Brandon wrestling back on top in Ippolito

Now it’s all about building momentum as the postseason approaches.
Published February 9

BRANDON — After a two-year hiatus, Brandon won back the prized championship trophy Saturday in the 35th annual Ippolito Memorial tournament. That ended a two-year run by Lake Highland Prep, which did not take part in Saturday’s tourney.

Brandon had won 23 straight and now has 31 overall titles in the prestigious series named after the late Tony Ippolito, the first-ever state champion from Brandon as well as Hillsborough County. Brandon won Saturday with 284 points. Fort Lauderdale Cardinal Gibbons was the runnerup at 236 and Naples Barron Collier totaled 194 for third.

“It was really good,” Brandon coach Russ Cozart said of the tourney, praising perennial state powerhouses Cardinal Gibbons and Barron Collier. “I think a lot of coaches were really happy to be here.”

Brandon sent six wrestlers to the finals and came away with four individual titles including Trey Lane, who at 126 pounds pinned St. Stephens’ Jake Manning in three minutes, nine seconds and claimed one of two outstanding wrestler awards. Brandon’s other winners were Hunter Lefevere, who at 138 improved to 50-1 with a 3-1 decision over Coral Springs Charter’s Alek Chitty; and Jose Berdecia, who at 106 defeated Chamberlain’s Jordan King 8-4.

“It’s another whole year,” said Lefevre, a two-time state qualifier at Brandon after a two-year stint at Lennard who has his sights set on a state title this season.

Brandon’s other finalists were Onid Olavarria at 160, 170-pounder Broc Sperling and Ryan Voor at 195.

“We don’t have a great team, but we have a solid team,” Cozart said. “We’ve got a couple of weeks to go here (to return to states). We want to keep the momentum and be enthusiastic.”

There were three other champions from Hillsborough County, including two from Newsome. At 182, Kohl Drake pinned Damiani Castro of Cardinal Gibbons in 1:45 and George Jackson pinned Brandon’s Voor in 3:47 of the 195 final. Wharton’s Christian Thompson also won with a pin of Brandon’s Spurling at 170.

The other outstanding wrestler award went to Tylynn Lukens, who at 160 earned a 3-1 decision against Brandon’s Olavarria.

Robinson’s Devin Jandura (220), Chamberlain’s Earnest Johnson (285) and Gulf’s Solen Sheppard (145) also made the finals.