SPRING HILL - On Saturday behind a cluster of unlikely heroes, Springstead's mat program reached new heights in the watered-down Class 2A, District 5 Wrestling Tournament.
The North Suncoast's finest wrestling program reeled off an impressive 16-3 run to open the six-hour, six-team event in the Eagles' gym.
When the dust settled, second-year SHS skipper Sal Basile's troops hoisted a Hernando County-record tying 10th straight district championship behind 25 individual wins in 31 bouts (season-high 81 percent), featuring 22 pins.
Hall of Famer's Bob Levija's 1992-93 through 2001-02 Springstead teams had also garnered 10 straight district titles.
In all, Spring Hill's 13-member mat squad advanced 12 placers to regionals, featuring eight of 11 finalists, to finish with 241.0 points compared to runner-up Citrus' 163.5.
CHS and third-place Belleview also advanced 12 grapplers to this Friday and Saturday's rugged 2A-Region II Meet, aka the "Region of Doom," at Brandon High.
Basile, a two-time SHS district champion in 1992-93 under Levija, understands the magnitude of the Eagles' milestone efforts.
"This wasn't just another win, this one was special," declared Coach Basile, following his team's 14th team title in two seasons. "Every win is special, but there are lots of teams out there gunning for this.
"This has been a tough week for me. I'm never going to be the guy to overlook anybody or any detail," he said. "Winning this weekend consumed me. I was rewarded with how well we wrestled. No way did I think with so few points available that we'd beat Citrus by nearly 80 points.
Basile believed the Eagles' quick start set the tone.
"We haven't one of these rolls since regionals a couple of years ago at St. Cloud," noted Basile. "Had Bill (Swift) not lost in overtime (an epic 10-8 setback in overtime to Citrus senior Casey Bearden) and had (Robert) Holdway reached the finals - I would have called it a perfect day. And those don't happen very often."
Basile admitted that his young grapplers "have drastically improved since Day 1. And the team really came together. We had a lot of unlikely heroes come through."
? ? ?
Of the meet-high 11 finalists, SHS claimed eight champions pushing its collective 33-year Hernando County record to 179 district champions, featuring four seniors: Jordan Rivera at 145 pounds, Corey Humphrey at 195, Shane Wiggins at 220 and Travis O'Neil at 285 along with juniors: Matt Landgraff at 106, Michael McDonald at 120, Quentin D'Alessandro at 126 and Andrew Smith at 132.
Settling for second place was freshman Travis Williams at 138, senior Vincent Buonanno at 160 and the junior Swift at 170.
Rounding out the regional qualifiers, the junior Holdway at 152, who finished 3-1 with three pins, settled for third place.
There were two 11th-hour roster changes prior to districts.
Promising freshman Richie Rivera at 113 pounds (19-13 with 11 pins) was held out of the state series because he was behind in his school work. Rivera would have been seeded either first or second in 2A-5.
Probably the most important change was the activation of the senior Wiggins. According to Coach Basile, Wiggins had voluntarily turned in his gear after a 1-4 performance at the 6-Way Combs Duals.
After a meeting this week with Coach Basile, Wiggins was reinserted into the starting lineup.
As an unseeded grappler, Wiggins wrecked the 220-pound bracket. After an opening-round bye, he pinned Lecanto senior and top-seeded Cody Simmons in 2:48 before solving second-seeded Belleview sophomore Earl Watson in the finals, 6-5.
Beaming from ear-to-ear Wiggins remarked, "What a great senior year," declared the 18-year-old, who was recently tabbed to the All-County football team as a defensive tackle. "Look I didn't expect this. Coach gave me a chance to help the team; I'm so happy that he did.
"Today, there was no pressure on me," he added. "What a year? I played on the county's best-ever football team that wins districts again and now this - becoming a wrestling district champion. It's just a great feeling to help contribute to two district championship teams."
It turns out Wiggins was one of four first-time Eagle district champions.
Like Wiggins, D'Alessandro captured his first-ever IBT (individually bracketed tournament) championship on his eighth try.
The top-seeded D'Alessandro (25-13) went 3-0. He folded three opponents in a total of 96 seconds: Ocala-Vanguard freshman Gabriel Pletz (0:21), Citrus junior Victor Segarra (0:32) and second-seeded Ocala-Lake Weir junior Michael Roberts (0:43).
