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Yakich, Barber qualify for Junior Nationals

Citrus High's Ed Yakich and Lecanto's Jason Barber represented themselves well at the high school state wrestling tournament last month, and it appears both are extending their successful campaigns to the off-season. Both qualified for USA Wrestling's Junior National Championships with strong efforts last weekend in Stuart.

Yakich, who finished second at 103 pounds in the Class 5A high school meet, qualified with a second-place finish in the 112-pound Greco-Roman division while Barber, a state qualifier at 189 in Class 4A, took third in the 191{-pound Greco-Roman division.

"He has the skill and ability to do a lot of things," Citrus coach Ed Kilpatrick said of Yakich. "He only had a couple of weeks of practice, but he worked on his Greco and went out and qualified as one of the top two kids in the state."

Both also competed in the freestyle divisions of their respective weight classes, but didn't make the cut there. However, for their efforts in Greco-Roman, each received a berth in the national championship tournament, beginning July 20 in Fargo, N.D.

This is a good thing if you ask their respective coaches, who would like to see more wrestlers compete on a year-round basis. Nick Carrier, who won the 4A state championship at 145 pounds for Lecanto, credits much of his success to his off-season work (over 60 matches last summer) and Barber, who lost two matches to state champion Mike Mallin of Central by a total of two points, has high hopes of mimicking Carrier's feat next year.

"I think this shows what he is capable of doing," Collins said. "If he works hard this summer he has a good chance of going to state and placing."

There are, however, some financial obstacles standing in the way of both wrestlers, who need to raise considerable funds if they are going to fulfill their commitments and wrestle in the national tournament. The first deadline is April 12, when each must come up with a $250 deposit.