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Brandon rolls; Eagles, Devils advance 3 each

Brandon High School held on by the barest of margins to defeat defending state champ Sarasota in the Class 4A, Region II wrestling tournament Saturday. The Eagles finished with 149.5 points, ahead of the Sailors, who had 147. Sarasota went into the final match of the night needing a win, but Largo's Peter McDonough pinned Sarasota's Charles Thompson in 3:18.

"We were ready to win," Brandon coach Russ Cozart said. "When we needed a win, we got it."

Countryside was third overall with 124.5 points.

The top four finishers in each weight class advance into the state tournament Friday and Saturday in West Palm Beach.

Heading into the consolation finals, Sarasota held a half-point lead over Brandon, 138-137.5. Brandon took a half-point lead in the consolations and entered the finals ahead 141.5-141.

Key bouts came in the second and third matches in the finals, when Brandon wrestlers had to defeat two defending state champions _ Dixie Hollins' Henry Middleton at 112, and Sarasota's Kris Hayward at 119 _ to keep in the running for the title.

Middleton topped Brandon Doug Badia 3-2 with a takedown in the final 10 seconds, and the Sailors' Kris Hayward beat Brandon's John Heyman 10-0.

Heading into the final match, Brandon had 149.5 to 146 for Sarasota.

Class 3A, Region III: Host East Lake and St. Petersburg each sent three wrestlers to next weekend's state finals from the Class 3A, Region III wrestling tournament Saturday night.

The Class 4A-3A state tournament is Friday in West Palm Beach. The top four wrestlers from each weight class advanced to the state tournament.

Lakewood sophomore sensation Bill McKinney was the only regional champion from Pinellas county. McKinney, who has a 29-2 record, won the regional crown by pinning Shannon Dennis of Lemon Bay in the 130 weight class.

"If he gets his opponent in the cradle, Bill is unstoppable," Lakewood coach Bill Grant said. "He has certainly been a surprise for us in the region. We couldn't be happier with him."

McKinney has 28 pins with his patented cradle hold this season, and one forfeit. He won his match against Dennis with his cradle move.

"I'm surprised I'm here," McKinney said. "I didn't even come into the districts expecting much."

Leading the way for the Eagles was Tasso Politopoulos, in the 103-pound weight class. Politopoulos lost the title match against Cory Kness of Naples 6-3.

_ Correspondent Wayne McKnight contributed to this report.