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The Countryside star ends the county's four-year drought without a state champ.
Published Feb. 22, 2008

On a day when revenge was sweet for Pinellas County wrestlers, none was sweeter than watching Countryside's Kyle Grueninger getting his arm raised as a state champion.

Coach Mark Prince jumped in the air four times and a small crowd of Cougar fans cheered wildly as a four-year drought without a county state champion came to an end.

"This is the best feeling in the world," said Grueninger, who went 4-0 to finish the year 50-2. "All the hard work paid off. I've been waiting for this moment since last year, this date."

When the 112-pound junior reached the finals, a familiar foe was waiting. Eric Chandler of Braddock not only defeated Grueninger in the state finals last year, but also entered Saturday night's title match with a perfect 22-0 record.

"There's nothing like a loss to be a motivator," Prince said. "Nothing is as sour as a loss, and (Kyle) chewed on that because he laid an egg last year."

Grueninger led 2-0 on a pair of stalling penalties, the second of which triggered a roaring boo from the crowd. In the third period, Grueninger put Chandler away with an early takedown en route to a 4-0 decision.

Grueninger wasn't the only one to get revenge on the final day of the tournament.

At 160 pounds, Dunedin's Antonio Talley (31-3) faced Zaq Berridge of Brandon in a match to decide third and fourth place. Despite losing to Berridge at regionals last week, Talley decisioned Berridge 5-3 and ended the tournament with a 5-1 record.

At 171 pounds, Dunedin's Danny Miller (37-13) faced Roland Pitts of First Coast in a match to decide fifth and sixth place. On Friday, Miller lost 9-7 to Pitts in the winner's bracket quarterfinals, but turned it around in the medal round with a 7-4 decision.

Even East Lake senior Alex Dinielli got a little revenge on the final day. He suffered his only loss of the season Friday to fall into wrestlebacks, but posted two wins Saturday to take third at heavyweight.

Appropriately, Dinielli's final win was a pin. He was 48-1 with 44 falls in his only varsity season.

"That's all I wished for was to pin this last kid and come out with a win," Dinielli said.

In the only other medal matches, Northeast's Josh Delmontagne settled for fourth, but at one point had four straight wins. Countryside's Eric Deupree took fifth place when his opponent failed to make weight. Teammate Jordan Frease finished sixth.

In 2A, Brandon won its eighth straight team title with 232.5 points.