Though Hernando County's 42nd prep wrestling regular season winds down this weekend, the postseason state series looms large.
To that end, all eyes are directed upon an unheralded Weeki Wachee grappler Anthony Francis Vines.
The 6-foot, 270-pound Hornet is having "one of those years."
Heading into Tuesday's Senior Night festivities featuring The Villages at Weeki Wachee, Vines was on the cusp of breaking not one heralded Hernando County record, but two.
Vines, 18, is fresh from Saturday's top-of-the-podium performance at the ninth annual Ed Kilpatrick Classic at Citrus.
The third-year Hornet grappler at 285 pounds claimed his second-ever gold medal in 10 IBTs (individually bracketed tournaments) behind a 3-0 effort and one pin.
Vines entered Tuesday riding a 13-match win skein.
His last loss was at the hands of Tampa-Chamberlain senior and 2013 state qualifier Robert Mosley in the finals of the 24th Springstead Invitational.
Vines had pieced together a 15-match and nine-match win streak this season.
Prior to his last-ever performance at home, Vines carried a 48-3 (94.1 percent) won-lost record this winter. This season's record towers in comparison to his combined 26-28 (48.1 percent) slate over his first two seasons.
Even with a win on Tuesday he'd need four more wins - possibly during the Class 1A, District 6 Tournament at Hernando's Michael A. Imhoff Gymnasium on Feb. 1 - to surpass the Hernando County record held by Sean Nguyen of Nature Coast Technical of 52 wins in 2011-12.
The single-season 50-win ceiling held for years. Central's Sergio Matos first reached that elite mark in 2002-03. Hernando High's Addison Chipoletti tied it in 2004-05.
Springstead's Cody Ross in 2009-10 and Nick Soto in 2010-11 each duplicated that mark.
Interestingly, Chipoletti, Ross and Soto concluded those particular seasons in style - with state gold medals.
For their efforts, Matos earned a third-place bronze medal while Nguyen settled on a fourth-place bronze medallion.
Amazingly, Vines' first-round pin Saturday morning in Citrus County was his county-leading 35th pin fall.
Anthony, who was born in Brooksville as the younger of two children to Wayne and Ann-Marie Vines, is inching toward another sacred mark - most pins in a single season.
In over four decades on the mats, Springstead's John Dreggors holds the all-time mark with 39 pin falls in 2010-11. That season, Dreggors lost in the state final at 285 in Lakeland.
WWHS skipper Joe Felice recalls meeting up with Vines for the first time.
"He weighed probably near 310 pounds and said he didn't want to wrestle, but that he'd do it to lose weight," chuckled Felice, a former Springstead state qualifier from 1993.
"What's worse," explained Felice, "in his first two years we didn't have anyone past 180 to push him in the (wrestling) room."
On describing Vines, "The kid has always been a pinner," said Felice. "I'd say he has deceptive strength. He's just an unassuming kid."
Vines' turning point on the mats arrived after last season's second loss in the 1A-8 Tourney to Crystal River's Brandon Martin. That setback eliminated him from the state series for the second straight year.
Vines enters the upcoming district tourney with redemption on his mind. He's a career 0-4 in districts.
"Ever since last year's last district loss, Anthony's been a different guy," insisted Coach Felice. "I think he understood he's only got one year left. He trained in the offseason with us and went 4-6 at the Disney Duals."
Coach Felice likens Vines' role to a vocal leader.
"We have two quiet leaders in Dante (Padilla) and Jesus (Nieves). Those guys lead by example," pointed out Felice. "But Anthony is extremely vocal. He's very supportive to the other kids, but he's our enforcer in the room."
Though Felice understands that Vines doesn't carry some of the physical tools some of his brethren bring into the circle, he has other strengths.
"Anthony is extremely smart," noted Felice. "He's very mat savvy and understands what he has to do to win matches in the second and third periods. He knows that if, say, he's ahead 5-0 he can't go to his back.
"Probably more than anything else, he's got more heart than anyone in our room," added Felice. "That's something coaches can't teach."
