St. Thomas Aquinas edges out PHU
By Eric Horchy | Suncoast NewsNAPLES - Palm Harbor University impressed again last weekend, this time by taking second place at the competitive Buzz Hill Invitational in Naples and having one of its athletes, Jared Prince, be named the tournament's Outstanding Wrestler.
Published: January 8, 2013
Published: January 8, 2013
Competing without an injured Mike May at 132 pounds, the Hurricanes came within a point of champion Miami St. Thomas Aquinas, 229-228, a week after beating the Raiders at Kissimmee Osceola High's Knockout Christmas Classic.
PHU placed nine wrestlers at Buzz Hill, up from seven last week in Kissimmee and five earlier in the season at the Durant High Cougar Invitational. The trio of tourneys largely make up three of the four top annual high school showcases in the state, along with the Bill Scott Memorial Lyman High Holiday Wrestling Tournament.
Leading the way for the 'Canes was the usual triumverate of Jared Prince (120), Connor Prince (126) and Aaron Hartman (152). Each earned individual titles, with Hartman taking out Aquinas' Kris Iglesias for the second time this season.
"Aaron Hartman had a great tournament," said PHU coach Brad Sakevich. "He seems to be at the top of his game moving through the season."
Jared Prince worked his way through perhaps the tournament's deepest weight division, as the state's top Class 3A wrestler at 120 added another title to his growing resume. Prince took the title pinning Tampa Christian's Ty Lucas in the first period of the finals. Lucas, brother of Brandon High's Dylan Lucas (Class 3A's top-ranked athlete at 126), entered the circle with Class 1A's No. 2 ranking at 120.
Jared's brother, Connor (Class 3A No. 2), again met a season-long rival in the 126-pound finals: St. Thomas Aquinas' Sal Guerriero (Class 3A No. 4). After splitting with Guerriero at tournaments the past two weekends, Connor Prince earned the most decisive victory yet of the past three meetings.
The sophomore's 5-0 win was predicated upon film work he and his brother did leading up to the tournament, according to their father, Mark Prince. The elder Prince said his boys picked up on a pattern Guerriero consistently displayed that allowed Connor to score four of his five points within the last 10 seconds of both periods.
At 220, PHU's Tyler Modlin gave the 'Canes an opportunity to jump Aquinas at the end before eventually falling 8-2 in his title bout to Lely's Claudel Alix (No. 5, Class 2A).
Had Modlin pulled off the win, it would have capped a sizeable comeback for PHU.
"Going into the wrestle-back round I thought we were pretty much out of it because we put four in the finals and St. Thomas put seven," Sakevich said. "But we had a heck of a wrestle-back round and going into the finals we were only down two points.
"It was fun just sitting on the side watching St. Thomas Aquinas chew their nails. With most teams, you put seven in the finals and it’s over."
Tim Sakow continued his steady ascension at 106, placing third. The junior narrowly missed qualifing for the championship bout when he lost 7-6 to the division's eventual champion, Key West's Angelo Guieb (No. 2, Class 1A).
Tucker Hardwick (138) and Marco Prusac (285) took fourth, and Josh Kampman (145) and Jake Timpanaro (170) placed fifth.
"Our heavyweight is figuring out how to wrestle a little bit and ended up placing fourth," Sakevich said of Prusac's breakthrough performance. The 'Canes earn the majority of their points as a team from the lower weight divisions. With the upper weights producing like they have been lately, PHU's becomes an ever-stronger force down the road, Sakevich said.
"[Prusac] finally came of age a little bit and ended up grinding out a fourth-place finish. He did a great job for us. Him and Modlin scoring points was huge.
"That’s kind of how this team works," Sakevich continued. "We’ve got the big three that are real good but then the supporting cast goes out there and scores a ton of team points doing their jobs through the wrestle-back."
Perhaps epitomizing that group-effort approach in Naples was Evan Martin. The senior spot starter filled in for May at 132 and managed to notch a few wins despite a rough seeding. May could not compete because of a knee injury but is expected to return to the mat soon, Sakevich said.
"Not having May hurt, but Evan Martin went in and did more than an acceptable job scoring team points," Sakevich said. "You put a kid in that hasn’t been a regular varsity starter and he draws the first seed Shiquan Hall [St. Thomas], loses to him, and then draws the second seed and beats him 5-4 to stay alive."
PHU continues its run of weekend tournaments this Friday at the Shark Fest Duals at Nature Coast Technical High School in Brooksville.
The 'Canes follow that up with three straight weeks of hosted meets, beginning with the Jan. 18-19 Logan Kushner Memorial Duals. That's followed by the annual Pinellas County Athletic Conference meet on Jan. 25-26 and then the Class 3A District 7 meet on Feb. 1.