More than 130 Hillsborough County wrestlers will compete today andSaturday in the Class 3A, Region II tournament, at Auburndale, and the Class 4A, Region II tournament, at Winter Haven, seeking a berth in the state tournament next weekend in West Palm Beach.
Preliminaries and quarterfinals in both tournaments are today, starting at 2 p.m. The semifinals are scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday, with the consolations at 6:30 p.m. The finals start at 8.
Several local wrestlers will have to defeat defending state champions to win an individual regional title.
"We have several weight classes that will be tough with defending state champions and other undefeated wrestlers," host coach Charlie Darte of Winter Haven said. "Four of the weights are 112, 119, 140, and 145."
Brandon's Doug Badia will compete at 112 and will have to face defending champ Henry Middleton (23-0) of Dixie Hollins if both make it through the semifinals.
Even before he reaches the title match, Badia will have to face either 24-1 Clint Cox from Clearwater Countryside or 23-1 Scott Piney from Lakeland.
It was against Piney that Badia received his injury disqualification loss in the district contest.
"I don't think being in the brackets as a district runner-up will affect Doug that much," Brandon coach Russ Cozart said at the district tournament last Saturday. "He still is the best kid at his weight."
Brandon's John Heyman (22-0) will be competing in the tough 119-pound class.
Chris Hayward (26-0) of Sarasota is the defending champion Heyman will have to face if both wrestlers make it to the finals.
At 145, Kevin Steel (21-2) of Chamberlain is also in a weight class with a defending state champion. Clearwater Countryside's Jim Carazola is the champ with a 23-0 record this season.
Other Hillsborough County 4A district champions with no more than one loss include: 103 - Eric Graffeo (Leto), 135 - Mark Valdiviez (Chamberlain), 189 - Keith Marcos (Chamberlain), and 189 - Steve Guyton (Brandon). All will be in the regionals.
Plant's Panthers, with three individual titlists going to Auburndale, have the most 3A district champs from Hillsborough County.
The three are Ernie Illes, 112, Donald Crosser, 135, and Keith Palaez, 275.
Illes will have strong competition from Travis DeWolf of Gulf and Joe Torres from Bishop Moore. Crosser's tough competition will be from John Lane of Springstead and Eric Greeno of Bishop Moore.
Other local 3A champions traveling to Auburndale include Steve Van Neste (145) of Tampa Catholic, Ken Matteson (152) of Robinson, Mike Hills (189) of Tampa Bay Vo-Tech, and Matt Rametta (220) of Jesuit.