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Athletes prove grades are important

Plant basketball player Tyler Azzarelli showed up at the Hillsborough County Grade Point Average Academic Awards with the intention of collecting an award for his team.

So when county athletic director Vernon Kohrn awarded the boys basketball team GPA award to Leto, he looked over at his coach with a confused expression.

"Even when we pulled up to the building and his mom and dad pulled up in front of him, he didn't figure it out," Plant coach Mike Phillips said.

Azzarelli won the Mac McGahagin Basketball Award for leading the Panthers on the court and leading the county in character. The senior point guard has a 4.7 GPA, scored 1,190 on his SAT and is a member of the National Honor Society and other service clubs.

His teammates sat with him, posing as representatives for a team award, and stood and applauded as Azzarelli accepted the award.

"I had no idea," Azzarelli said. "This is a great award, because its not just about basketball. It's more of a well-rounded athlete award."

Wharton center Candice Dupree won the Dottie McGahagin Basketball Award after averaging 21.3 points, 17.3 rebounds, 6 steals and 7 blocks.

She also has a 4.8 GPA, which contributed to her team's GPA award. Wharton's girls basketball team has a collective GPA of 3.75.

Plant City wrestler Cornelius Wiggins was recognized for his achievements during his prep career, but was honored for his strength after his foster mother's death.

When Lorine Coleman died of congestive heart failure Oct. 8, Wiggins struggled to stay positive and focused.

"I wasn't even going to wrestle at first," Wiggins said. "But then I thought I could win another wresting championship, and I know she would have wanted me to go on."

Wiggins has a 126-16 career record with 41 pins and is a four-year starter with two consecutive state titles.

Riverview wrestling coach Wili Sargable was honored for overcoming adversity and building the Sharks into a respectable program. Sargable won a state wrestling title at East Bay in 1989 and became Riverview's head coach in 1999.

Along with the boys basketball team, Leto's boys soccer team also was awarded a team GPA award (3.423). Blake was honored for a 3.663 team GPA in girls soccer.

Hillsborough won the wrestling GPA award (3.285) and Durant won the cheerleading GPA award (3.662).