CLEARWATER — Palm Harbor University crowned 10 individual champions Saturday at Countryside High School and ran away with its third straight Pinellas County Athletic Conference title.
Not that anyone was wondering, but PHU's landslide victory further cemented the program as tops in the county for another year.
“I'm proud of the job they did,” said PHU coach Brad Sakevich. “After the way we wrestled at [Kissimmee] Osceola last Thursday night, this was much better.”
The Hurricanes (345.5) nearly doubled the team point total of second-place Dixie Hollins (181). East Lake took third at 151.5, followed by Countryside (131) and Dunedin (129.5).
PHU wrestlers placed in the top three of 13 out of 14 weight classes.
Highlighting the performance was senior Aaron Hartman, who finished his prep career 4-for-4 at PCACs. Hartman became the county's second wrestler to accomplish that feat, joining former Countryside Cougar and U.S. Olympian Jared Frayer.
“That was definitely a goal,” the 145-pound Hartman said after recording a second-period pin of Boca Ciega's Jacob Mohr. “It's awesome being one of the only kids to do it.”
“Aaron is a special kid,” Sakevich said. “He's very talented, he's very athletic, he was well-trained before he even got to me and he deserves this. Hopefully it carries over into states and he can win a championship.”
Saturday's championship matches got off to a wild start at 106 between PHU's Tim Sakow and Countryside's Cain Martin. Sakow was awarded a controversial victory when Martin was penalized for an illegal hold and the match was stopped because of an injury to Sakow.
“When I saw [Sakow] holding his side, I knew what was wrong with him so I decided not to continue the match,” Sakevich said. “It's my call, it was my decision and I stand by it. I know it wasn't a popular decision but I was protecting my kid and that's pretty much the end of that.”
Many of the non-PHU spectators let their disapproval of the decision be known, setting up for an intense follow-up match at 113 between PHU's Anthony Mina and C-Side's Alex Kantelis.
The sophomore Cougar came out firing but Mina, a senior, absorbed the early attack and pinned Kantelis in 1:15.
Saturday's victory allowed Mina to avenge a loss to Kantelis last weekend.
“I didn't like what happened in the first match, to be quite honest, but that's not my call,” Mina said of the atmosphere leading up to his bout. “I just went out there and did what I had to do. It's my senior year, that kid's a sophomore, and he actually beat me the week before.
“I just had a really, really bad week last week. But I'm coming back now and I want to try and place in the state tournament.”
Entering as the back-to-back champ, PHU had a target on its back regardless of the first match's result.
“I love it,” Hartman said of the crowd. “It motivates me when anyone's booing us.”
The 'Canes trotted out a representative for the first ten matches and it wasn't until six bouts in, at 138 pounds, that another school took gold.
Seminole's Anthony Parisi beat PHU's Anthony Agarzam in one of the day's most exciting matchups. Down 1-0, Parisi tied it up with an escape with only 10 seconds left in the third period. A reversal in the first period of sudden victory overtime sealed Parisi's 3-1 win.
The day's other overtime bout came at 195 between Boca Ciega's Clifton Thomas and Pinellas Park's Chance Leccese. Similar to Parisi, Thomas used a late third-period escape to force overtime and then win in the first period.
Two other non-PHU wrestlers came away with titles Saturday. Dixie Hollins' Artez Small earned a major-decision win over PHU's Steven Borreli and fellow Rebel Andre Matthews pinned East Lake's Julian Santos in 24 seconds.
PHU's champions not previously mentioned were: Joe Capone (120), Jared Prince (126), Connor Prince (132), Tucker Hardwick (152), Gunner Hurst (160), Jake Timpanaro (170) and Marco Prusac (220).
“I thought Marco Prusac did a good job, Gunner Hurst did an excellent job coming off an injury earlier in the year and becoming a county champ, and Jake Timpanaro was light-out,” Sakevich said. “No one picked [Timpanaro] to win the tournament and to beat Dampier, so I thought he did an outstanding job.”