WEEKI WACHEE – Outside of the last match, it was a pleasant weekend for Hernando at the Weeki Wachee Duals.
The Leopards opened the season by placing second in the two-day tournament, going 7-1 with the only loss at the very end against unbeaten Dover-Strawberry Crest.
“We’re excited. We have a really good dual team. It was fun to see it in action. They did really good across the board,” Hernando head coach David Pritz said. “That last team was just better than us, but we wrestled tough.
“Usually we don’t look this good this early in the season. It’s a good start but it’s a long season, so we’ve got a long way to go.”
Josh Hulse led the way for the Leopards, going 8-0 at 120 pounds. Codey Maniates at 152, Demarcus Munford at 160 and Harry Williams at 182 all went 7-1.
Hernando was 5-0 during pool play over Friday and Saturday, thumping Tampa-Carrollwood Day, 77-5, and The Villages, 75-3. The Leopards beat Belleview, 55-24, Gainesville-Buchholz, 53-21, and Citrus, 39-33.
In Saturday’s championship pool, Hernando topped Venice, 51-19, and Weeki Wachee, 54-20, before losing to Strawberry Crest, 49-21.
“Our goals in the (wrestling) room are we want to be district champs, we want to send 14 to regionals and we want to send six or more to states. That’s our goals all year,” Pritz said. “We just do the same thing we’ve been doing. Just go back to work in the room and work on the things we messed up on, and we’ll get better every day.”
The host Hornets were third, going 5-3 overall. They started off 4-1 during pool play, then lost to Strawberry Crest, 54-12, and Hernando before ending with a 44-34 victory over Venice.
“Really happy with what I saw. It’s the first tournament of the season, so you’re kind of getting a feel for what you have in what weight classes, who’s going to do what,” said first-year Weeki Wachee head coach Dan Gigantelli said.
“Nick Marsh went undefeated, 8-0. I knew he was a good wrestler, but he’s pretty good. He’s very, very consistent. Not super flashy or anything like that, but just grinds, grinds, grinds. Really just takes it to kids. Doesn’t make mistakes. Really he had a great tournament, and it was pretty nice to watch.”
Aside from Marsh at 126, Josh Coley went 7-1 at 152 and 160, and Hunter Gibson was 6-2 at 145.
“We got to see a lot of what we need to work on and saw where some of our strengths are. So everything you’d want to see in the first week,” Gigantelli said. “We’re going to really take some time this weekend, watch all the film and really work with each kid and see what they need to do to get better.
“I still believe it’s going to be between us and Hernando for districts. We lost to them, but we won at the weight classes I thought we should win at, and I got to see some things that we can clean up so that we’re a lot more prepared for the next time we see them.”
Nature Coast went 4-4 overall, with Jordan Gibson putting together an 8-0 run at 160 in the Sharks’ first tournament under new headman Mike LaRocca.
“I saw a lot of promise. This season’s mantra is not where we start but it’s where we’re going to finish at,” LaRocca said. “From what I saw with the 11 people that I brought today, I’m very happy. It’s very adjustable, fixable things. What I liked was, even in a short time we were in good shape. Nobody ever really gave up. We brawled pretty hard. That’s the one thing you always want from a young squad.”
Central rebounded to go 2-1 in its championship pool after an 0-5 start to the tournament, defeating Carrollwood Day, 48-12, and Boca Ciega, 36-27.
Follow Chris Bernhardt Jr. on Twitter @cpbernhardtjr.