On Vines' personal ceiling, "There's no ceiling for him," said Felice. "He's a 3.0-type kid, who's always on the honor roll. He's the poster child for our room. Not everyone can be blessed with athletic ability. If Anthony Vines can be successful in wrestling, so can others."
Vines retraced his roots on the mat.
"I remember I was getting pinned left and right," he said.
Vines actually won his first-ever match pinning Central's Levi Parris at the Solomon Duals at Central in 3:38. Besides one more forfeit, he was pinned his other nine matches.
Vines finished Year 1 at the varsity level at 5-15.
"I figured after that start, it couldn't get any worse," lamented Vines. "After that first month, I spent most of the time just trying to get fit.
"From there on, I focused on hanging out on the mat as much as I could."
Felice's advice to Vines was simple - it centered on confidence - don't psych yourself out because the other guy is bigger than you.
Vines admitted, "I was bummed out after I lost in districts last year. I let people get in my head."
Off the mats, Vines is very cordial to fellow competitors. He draws the line, however, when he steps into the circle.
"I'm friends with everybody off the mat," he said. "When I step into the circle I can't be friends with anyone; it's time to battle."
On possibly eclipsing one or possibly two prestigious records, "Up to a couple weeks ago, I didn't know anything about this," said Vines. "I'm not here to focus on records. I approach things one match at a time."
Vines' coach isn't surprised by his unbelievable run.
"I can't put into words what Anthony means to Hornet wrestling," said Felice. "Nothing surprises me anymore. He was our first varsity champion. There are people out there that are skeptical.
"Trust me, heavyweight isn't what it was a couple years ago," noted Felice. "But 48 wins is 48 wins. What he's done is legit."
The key to reaching the sacred mat milestones begin with Vines' health.
"Knock on wood, he's been healthy all season," detailed Felice. "When you have 280-pound young men rolling around, anything could happen. The big thing is Anthony puts himself in good positions to win. People look at him and say, 'There's no way we can lose to that guy.' But they do, time and time again."
Vines, who carries a 3.1 grade point average, is undecided on a possible major in college.
His favorite class at WWHS is environmental technology. He may follow up to become a water technician, but he said he's also leaning toward becoming a high school teacher.
Before Tuesday's final home dual meet, Vines took a moment to thank WWHS coaches Felice, Gibson and Smith, "I've grown up a lot under those guys. I owe each of them big time.
"And I have to credit my mom and my dad for pushing me into wrestling. It's a choice, I'll never regret," he said. "I wish I could compete at the next level."
On what advice the Hornet senior would give to prospective student/athletes on wrestling, "Just take it one match at a time," he said.
By the numbers: Weeki Wachee's Anthony Vines
- Compiled by TONY CASTRO
YR WGT W L .PCT PINS
2011-12 285 05 15 .250 03
2012-13 285 21 13 .618 14
2013-14 285 48 03 .938 35
TOTALS 74 31 .705 52
Hernando County Wrestling Records (1972-2014/42 Seasons)
Most Wins in a Single-Season
- Compiled by TONY CASTRO
RK. NO. NAME SCHOOL YEAR
1. 52 Nguyen, Sean Nature Coast Technical 2011-12
2. 50 Soto, Nick$ Springstead 2010-11
2. 50 Ross, Cody$ Springstead 2009-10
2. 50 Chipoletti, Addison$ Hernando 2004-05
2. 50 Matos, Sergio Central 2002-03
$ Denotes state champion
Most Pins in a Single-Season (1972-2014/42 Seasons)
- Compiled by TONY CASTRO
RK. NO. NAME SCHOOL YEAR
1. 39 Dreggors, John Springstead 2010-11
2. 31 Jarque, Greg Nature Coast Technical 2011-12
2. 31 Nguyen, Sean Nature Coast Technical 2010-11
2. 31 Kuhn, Brandyn Hernando 2005-06
2. 31 Pritz, David Hernando 2005-06
6. 25 Matos, Sergio Central 2002-03