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Times' all-North Suncoast wrestling team

A season after finishing fifth at state as a sophomore, Gulf’s Anthony Ayers, left, needed just 36 seconds to pin his opponent and win it all. Meanwhile, Springstead’s Nick Soto, who comes from a wrestling family, overcame a knee injury to win a state title.

BRENDAN FITTERER | Times

A season after finishing fifth at state as a sophomore, Gulf’s Anthony Ayers, left, needed just 36 seconds to pin his opponent and win it all. Meanwhile, Springstead’s Nick Soto, who comes from a wrestling family, overcame a knee injury to win a state title.

Co-Wrestlers of the Year

Anthony Ayers, Jr., Gulf (59-0)

The 119-pounder was favored to win a state title all season after coming in fifth as a sophomore. And he was hardly challenged on his journey to the podium at the Lakeland Center.

Most impressive accomplishment: After putting together the area's best undefeated season in recent memory, Ayers capped 2010 by pinning Tampa Bay Christian's Troy Joyce in a mere 36 seconds for the Class A title. After all the buildup, it was a short time to wait to hold his long-awaited gold medal.

Did you know? When Ayers transferred from Mitchell after his freshman season, Bucs coach Travis DeWalt said Ayers had instant respect from everyone in the wrestling room because of what he had already done. The coaching staff molded that natural talent over the past two seasons.

Nick Soto, Jr., Springstead (45-0)

At 130 pounds, Soto is a two-time All-American at the Fargo Nationals. After placing third at state in 2009, the junior wouldn't let anything, including a hyperextended right knee, stop him from going undefeated on his way to state gold.

Most impressive accomplishment: Known as one of Springstead's most technically sound wrestlers, Soto used the ground game to his advantage throughout the state tournament. And in the final, he grinded out a 5-1 decision over Jensen Beach's Mike Hess.

Did you know? Soto comes from a heralded wrestling family. His uncle, Chris Soto, has been a key assistant with Springstead since Bob Levija led the program in the 1980s. His cousin, Matt Booker, holds the school record for wins (162) and won a state title. His brother, Dustin, was a two-time state qualifier and All-American. And his cousin, Thad Klenovich, placed fourth at state as a senior.

First team

103 Richie Bliss, Jr., Springstead, 48-3: Fourth wrestler in school history to win consecutive state titles, joining Corey Hill and Dustin and Schuyler Swanton.

112 Jarod Carpenter, Sr., Gulf, 47-9: Failed to place at state but outlasted fellow Pasco County 112-pounder J.P. Gamez with two wins. Both were crucial in the Bucs' historic team title.

119 Justin McKay, Sr., Land O'Lakes, 41-7: After a slow start to the season, the fifth-place showing at state was the best for a Gator since Jeff Ramer and Scott Mays in 2004.

125 Virgil Toms, Jr., Springstead, 33-5: After struggling with a shoulder injury, looked better than ever once the postseason rolled around.

130 Josh Isom, Sr., Gulf, 38-8: An instrumental part of the Bucs lineup all season as a region qualifier and Sunshine Athletic Conference champ.

135 Cody Ross, So., Springstead, 50-1: After reaching the final last season and coming up short, got over the hump as one of the Eagles' five individual champs.

140 Colton Zimmerman, Jr., Springstead, 36-10: Had an up-and-down experience in his first trip to the Lakeland Center, placing sixth.

145 Daniel Pritz, Sr., Hernando, 46-1: Came home with state gold, joining brother Robbie as the only members of the wrestling-oriented family with state championships.

152 Ladarious Jackson, Jr., Gulf, 58-1: The state runnerup a year ago, earned a 3-2 decision over Jacksonville Bolles' Daniel Igel to bring home a state title.

160 Mike Mesagno, Sr., Gulf, 46-12: Though his exit at state was quick, was the lone area 160-pounder to get there.

171 Landon Vannata, Sr., River Ridge, 42-3: Was perfect heading into the region final, but the senior has nothing to hang his head about with a fifth-place showing at state.

189 Jake Horning, Sr., River Ridge, 31-8: Went two matches and out at the Lakeland Center, but as a state qualifier and SAC champ, he more than made his mark as the best in the area.

215 Kenny Cox, Sr., Springstead, 30-0: As a freshman, was just another fill-in on the Eagles' 14-man lineup at district. After an undefeated senior season, holds state gold.

285 Jeff Kruse, So., Gulf, 55-9: A first-year wrestler, a victory in the consolation final all but clinched the state title for the Bucs before the championship round.

Second team

103: Kyle Koesling, So., Wiregrass Ranch, 30-9

112: J.P. Gamez, So., Pasco, 43-12

119: Nick Hynes, Sr., Zephyrhills, 43-7

125: Scott Cronin, Sr., Nature Coast, 48-7

130: Andrew Agazarm, Sr., River Ridge, 32-7

135: R.J. O'Connor, Jr., Gulf, 41-6

140: Mitch Lambert, So., Nature Coast, 40-19

145: Sammy Colon, Jr., Springstead, 33-11

152: Shawn Landgraff, Jr., Springstead, 45-7

160: Tommy Ellerbee, Sr., Springstead, 44-13

171: Casey Quinn, So., Springstead, 28-16

189: Jeff Gilbert, Jr., Nature Coast, 30-6

215: Ryan Brosnan, Sr., Mitchell, 29-8

285: John Dreggors, So., Springstead, 43-9

Honorable mention

Central: David Supple, Josh Marquez, Robbie Monsegur

Gulf: Forrest Swartsel, Jacob Ritter, Chris Palasky

Hernando: Zach Pritz

Land O'Lakes: Brennan Stack

Mitchell: Leigh Andre

Nature Coast: Tyler Forand, Brenton Nuby, Greg Jarque

River Ridge: Donovan Berardi

Springstead: Thomas Gupton, Sean Redman

Sunlake: Luke Peterson

Wesley Chapel: Nick Popolillo

Wiregrass Ranch: Dylan Koesling, Zachary Morales, Emmanuel Long

Zephyrhills: Nathan Vandam

Co-Coaches of the Year

Travis DeWalt, Gulf

Eric Swensen, Springstead

DeWalt has taken Gulf and built it from the ground up into a state powerhouse. This season, he led the program to its first team title (Class A). And he did so by coming from behind and having only eight qualifiers.

Swensen maintained Springstead's stranglehold on the North Suncoast. He led the Eagles to their best postseason with five individual champions and a runnerup finish in Class 2A. And they even defeated Gulf head to head each time the programs squared off.

Derek LaRiviere, Times correspondent

Times' all-North Suncoast wrestling team 03/13/10 [Last modified: Saturday, March 13, 2010 10:04pm]

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