BROOKSVILLE — The Shark Fest Duals at Nature Coast featured several of the top programs in the state, and against that high level of competition the Sharks reached the finals, establishing the hosts as a force before next month's state series.
Palm Harbor University, armed with three top-ranked wrestlers, defeated Nature Coast 37-28 in the championship round Saturday, so the Sharks could have been satisfied with their finish in the 12-team field. It speaks to the attitude within the program that they were not.
"The kids wrestled great this weekend," Sharks coach Mike Lastra said, "but we weren't in this tournament to take second place. We wanted to win."
Cameron Tull (132 pounds), Mitch Lambert (160) and Carlos Carasquillo (170) went undefeated (8-0) in the event for the Sharks.
According to Scout.com, the Sharks were ranked ninth in Class 2A heading in, and their showing in a field that also included Bradenton Manatee, Gainesville and Countryside was a real boost.
"Our kids were real motivated because of the competitions," Lastra said. "There were a lot of good individual matches that should help us in the long run."
Fivay took third place over Gainesville via forfeit. The Hurricanes left early after a consolation semifinal win over Countryside, leaving the Falcons with third after their 39-25 win over Bradenton Manatee.
Although the Falcons were 17-0 in dual competition before Shark Fest, many questioned the level of their competition. Fivay laid many doubts to rest, going 6-2, with its losses against PHU and Nature Coast.
"Most of these teams aren't in our (classification, 2A), but it was a good experience to get some matches under our belts," Fivay coach Andy Medders said. "We fell short in some matches because my guys didn't smell blood in the water like they should have."
Sean Speer (120) was the lone Falcon to go undefeated. Nicco Lightfoot (182) and Mike Hahn (220) both lost their first matches of the season, and each now has a 27-1 record.
Wesley Chapel's Nick Popolillo (160) also went undefeated at 8-0 in the tournament. His only losses this season have come once to Lambert and twice to Springstead's Cody Ross.