To demonstrate how much O'Neil has improved, last year he placed in one of the six IBTs he competed in.
Since football ended this season, O'Neil has placed in 6-of-6 IBTs.
On his 12th try, the top-seeded O'Neil (18-8) captured his first-ever IBT Saturday by pinning Lecanto senior Charlie Vale (0:42) and second-seeded Citrus junior Johnathan Loggins (2:36).
Talking about consistency, Humphrey (34-6) continued his best-ever season.
The 2013 state qualifier earned his eighth straight tournament placing this season by turning in his third top-of-the-podium performance, folding Belleview's Billy Terry (2:16) and second-seeded Citrus senior Bradley Wiesenauer (3:18).
? ? ?
For his efforts, Jordan Rivera joined elite company.
The three-time state placer and defending state champion became just the sixth Hernando County grappler in 42 seasons to collect his fourth first-place blue ribbon.
The top-seeded Rivera (31-3 this season, 156-22 lifetime) went 2-0 with two pins joining Hernando High's Courtney Elms and four other Eagles (Corey Hill, Jimmy Stevenson, C.J. Cook and Cody Ross) as four-time individual district champions.
Rivera notched his 80th and 81st career pin falls, over Lecanto senior Bryce Hickey (0:57) and Citrus senior Tarique Cabanas (3:27).
Like fellow seniors Wiggins, O'Neil, and Humphrey, Rivera savored his last-ever match in the Eagles' gym.
"Winning tastes real good right now," noted the 18-year-old Rivera, who extended his current win skein to 15 in a row. "There's a lot of emotion right now. This has been home for so long. I've had a lot of great memories here. I've wrestled here since I was 4 years old."
On the victory, Rivera's 19th prep IBT title, "It's pretty cool," he said. "I've accomplished another one of my goals. Really this is just another steppingstone to winning states. Winning here was a necessity."
Before heading into Brandon, Rivera stayed the course of another streak.
Since not placing at the Cougar Invitational in Hillsborough County as a freshman, Rivera has placed in all 33 tournaments he's participated in.
"Preparing for regionals begins tomorrow," he said. "I've got to stay on my diet and I can't be satisfied with what I've done so far. For me, I have to continue to up my level."
Like Humphrey, Landgraff (36-2) placed for the eighth time this season.
For the sixth time, the two-time state placer captured his sixth meet behind a 2-0 run, featuring two pins in 61 seconds.
The top-seeded Landgraff disposed of Lake Weir frosh Dakota Walters (0:44) before flattening second seed and Belleview senior Chris Frazier (0:17).
With the win, Landgraff (118-23 lifetime) became one of 15 Eagles to win three individual district titles.
"Winning a third district title is pretty cool," acknowledged the 16-year-old Landgraff. "Now I'm tied with my brother (Shawn Landgraff). I definitely wanted this; I've kept focused on the state series.
On trekking to Brandon next weekend, "Like I've said all along, losing isn't an option," he said. "I definitely want to win there. I definitely know what to do to get the job done - I have to have the same mindset I've had all season."
Similar to Humphrey, McDonald has placed in all eight IBTs the Eagles have compete in - only difference is the two-time state qualifier and 2013 state placer has won all eight IBTs.
The top-seeded McDonald went 2-0 by folding Lecanto sophomore Austin Hartman (0:54) and Belleview freshman Kyle Irwin (3:04).
The win permitted McDonald (37-0 this season) to become the 15th member of the Eagles' select three-time district champion fraternity.
"Winning districts for the third time is cool," noted the 17-year-old McDonald, who climbed to 121-16 lifetime behind his 83rd and 84th lifetime pins. "Plus, I like winning in our house. We had the best two weeks of practice leading up to this."
On pressing ahead, "Preparation for next week has already started," said the Eagle captain. "Today, the whole team looked really good - that's a good sign going into Brandon. I know I can't be happy until I'm at the top of the podium at Lakeland."
Smith joined Coach Basile as one of 27 Eagle grapplers to garner two district titles.
The top-seeded Smith (37-6) stuck three opponents in three bouts including Lecanto senior Jacob Kortendick (0:27), Lake Weir sophomore Leighton Stewart (1:40) and second-seeded Belleview sophomore Jared Burgess in the finals (3:59).
