Top teams to showcase talent

Published: Saturday, January 18, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 17, 2003 at 10:36 p.m.
Gainesville High School will host the 8th Domino's-Hurricane Invitational Wrestling Tournament - cleverly nicknamed "The Storm of the Century" - today from 10 a.m. to about 10 p.m.
The event is scheduled to feature 10 teams, subject to change after Jacksonville University Christian pulled out last week without a call to GHS, including three in's top 20.
"We have a good group coming," said Hurricanes' coach Scott Billings, who has been trying to get highly ranked Fort Lauderdale Cardinal Gibbons in town as a replacement (something he adds is unlikely). "I'm a little bitter at how University Christian handled themselves in this and will let all of the coaches coming know what happened so word-of-mouth is spread. But, even with them not here, this should be a great tournament with what we think is the best wrestling in the state this weekend."
Heading the list is the benchmark program of Florida, No. 1-ranked Brandon, which has won 364 consecutive dual meets. Coach Russ Cozart will bring in standouts Rocky Cozart, Matt Juncal, Rashard Goff and Keith Simmons, among others.
Among those trying to outgrapple Brandon will be No. 14 Clay, which may have legitimate individual contenders in Spencer Caniff (103), Dani Mills (135) and William Kendrick (152), and 19th-ranked Miami Southridge, a traditional power. Billings also said he expects Fort Myers to make a good showing.
Others scheduled to participate are Tallahassee Lincoln, Orange Park, Tampa Sickles, local team Columbia and the host Hurricanes, who are led by 171-pound favorite Nick Davis.
"I think Nick will have a shot to compete for the outstanding wrestler award, but I think we have a couple of others who may make a good showing," Billings said. "(Senior 189-pounder) Webb Watson has improved tremendously, as has (119-pound junior) Robert Petrick. Neither one of those guys made state last year, but both have really worked hard and have been two of our best all year.
"This will be a nice test for them."
The tournament will use Olympic-style play on three mats with each wrestler competing in four matches, regardless of whether he is placed in Pool A or B. The final round will cross-match respective finishers in each pool and scoring will go six places.
Trophies will be awarded to the top four teams, with the top four individual placers receiving medals. Two outstanding wrestler and an outstanding referee award also will be handed out.
While Billings said he doesn't expect GHS to compete for the team title, he does believe this tournament could serve one of two purposes down the road.
"A philosophy that cuts across all kinds of sports is competing against top-level competition," Billings said. "It allows you to measure yourself better. The top teams will show you your mistakes and deficiencies better. That can help you when districts roll around.
"There is a possible psychological disadvantage in that your confidence can get stepped on and shatter an ego so bad that that kid never recovers. But that's rare and we think it's best to put yourself up against those who set standards because that's the best way to work on yourself.
"We're definitely going to learn a lot about ourselves."
You can reach John Patton by calling 374-5074 or by e-mail at

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