Last year as a junior, Sickles middleweight Alex Penabade watched from the bleachers as his teammates competed in the state tournament.
Gryphons coach Terry Brockland thought he could have been part of the tournament team. Penabade agreed, but the path was unacceptable.
He would have had to challenge and defeat his brother Daniel to earn a spot on the best team in Sickles history.
"Daniel was a senior, an excellent wrestler, and to even think of taking that chance away from him was not an option," Penabade said. "In his junior year he became the first Sickles wrestler to score a pin in the state tournament. That is all history now. That was his year, and this one is mine. I just want to have a good season, go uninjured and place in the top six at state."
With only a month remaining before districts and the first leg of the state run, Penabade is 23-1, including 19 pins. He won the Cougar Invitational and the Kiwanis Christmas tournaments and suffered his only loss as runner-up in the Gainesville Duals.
He is probably one of the top three 135-pounders in Hillsborough County and could very well qualify for and place in the state tournament in the top six.
"Alex is a technician, with a lot of energy," Brockland said. He doesn't stop moving and attacking his opponents. In practice he is like another coach. He helps the younger kids with their moves and encourages them to keep working and work hard. I believe he will do well all the way to state."
Penabade says his favorite pinning combination begins with the half nelson, but he adds he will take advantage of anything offered by his opponents.
He says he needs to work on wrestling from his feet in the neutral position, especially on his takedowns. Even his coach says he works best on the mat and even better from the down position.
Before the mid February districts, he has some big matches, including a dual with Brandon and the Hillsborough County duals. Sickles is a Class 2A team and faces Clearwater Countryside in districts.
"I don't actually have an endurance problem, but I still need to work on that before districts," he said. "Many of the regional and most of the state matches go full throttle all three periods, and sometimes the guy with the most endurance wins in the closing seconds."
EAGLES WIN IN TITUSVILLE: With five additional wins in the Titusville Duals, Brandon extended its win streak to 386.
The Eagles defeated Suffern of New York 71-0, Titusville Astronaut 70-6, Sabastian River 73-3, Lake Weir 82-0 and Winter Springs 78-0.
Rocky Cozart won his four matches with pins and was given a forfeit in the fifth. Eddie Hutchinson and Jarrod Thompson both recorded four pins and a decision.
Going undefeated were Sean Joyce, Franklin Gomez, Cesar Grajales, Stephen Figeroa, Brandon Ray, Ryan Joyce, Tommy Hutchinson, David Craig, Rashard Goff and Keith Simmons.
COUNTY CHAMPIONSHIP: Alonso, Brandon, Middleton and Durant have been selected by Hillsborough County officials to host the county duals scheduled Feb. 6.
Chamberlain, Gaither, Leto and Sickles will compete at Alonso.
Armwood, Freedom, Tampa Bay Tech, King and Wharton are scheduled to compete at Brandon.
Blake, Hillsborough, Jefferson, Newsome, Plant and Robinson will be at Middleton.
Bloomingdale, Riverview, East Bay and Plant City will be at Durant.
The top three wrestlers in each weight class from each location will compete Feb. 7 at Brandon for the Hillsborough County championships.
_ TERRY JONES