Smith, a 2013 state qualifier, enters Brandon red-hot, winning 17-of-18 matches.
Final 2A-5 Wrestling Tournament Team Standings:
PL SCHOOL PTS.
1. Springstead (SPG) 241.0
2. Citrus (CIT) 163.5
3. Belleview (BELL) 139.0
4. Lecanto (LEC) 78.0
5. Ocala-Lake Weir (LWR) 69.0
6. Ocala-Vanguard (OV) 61.0
Final 2014 Class 2A, Region II Qualifiers (55) NO.
1. Springstead (SPG) 12
1. Citrus (CIT) 12
1. Belleview (BELL) 12
4. Lecanto (LEC) 9
5. Ocala-Lake Weir (LWR) 5
5. Ocala-Vanguard (OV) 5
106 - Matt Landgraff (SPG) pin Chris Frazier (BELL), 0:17.
113 - Samuel Agudelo (LWR) pin James Wright (CIT), 0:43.
120 - Michael McDonald (SPG) pin Kyle Irwin (BELL), 3:04.
126 - Quentin D'Alessandro (SPG) pin Michael Roberts (LWR), 0:43.
132 - Andrew Smith (SPG) pin Jared Burgess (BELL), 3:59
138 - Corey Tisdal (LWR) pin Travis Williams (SPG), 3:34.
145 - Jordan Rivera (SPG) pin Tarique Cabanas (CIT), 3:27.
152 - William Jacobs (OV) major dec. Justin Allan (CIT), 15-6,
160 - Brandon Taylor (CIT) major dec. Vincent Buonanno (SPG), 9-1.
170 - Casey Bearden (CIT) dec. Billy Swift (SPG), 10-8 (OT).
182 - Chris Ewing (LEC) pin Austin Renaud (CIT), 1:03
195 - Corey Humphrey (SPG) pin Bradley Wiesenauer (CIT), 3:18.
220 - Shane Wiggins (SPG) dec. Earl Watson (BELL), 6-5.
285 - Travis O'Neil (SPG) pin Johnathan Loggins (CIT), 2:36.
106 - Christopher Keene (CIT) dec. Dakota Walters (LWR), 4-1.
113 - Josh Horiski (BELL) (no match).
120 - Jordan Turner (OV) pin Austin Hartman (LEC), 2:23.
126 - Gavin Boles (BELL) dec. Victor Segarra (CIT), 5-1.
132 - Charles Williams (OV) pin Leighton Stewart (LWR), 2:04.
138 - Willie Wallen (CIT) pin Timothy Cyr (LEC), 2:51.
145 - Bryce Hickey (LEC) dec. Jakob Crew (BELL), 12-5.
152 - Robert Holdway (SPG) pin Nicolai Kortendick (LEC), 4:56.
160 - Ty Helsel (BELL) won by injury default over Matt Wheat (LEC).
170 - Malachi Ortiz (BELL) pin Michael Slusser (LEC), 3:26.
182 - Ryan Frost (BELL) dec. Cameron Life (OV), 4-3.
195 - Bill Terry (BELL) vs. Devin Decker (OV), 3:43.
220 - Cody Simmons (LEC) dec. Stephen Mackey (CIT), 10-6.
285 - Andrue Bickler (BELL) pin Charley Vale (LEC), 2:06.
2014 Springstead Individual Results:
WGT NAME W L PINS PL
106 Landgraff, Matt 2 0 2 1st
120 McDonald, Michael 2 0 2 1st
126 D'Alessandro, Quentin 3 0 3 1st
132 Smith, Andrew 3 0 3 1st
138 Williams, Travis 2 1 0 2nd
145 Rivera, Jordan 2 0 2 1st
152 Holdway, Robert 3 1 3 3rd
160 Buonanno, Vincent 1 1 1 2nd
170 Swift, Billy 1 1 1 2nd
182 Lindsey, Matt 0 2 0 -
195 Humphrey, Corey 2 0 2 1st
220 Wiggins, Shane 2 0 1 1st
285 O'Neil, Travis 2 0 2 1st
TOTALS (13) 25 3 22 -12-