Turns out that 25-time state champion Brandon isn't the only Hillsborough County wrestling team with a penchant for success. The Class 2A team right behind the Eagles knows a thing or two about winning.
Jesuit, which is coming off three straight district titles, finished as a state and regional runnerup to Brandon last season. With a lineup bolstered by three returning state qualifiers, the Tigers, state runnersup for the first time since 1996, are in prime position for another strong postseason run.
"We've had a pretty sustained run," Jesuit coach Mike Scicchitano said. "Brandon's the measuring stick. We're just trying to work as hard as we can to accomplish our goals."
With the Eagles losing two state champions to graduation along with state champion Dontae McGee and state semifinalist Robert Enmon transferring to Admiral Farragut, the Tigers could pose a serious threat to Brandon's string of 13 straight state crowns.
Despite the graduation of its lone state champion, heavyweight Austin Underwood, Jesuit is not lacking for depth or talent. The Tigers have three state runnersup — junior Adam Lewis, along with sophomores Jarrett Roop and Nick Mosco — as well as senior R.C. Consuegra, a senior who took third at state. Junior Brian Buser, another state qualifier last season, and senior Connor Mueller, a regional qualifier, are the other candidates to make state.
Having that kind of talent and experience, the coach noted, is beneficial for the rest of the team.
"It just helps that they've been there before," Scicchitano said. "Having that experience to draw back on is a huge benefit for the team and their training. They know what it takes to achieve their goals and what it's like to wrestle in the big tournaments."
There's also the coach's experience to draw from. Scicchitano, a 2001 Jesuit graduate in his ninth season as the team's head coach, was a two-time district champion and two-time state qualifier.
"I'm there to serve my wrestlers," he said. "As a state qualifier at Jesuit I had to go through what they do."
Lewis, who wrestled at 138 last season, is actually a two-time state runnerup. He lost 2-1 to Brandon's Devan Berrian in the state final, making him a solid contender for a state title.
"He's already one of the most accomplished wrestlers that we've had in our program," Scicchitano said.
The coach said Mosco, another two-time state runnerup who wrestled at 195, has a solid combination of strength and athleticism.
Roop, a state runnerup at 106, has a strong upside.
"He still has a lot of room to improve," Scicchitano said. "He's not anywhere close to his potential."
Joining Brandon and Jesuit among the top three teams at state last year was Tampa Prep, which took third in Class A and is expected to be strong again. The Terrapins are led by state champions Anthony Artalona, state runnerup Donoven Hough and state qualifier Aaron Mills.
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Contact Steve Lee at firstname.lastname@example.org.