LAKELAND — Springstead sent a message on Day 1 with seven of its nine state qualifiers advancing to the Class 2A semifinals, but the Eagles weren't the only wrestlers from the North Suncoast to shine Friday.
The most improbable victory came from freshman lightweight Cody Ross (119 pounds). Ross annihilated reigning 103-pound state champion Cody Singletary of Palmetto Ridge 12-0 for a major decision. He is the only freshman from the area headed to the semifinals.
Springstead also advanced Richie Bliss (103), Nick Soto (125), Thad Klenovich (160) and Scott Wern (189). Wern's first victory was an impressive 21-second pin over St. Thomas Aquinas' Paul Weiss, then Wern gritted out a tough match against Gainesville's Matt Vanscoy 5-1.
"I had the mental advantage today," Wern said. "All I keep telling myself is, 'This is my dream, and you're not going to take it from me.' "
One more North Suncoast favorite is also on pace for a state title. Sunlake's Jarrett Baker (40-0) continued his undefeated season by winning both bouts at 189 pounds in Class A — a 3:30 pin of Bishop Kenny's Sloan Hagerty and a 6-5 decision over Monsignor Pace's Keifer Scott.
Hernando's Daniel Pritz (135), a major threat coming in, was disappointed with an upset loss at the hands of South Fort Myers' Wesley Diaz, 8-4. Pritz, who placed third last season at 125, will have his hands full to repeat that feat.
Gulf had its share of ups and downs. The Buccaneers advanced two to the Class A semifinals — Anthony Ayers (119) and Ladarious Jackson (152) — but the program was also the down side of the day.
The 32 North Suncoast competitors were 27-23 in the championship bracket and a stunning 11-3 in the opening consolation round. Only three were eliminated in the first three sessions — Gulf's Josh Isom (125), Jacob Ritter (171) and Matt Gallagher (189).