Five Hillsborough County individuals and the Brandon team won state championships this season in wrestling, butonly two individuals finished undefeated.
Erik Leto, David Solomon, Mike Pucillo, Juan Edwards and Ben Valladares all won titles, but Leto (33-0) and Solomon (35-0) are the Times
Hillsborough County Wrestlers of the Year because of their perfect records. Russ Cozart, who led Brandon to a national record for consecutive victories in any sport and to the state title, is the Coach of the Year.
Edwards, Pucillo and Valladares are all on the Brandon team.
In addition to winning district, regional and state titles, Solomon, a 171-pounder from Tampa Prep, also won the Episcopal Christmas Tournament in Jacksonville and the Ippolito Invitational at Brandon.
Leto, a 135-pounder from Tampa Catholic, added titles from the Durant, Northside Christian and Jesuit invitationals to his district, regional and state championships.
Solomon will wrestle at Brown University, and Leto will attend the University of South Florida without wrestling.
"I really don't want to leave Florida to attend college up north, where most of the better wrestling schools are," Leto said. "I like it here, but who knows, I may miss it after I get all my basics completed and transfer to a college where I can wrestle."
Leto's best scoring moves are the single and double-leg takedowns. From the opening whistle of each match, he attacks for a takedown.
In his 33 matches, he was scored on just six times. He was taken down three times and reversed three times.
"I started wrestling in the ninth grade, but didn't think I had a chance for a state championship until I was a sophomore," he said. "I went 18-5 that year at 112, but the thing that really got me serious was a disappointing 24-8 junior season at 119. I started working out five and six days each week then; running, wrestling, doing freestyle tournaments and lifting weights. I got bigger, but I also got better."
Edwards, a three-time national champion and still only a sophomore, won his belt at 112 pounds.
Valladares, just a junior, won his title at 119.
He trains against Edwards daily, and like Edwards, will return to the Eagles next season.
Pucillo captured his title at 275 pounds and has finished his wrestling career. Football is his primary sport and he has signed a scholarship to play at Auburn University as an offensive lineman.
Brandon won the Class 6A state team championship, by simply outclassing the field. It was the 10th state team championship for Brandon, nine under Cozart.
The Eagles not only had three individual state champions, but seven placed in the final four.
The 10th annual All-Hillsborough County team is selected by the Times in consultation with area coaches:
WRESTLERS OF THE YEAR: Erik Leto, Tampa Catholic, and David Solomon, Tampa Prep.
COACH OF THE YEAR: Russ Cozart, Brandon.
Wt.: Wrestler School Gr. Comment
103: Zac Lambrecht Brandon So. 4th in state.
112: Juan Edwards Brandon So. State champion.
119: Ben Valladares Brandon Jr. State champion.
125: Josh Geary Gaither Sr. State qualifier.
130: Josh Latham Bloomingdale Sr. 2nd in state.
135: Erik Leto Tampa Catholic Sr. State champion.
140: Jake Lenegar East Bay Jr. State contender
145: Matt Walker Jesuit Sr. 3rd in state.
152: Josh Lambrecht Brandon Jr. 3rd in state.
160: Chris McLaughlin Jesuit Sr. 2nd in state.
171: David Solomon Tampa Prep Sr. State champion.
J. Ware Brandon Jr. 3rd in state.
215: Wayne Giese Brandon Sr. 2nd in state.
275: Mike Pucillo Brandon Sr. State champion.
Armwood: Robert Pena; Brandon: Joel Tanaka, Will Hillingsworth, Kervin Dinard; Bloomingdale: Jimmy Duvall, Jeff Lorch, Chad Saibi; Berkeley Prep: Josh Thompson, Brandon Molina; Chamberlain: Josh McIntosh, D.J. Patricio, Mark VanTreese; Durant: Josh Wiles; East Bay: Josh Hughes, Josh Lenegar, Kevin Daniels, Rusty Wolfe, Mike Gadson; Gaither: Mack Houston, Dan Bernstein, Matt Kehm; Hillsborough: Thanh Pham, John Muley, Carey Price; Jesuit: John Solomon, Todd Rametta, Patrick Kuznia; Leto: Vaughn Rice; Plant: Jarret Gafford; Plant City: Jason Carlisle, Caron Fagan.