND — Last year Pinellas County was represented by only eight wrestlers in the semifinals of the FHSAA Championships.
While three of those representatives ended up with gold around their necks, the crop headed for the semifinals this year is far larger.
In today's action, 15 competitors from Pinellas will compete, headlined by defending champion Jared Prince (126 pounds), the Palm Harbor University junior who took gold in the same weight class a year ago.
"Our guys are always hungry to win, but I've seen them mature this year," Palm Harbor U. coach Brad Sakevich said. "They all want to be state champs. (Aaron) Hartman, in particular, has been here five times and he's right there at the cusp."
Prince and his brother Connor (132) are both undefeated at 64-0 and 63-0 respectively. Each member of the duo is favored to win their Class 3A brackets today.
Also in contention for the Hurricanes is Aaron Hartman (145), who fell in the title match last year and is looking to avenge that silver medal performance. On the strength of those three, the Hurricanes are currently in third place in the Class 3A team standings with 39 points behind first-place South Dade (66.5).
The lone remaining Dixie Hollins wrestler was Andre Matthews (285), but the heavyweight is still undefeated at 33-0 and in solid position for the Rebels' first state title since 1989 (Henry Middleton) after pinning both Eau Gallie's Aaron Dolphus (1:40) and Chamberlain's Robert Mosley (1:31).
Another solid shot at an individual title likely comes in the form of Seminole's Anthony Parisi (138). He sits in a formidable bracket and will face undefeated South Dade star Pat Lugo in the semifinal. But if he can pull the upset, Parisi (43-1) would be in the driver's seat for the crown.
Dunedin is armed with a wrestler in the Class A semifinals in Anthony Dampier (170), who won a tight quarterfinal match with Lake Highland Prep's Conner Andrew in overtime, 3-1.
Indian Rocks Christian carries two competitors into the Class A semifinals. Connor Allshouse (152) and Jay Dugmore (132) will represent the Golden Eagles. Allshouse (38-2) might have the inside track to a title with Clay's Imier Almanzar his opponent for the semifinals.