Springstead High has ruled the North Suncoast wrestling scene in recent years, winning 15 of 15 dual matches each of the past two seasons andcapturing the Class 3A, District 7 tournament for five years running.
But that is where Springstead's team dominance ends, something Eagles coach Bob Levija hopes to change.
The opening session of the Class 3A, Region II tournament begins at 2 p.m. today at Auburndale High. Competing are qualifiers from four 3A districts -encompassing the North Suncoast, Tampa, Gainesville, Ocala, Ocala and Lakeland areas. Championship matches are scheduled to start 8 p.m. Saturday, with the top four finishers in each weight class advancing to next weekend's state championship tournament in West Palm Beach.
The Eagles have finished second in region tournament standings the past two years, losing the title by 1.5 points to Orlando-Bishop Moore in 1988 and by 32 points to the same club the next season.
"We're tired of being bridesmaids," said Levija, whose Springstead club won Saturday's district meet by scoring 221 points.
Zephyrhills was second, 80 points behind.
If the Eagles want to steal the spotlight this year, they will likely have to wrestle it away from the region host.
Auburndale is the favorite, based on its No. 1 ranking in the Florida Athletic Coaches Association's statewide 3A poll. Springstead is ranked third.
Auburndale ran away with its district tournament title, scoring 221.5 points. Tampa Robinson (154.5) was second.
"They're the No. 1 team in the state and my kids get to face them," Levija said, "so you better believe we're pretty fired up."
Springstead advances wrestlers in 12 of 14 divisions to the region tourney, including district champions Kevin Levija (130), John Lane (135), Dave Serna (160), Jason Gennaro (189) and Doug Housel (220).
Auburndale advances 11, including six district champions.
Two other North Suncoast teams will enter the region tourney with multiple district champions. Zephyrhills has three (103-pounder Sergio Cacciotti, 125-pounder Zeke Casarez and 145-pounder Ty Schoenig) and Hudson has two (119-pounder Trey Gordon and 152-pounder Tim Green).
Six North Suncoast district champions enter the region without having suffered a loss this season: Gordon (15-0), Casarez (25-0), Levija (25-0), Green (25-0), 140-pounder Doug Jensen of Citrus (26-0) and heavyweight Don Meredith of Land O'Lakes (23-0-1).
The other area district champions entered in this weekend's tourney are 112-pounder Travis DeWalt of Gulf, a two-time state qualifer, and Robert Lawson of Hernando High, who won the 171-pound title despite being seeded fourth in the weight division.
Meet at a glance What: Class 3A, Region II high school wrestling tournament Where: Auburndale High Who: Top four finishers in 14 weight classes from each of four district tournaments (3A districts 5-7, including teams from the Gainesville-Ocala area, the Orlando area, the Tampa-Lakeland area, and the North Suncoast).
Why: Top four finishers in each weight class go to the Class 3A state tournament Feb. 23-24 in West Palm Beach.
When: First session scheduled to begin 2 p.m. today. Approximate Saturday schedule - semifinals 10 a.m., wrestlebacks 12:30 p.m., consolations 6:30 p.m., finals 8 p.m. Admission: $3 for each of three sessions (one today and two Saturday) District 7 champions competing: 103 - Sergio Cacciotti, Zephyrhills;
112 - Travis DeWalt, Gulf; 119 - Trey Gordon, Hudson; 125 - Zeke Casarez, Zephyrhills; 130 - Kevin Levija, Springstead; 135 - John Lane, Springstead; 140 - Doug Jensen, Citrus; 145 - Ty Schoenig, Zephyrhills; 152 - Tim Green, Hudson; 160 - Dave Serna, Springstead;
171 - Robert Lawson, Hernando; 189 - Jason Gennaro, Springstead; 220 - Doug Housel, Springstead; heavyweight - Don Meredith, Land O'Lakes.