Even Auburndale coach Cal Kelsey sensed that 1990 might be Springstead's year at the Class 3A, Region II high school wrestling tournament. "I could tell when they came into the gym they were ready to go," Kelsey said of the Eagles, who captured their first region championship Saturday.
Region tournaments have proven disappointing to the Eagles in recent years. In 1988, Springstead finished second, 1.5 points behind Orlando-Bishop Moore. Bishop Moore kept its title in '89, and Springstead again was runner-up.
"We were gunning hard this season. We were this close two years ago," Springstead senior Kevin Levija said, holding his hands a narrow distance apart, "and came second again last year. So this year we went full-tilt."
"We wanted to take it. That's what we were fighting for," teammate John Lane said. "We've practiced hard to win regions."
Springstead, ranked third in the Florida Athletic Coaches Association's 3A poll, turned the tables on Bishop Moore this year. The Eagles finished with 130 points, three individual champions, and six qualifiers for the state tournament this weekend at West Palm Beach.
Bishop Moore (89) was second, and Auburndale, the state's top-ranked 3A team, was third (86.5). Both Bishop Moore and Auburndale advanced five wrestlers to the state tourney.
Reversing Springstead's bridesmaid status to Bishop Moore was even sweeter, Eagles coach Bob Levija said, than proving the state rankings wrong.
"We finally caught the bouquet," he said.
"They deserved to be Number 1, because they beat some quality people, like Sarasota and Clearwater Countryside," Levija said Auburndale. "I guess it just says a lot for 3A."
Lane, Kevin Levija and Jack Dolan won Springstead's individual championships.
Three-time District 7 champion Levija battled through a tough draw in the 130-pound weight class, beating District 8 winner Dwaine Jones of Auburndale 9-5 in a semifinal match and District 5 champ John Williams of Starke Bradford 14-9 in the final to remain undefeated (29-0) and win a second region title.
Lane beat two district champions, Starke Bradford's Brad Hamilton in the semis and Tampa Robinson's Donald Crosser in the finals, en route to winning the 135-pound division.
District runner-up Dolan had to beat three district champions (Ocala Vanguard's Terry Irwin, Tampa Catholic's Steve Venneste, and Don Chambers of Orlando Jones) to take the 145-pound title.
Four other North Suncoast wrestlers won region championships.
Gulf's Travis DeWalt met a familiar foe in the 112-pound title match, beating Ridgewood's Anthony Contegiacomo 11-4 to become his school's first two-time region champ.
"That is was Anthony just added fuel to the fire _ he's a great opponent," DeWalt said of Contegiacomo, who lost three times this season to the Gulf standout. Contegiacomo put the only blemish on DeWalt's 30-1 record by beating him for the championship of the Brooksville Kiwanis Invitational.
Zeke Casarez of Zephyrhills pinned Auburndale's Josh Hackett with 27 seconds left in the championship match of the 125-pound division to raise his record to 29-0.
Tim Green of Hudson also ran his record to 29-0, beating District 6 champion Ed Renton of Orlando Edgewater in the finals to capture the 152 title.
Land O'Lakes heavyweight Don Meredith pinned Tampa Plant's Keith Palaez 88 seconds into their championship match, improving to 29-0-1.
Eleven North Suncoast wrestlers in addition to the area's seven district champs earned to the right to advance the state championship tournament.
Consolation winners John Day (171) and Doug Housel (220) of Springstead, along with fourth-place teammate Willie Hill (112).
Citrus teammates Doug Jensen and Randy Rubino, runners-up in the 140- and 160-pound divisions, and fellow second-place finisher Contegiacomo.
Hudson teammates David Rodrigues (second at 171) and Trey Gordon (fourth at 119).
Three other fourth-place finishers _ Central's Chris Carrington (152), Hernando High heavyweight Desmond Sanders, and 220-pounder David Summey of Zephyrhills.