BRANDON — Sure, powerhouse Brandon won the 29th Tony Ippolito Memorial tournament for the 27th time Saturday, but the Tampa Bay area competition is getting better, and Brandon coach Russ Cozart welcomes the challenge.
Including the host Eagles, who tallied 371 points, six of the top 10 teams in the event were from the Tampa Bay region. Springstead (155 points) and Pasco (91) placed third and ninth, respectively. Jesuit (142.5) took sixth, Lennard (120) seventh and Robinson (85) 10th.
"It was a very competitive tournament," Cozart said. "That's what it's all about; getting good matches, being tested."
Unlike many previous tournaments in which Brandon racks up fast pins, there were none in the championship round. Brandon won 10 of 14 individual titles, but the Eagles also had two losses in the finals.
Hillsborough's Demetrius Hill led Brandon's Jonathon Summit in the third round of the 195-pound final and was declared the winner after slamming Summit headfirst onto the mat. Although Summit could not continue he walked off the mat under his own power.
In the 220-pound final, Jesuit's Austin Underwood defeated Brandon's Robert Enmon in a major decision. Underwood, a junior who suffered a season-ending ankle injury in last year's district meet, improved to 34-0 and has his eyes on a state title.
"I don't tend to worry about what name's on the singlet. It's about you," said Underwood, a runnerup at last year's Ippolito tournament.
Brandon's Travis Berridge (170) and Kevin Norstem shared outstanding wrestler honors. Berridge put up a strong fight against Tampa Prep eighth-grader Nick Mosco, who placed sixth at state as a seventh-grader, in a 5-3 win.
In one of the tightest matches of the night, Brandon's Victor Fugate edged North Port's Cole Murray 6-5 by breaking a tie in the final minute.
"You have to keep pushing the entire match," Fugate said. "That's the Brandon motto: no pause."