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Hernando High

Gaudin's gold thrice as nice

Hernando Today correspondent

Published:   |   Updated: December 10, 2013 at 06:09 PM

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BROOKSVILLE - The North Suncoast's oldest wrestling tournament turned 32 this weekend.

The original brainchild of then Hernando High head coach Ken Pritz and assistant coach Bill Combs Sr. was the 1982 Brooksville-Kiwanis Invitational.

That first event fielded eight teams at the school's old gymnasium in a one-day format.

The current 24-time state champion Brandon - winners of a ridiculous 13 state titles in a row going into this season - captured the inaugural event behind six individual champions and 206.5 points.

Springstead finished a distant runner-up with four champions and 150.5 points, followed by Tampa-Jesuit (140.0), Lakeland-Santa Fe Catholic (94.5), Land O' Lakes (80.5), Zephyrhills (38.0) and Pasco (no team points).

That visit by Russ Cozart's Eagles marked the first and last time Brandon participated in what has blossomed into a two-day, 17-hour event at the Michael A. Imhoff Gymnasium.

When the curtains came down Saturday night, the Kiwanis Invitational had served a Hernando County record 30 teams. The previous mark was 27 teams during the 2008 Kiwanis.

On the mats, the county's oldest mat program - dating back 42 seasons to 1972-73 - tore a page out of the record books.

For the first time in the tourney's three-decade-plus history, a Leopard grappler captured his third gold medal.

Senior Jesse Gaudin, a talented student/athlete with above a 3.8 grade point average and a stout performer on the Leopard football and wrestling teams, climbed another rung of the HHS record-book ladder.

In fact, Gaudin is in select company. He is one of only eight Leopards in 41 seasons to repeat as a Kiwanis champion.

That Elite Eight reads like a "Who's Who" of Leopard grapplers featuring Chuck Deason, Richard Gant, Courtney Elms, Robbie Pritz, Windham Rotunda, David Pritz, and Jesse Graham.

All but Deason captured 100-plus victories at HHS.

The difference: the top-seeded Gaudin went 4-0 this weekend to earn his third Kiwanis medallion.

Gaudin carved out his career-best 10th IBT (individually bracketed tournament) title behind four tactical decisions.

The four-year starter and three-time All-County selection solved Sunlake's Oasin Speicher (7-2), Crystal River senior and 2013 1A state qualifier Carlos Sanabria (9-3), Springstead senior and 2013 2A state qualifier Corey Humphrey (5-3), and Lakeland-Lake Gibson senior and 2013 state qualifier David Rudd (2-1).

Last winter, Gaudin defeated Rudd in the Kiwanis finals, 9-6.

Since Gaudin fell in last year's second-round match at The Lakeland Center to Tampa-Jesuit's Austin Underwood (4-3), he's reeled off 13 straight wins - including a perfect 9-0 start this winter.

At 6-foot-3 with tremendous balance and excellent footwork, the freckled-covered Gaudin appears to be aptly suited to either play collegiate football on offense (guard) or defense (tackle), or wrestle - or do both.

"Some guys you have to worry about when they practice - but I have no problems whatsoever with Jesse," described David Pritz, the team's second-year skipper. "Some people may say Jesse didn't wrestle well this past weekend. Well, look again.

"He didn't give up a takedown in two days," pointed out Pritz. "His semifinal win over Springstead's (Corey) Humphrey was 5-3. But the score wasn't indicative on how well Jesse dominated the match. Give Humphrey credit, at least he tried to shoot and try to win a match.

"In the finals, the Lake Gibson kid (Rudd) never shot once. It's extremely frustrating when other guys don't want to mix it up."

Pritz was asked to describe Gaudin, who'll enter next weekend's Belleview Duals a winner of 106-of-122 career matches (87 percent) with 58 pins.

"When you talk about who's the best 220-pounder in the state in 1A - well, that's Jesse," Pritz said.

"On the mats, we don't have enough guys or enough big guys who can push Jesse in practice," declared Pritz. "I probably spend the most time with him. Trust me, he's a load. You don't have to worry about him; he's self-motivated and his engine is always on."

Attempting to peel the layers of Gaudin's success, "I think the big thing for Jesse is he feels absolutely no pressure when he's out there," pointed out Pritz. "He'll wrestle a state champ the same way he'd wrestle a first-year kid. The guy has no fear, so he feels no pressure - that's why, in my book, he's so successful."

As the Leopards unequivocal leader, "He's the hardest worker in the room and often stays after practice," added Pritz. "When you walk around school, the guy everyone associates with our program is Jesse. He's a great ambassador of our sport. It just shows you how well-respected he is on campus."

After capturing his third Kiwanis medallion, "This was by far my hardest Kiwanis tournament," detailed the 17-year-old Gaudin. "The difference was I continued to push the pace. It's really frustrating when most of the guys I'm wrestling are not aggressive.

"I have to dedicate this win to God, with him all things are possible," shared Gaudin. "Winning as a senior at Kiwanis this year is big, but this isn't February and we're not in Lakeland (at the 50th FHSAA Finals). That's when it matters the most. Nobody remembers who wins Kiwanis, but everyone remembers who wins states - that's my goal."

By the numbers: Hernando's Jesse Gaudin (2010-14)

- Compiled by TONY CASTRO


2010-11* 21 10 .677 12

2011-12* 33 04 .892 18

2012-13*+ 43 02 .956 26

2013-14 09 00 1.000 02

TOTALS 106 16 .869 58

* Denotes All-County selection

+ Denotes state placer (3rd)

By the numbers: Jesse Gaudin's IBT Results

- Compiled by TONY CASTRO


2010-11 29th Kiwanis 3 2 .600 1 -

2010-11 21st SPG Inv. 3 2 .600 0 -

2010-11 1A-8 1 2 .333 1 -

2011-12 30th Kiwanis 3 0 1.000 0 1st

2011-12 22nd SPG Inv. 4 1 .800 0 3rd

2011-12 Ippolito 5 0 1.000 3 1st

2011-12 2A-7 2 0 1.000 0 1st

2011-12 2A-II 2 2 .500 1 -

2012-13 31st Kiwanis 4 0 1.000 2 1st

2012-13 23rd SPG Inv. 4 0 1.000 3 1st

2012-13 2A-7 2 0 1.000 1 1st

2012-13 2A-II 4 0 1.000 3 1st

2012-13 2A States 5 1 .833 1 3rd

2012-13 32nd Kiwanis 4 0 1.000 0 1st

TOTALS -14- 46 10 .821 16 -10-

By the numbers: Hernando High's Multiple Kiwanis Champions (1982-2013)

- Compiled by TONY CASTRO


2 1991-92 Chuck Deason 119/125

2 1995/97 Richard Gant 119/135

2 1996-97 Courtney Elms 130 x 2

2 1998-99 Robbie Pritz 140 x 2

2 2003-04 Windham Rotunda 275 x 2

2 2004-05 David Pritz 171/189

2 2006-07 Jesse Graham 145 x 2

3# 2011-13 Jesse Gaudin 220 x 3

# Denotes school record -8-

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