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Countryside boasts 3 wrestling champs

After winning state titles last week, Countryside senior wrestlers Mike Flood, Steve Spicuzza and Matt Turtzo rushed up the steps of the Lakeland Center to embrace one another.

The celebration continued last week at school, though there were not many well-wishers their first day back.

Monday was Senior Skip Day.

"We showed up at school and the parking lot was half-empty," Turtzo said. "We could have gone, but we all felt we had to stay. I mean, it's the first day back after winning."

The wrestlers were treated like stars.

They wore their gold medals and were the featured guests on the school's morning announcement show. The following day, their names were on the school's marquee. And all week, they heard "congratulations" more times than they could remember.

"Everyone greeted us in the halls, especially the teachers," Flood said. "It was nice to hear that, and it was such a relief to win."

Besides resting, the wrestlers also savored something else last week: food.

For Flood, that meant stopping by the Countryside Mall food court and ordering a slice of pizza, something finally allowed after months of sweating through practices, cutting weight and beating his opponents.

"I almost forgot what it was like to have pizza or any other kind of junk food," Flood said.

Spicuzza and Turtzo stuffed themselves at a Chinese buffet.

"I don't even want to step on a scale right now," Spicuzza said. "It's been great to enjoy food and other things after putting in so much work."

Wrestling was an everyday occupation the past five months. If the Countryside wrestlers were not practicing, they were participating in dual meets or tournaments.

"We'd even get together to run on Sundays," Spicuzza said. "We're all real close, and we take the time to make each other better."

The hard work paid off when Flood (125 pounds) won his first state title, and Spicuzza (135) and Turtzo (140) each won their second.

The Cougars' three state champions tied a school record, and the school had five other wrestlers who placed. Vince Scholl (112), A. Jay Hixon (119) and Dominic DeNunzio (130) were state runners-up, Wes Walker (145) was fourth, and Garry Dodds (160) was fifth.

Those eight helped Countryside score 158{ points, surpassing the total from the school's state title teams in 1987 and '90.

But it wasn't enough to win the Class 2A team title. The Cougars finished behind Brandon, which won its 14th title, a state record.

"This is the greatest group of kids that I've ever worked with," Countryside coach Dave Frayer said. "These guys put in the work, and they deserve a break."

With FCAT testing last week, the wrestlers got their day in the sun. They were out of school Wednesday and went to Clearwater Beach.

"I'm not even stepping back on the mat until I get over this sunburn," Spicuzza said.

He'll have to heal quickly. Club wrestling starts in two weeks.

"You have to enjoy yourself while you can because you don't have too much time off in this sport," Flood said.