BROOKSVILLE — Ever since last season's state finals in Lakeland, we have been seeing a different Virgil Toms.
The Springstead wrestler has always been a superb mat tactician, but ever since he came away with his first state title in February, his confidence has been through the roof. The evidence of that was never more obvious than this weekend at the 29th annual Kiwanis Invitational at Hernando.
Toms, who suffered a bloody nose in the 130-pound championship match Saturday, knocked off Gulf's Anthony Ayers 5-3 to take his second Kiwanis title in a row.
"It just shows I can go with the best of them," Toms said, "but I don't dwell on it too much because I know it's only one match."
Toms, who lost in triple overtime to Brandon's Rossi Bruno at the Durant Cougar Invitational last weekend, was voted Most Outstanding Wrestler on Saturday. His efforts helped catapult the Eagles (287.5 points) to their fifth consecutive team crown in the tournament. In addition, it was Ayers' first loss since the state tournament in 2009.
"We know that we've got guys who can wrestle on a national level," Springstead coach Eric Swenson said. "The hope is we can do that on a weekly basis."
Eight of the 10 Springstead wrestlers to make the finals came away with gold, and Toms wasn't the only one to impress. John Dreggors pinned Gulf's Jeff Kruse in only 36 seconds in the 285-pound title match in a meeting between the state's top-ranked Class 2A (Dreggors) and Class A (Kruse) wrestlers according to Scout.com.
"(Dreggors) was very motivated coming into this year," Swenson said. "He did USA Wrestling in the summer and was working with the coaches every single day."
Gulf (229 points) was the tournament's runnerup for the second straight year, and the Buccaneers had three individual champions in Forrest Swartsel (119 pounds), R.J. O'Connor (160) and Chris Palasky (215).
State champion Ladarious Jackson, who intended to compete at 171 pounds in the tournament for Gulf, failed to make weight and had to miss the event. He expects to be ready for next week's Gulf Holiday Duals.
Other notable winners at Kiwanis included Hernando's Zach Pritz (171) and River Ridge's Andrew Herr (189). Pritz won a 6-2 decision over Springstead's Thomas Gupton, and Herr pinned Bloomingdale's Kenny Rach in double overtime.
Hernando High, Brooksville
Team standings: 1. Springstead 287.5, 2. Gulf 229, 3. Arnold 180, 4. Central 110.5, 5. River Ridge 99.5, 6. Nature Coast 95, 7. Bloomingdale 90, 8. Pasco 82, 9. Hernando 81, 10. Tampa Bay Christian 80, 11. Mitchell 75, 12. Robinson 72.5, 13. Gainesville Buchholz 63.5, 14. North Marion 62, 15. Zephyrhills 60.5, 16. Trinity Catholic 59.5, 17. Belleview 56, 18t. Freedom 50, 18t. Crystal River 50, 20. Lecanto 43, 21. Wesley Chapel 42.5, 22. Jefferson 38, 23t. Land O'Lakes 22, 23t. Dunnellon 22, 25. West Port 4.
Individual finals: 103: Bliss (Spr) pin Lucas (TBC), 5:11. 112: Rivera (Spr) dec Gamez (Pas), 6-5. 119: Swartsel (Gul) pin Ensminger (Arn), 1:48. 125: Redman (Spr) t-fall Miner (Arn), 16-0. 130: Toms (Spr) dec Ayers (Gul), 5-3. 135: Soto (Spr) pin Bolesta (NC), 1:26. 140: Ross (Spr) pin Baxter (Gul), 1:51. 145: Hoppel (TRC) pin Colon (Spr), 1:51. 152: Landgraff (Spr) pin Hayes (Gul), 1:05. 160: O'Connor (Gul) pin Delgado (Dun), 2:44. 171: Pritz (Her) dec Gupton (Spr), 6-2. 189: Herr (RR) pin Rach (Blm), 7:10. 215: Palasky (Gul) pin Majboor (Buc), 5:35. 285: Dreggors (Spr) pin Kruse (Gul), 0:36.