OCALA - Despite what his last name might suggest success hasn't arrived instantly on the mats for Springstead junior Billy Swift.
According to Eagles' two-time state placer and second-year mentor Sal Basile, Swift's prep mat career lasted one month as a first-year freshman.
His father pulled Swift from the team when his grades dipped. After the third-quarter report cards, Swift returned to the room.
Since his return, Basile has seen a marked difference from the initially timid 6-foot-1 youngster.
"The kid's got a lot of talent. But most importantly in my book, he's a very coachable young man," described Basile. "And he's a good kid. In our sport, if you have some talent and put in the time, you'll see success."
To that end, Swift took to the mats like a duck to water in his first-ever varsity campaign last winter.
As a sophomore, Swift won his first seven matches. He suffered his initial setback in the rugged 17th Cougar Invitational at Plant City-Durant.
That Hillsborough County event served as his indoctrination to prep IBTs (individually bracketed tournaments). He finished .500 at 2-2, being eliminated in triple overtime by Lakeland's Chad Kirkman, 5-4.
That tourney served a building block toward the future.
Across his next nine tournaments, the 160-pound Swift placed in all nine. Even in the star-studded Knockout Classic at Kissimmee-Osceola, where the top eight placers scored points, Swift placed eighth.
He closed the campaign with a flourish during the state series, placing second in the Class 2A, District 7 Meet at Springstead to Nature Coast Technical senior Brandon Vovan, 7-3.
Vovan was Swift's main nemesis solving him thrice en route to the Sharks' first-ever state championship.
Swift has never shied from adversity.
In regionals, Swift was upset by Dunedin junior Anthony Dampier in the second round, 8-6.
Facing elimination in the "Region of Doom" at St. Cloud, Swift countered with four straight wins to place third and advance to the states.
In the 49th FHSAA Finals at The Lakeland Center, Swift opened on the wrong foot as Lake City-Columbia junior Daniel Devers pinned him in 4:33.
Again faced with elimination, Swift buckled down to mow down his next four opponents.
In the consolation finals for third place, Swift tangled with Niceville senior Taylor Bartleson.
Bartleson had defeated Swift via a controversial injury default nod in the consolation finals for third place at Flagler.
The two had collided moments into the match and caused Swift to deal with a bloody nose.
The rematch at states was epic as Bartleson outlasted Swift in four overtimes, 2-1.
With that loss Swift's first varsity season concluded with 42 wins in 59 matches (71 percent), featuring 11 pins.
As a fourth-place state placer, Swift entered as the top seed in Saturday's 7th Wildcat Invitational at Ocala-Forest at 170 pounds.
After an opening-round bye, Swift stuffed Columbia's Robbie White in 1:57 before twisting Ocala-Vanguard's William Jacobs into a 4-2 major decision.
Swift finished 3-0 for his first-ever IBT gold medal by solving 2013 Citrus High state qualifier Casey Bearden 39 seconds into overtime behind a two-point takedown, 4-2. The loss was Bearden's first after nine victories.
Accordingly, Swift beamed with pride.
"It's all about getting gold," he said. "After the match, I realize I have to do a better job from the bottom. He rode me most of the match, which is unacceptable."
On the match's difference, "In overtime, it came down to who wanted it more," stressed Swift. "At this point, I need to improve my cardio. I feel this is the way my year is going to be like."
On SHS' team win, "A lot of our JV kids had trouble today," he said. "I've got to give Vincent (Buonanno) big props. In his first varsity tournament, he goes out and pins three guys - that's pretty impressive in my book.
"And I'm telling you remember this name - Richie Rivera. The kid's an animal as a freshman. He's going to do great things for this program."
Swift's assessment echoed Basile's sentiments on Swift.
"Last year, Billy's biggest problem was finishing matches," detailed Basile. "He'd be beating guys for 5½ minutes and then lose it. You can see he's closing the gap on how to finish matches - he did that tonight against Bearden.
"Understanding match strategy is a big piece of the wrestling chess board," explained Basile. "Billy already brings a certain amount of intensity to the mat and now he's figuring out how to finish matches. That's a great sign for us."
By the numbers: Springstead's Billy Swift
- Compiled by TONY CASTRO
YR W L .PCT PINS
2012-13 42 17 .712 11
2013-14 03 00 1.000 01
TOTALS 45 17 .726 12
By the numbers: Springstead's Billy Swift's Career IBT Results
- Compiled by TONY CASTRO
TOURNAMENT/SITE W L .PCT PINS PL.
17th Cougar Invitational at Plant City-Durant 2 2 .500 0 -
31st Brooksville-Kiwanis Invitational at Hernando 4 1 .800 1 3rd
2nd St. Cloud Bulldog Invitational 3 1 .750 1 2nd
1st Kissimmee-Osceola Knockout Invitational 2 3 .400 1 8th
23rd Springstead Invitational 3 2 .600 0 4th
27th Flagler Rotary Invitational 4 2 .667 0 4th
29th Brandon Ippolitto Invitational 4 1 .800 1 3rd
Class 2A, District 7 at Springstead 2 1 .667 0 2nd
Class 2A, Region II at St. Cloud 5 1 .833 1 3rd
49th Class 2A State Finals at The Lakeland Center 4 2 .667 0 4th
7th Wildcat Invitational at Ocala-Forest 3 0 1.000 1 1st
TOTALS (11) 36 16 .692 6