It’s hard to somehow top a state championship season, but Countryside senior Anthony Burburija managed to do just that.
One year after going 52-1 overall and winning the Florida High School Athletic Association Class 3A state title at 195 pounds, Burburija capped a perfect 55-0 campaign by blitzing this weekend’s competition at Kissimmee’s Silver Spurs Arena. He ended all four of his bouts with pins: three in the first period and the semifinals ended in the second. One minute and 8 seconds into the 195-pound final, the referee was slapping the mat as Burburija dropped Miami Columbus senior Carmine Dascoli.
It’s the second year in a row Burburija ran the table of year-end tournaments and he did it by pinning everybody. Four bouts at the Pinellas County Athletic Conference meet, three at the District 3A-8 meet, four at the Region 3A-2 meet and four more at states – all pins.
Burburija, who will attend the United States Naval Academy after graduation, wasn’t the only Cougar to find success this weekend. In fact, Countryside’s three qualifiers turned in the best team performance of any Pinellas County program in any classification. The Cougars totaled 74 points and placed ninth overall in Class 3A. That was well behind runaway state champion Homestead South Dade (197.5 points), but impressive considering Countryside cracked the top 10 with only three competitors.
The Cougars got a pair of silver-medal performances from Steven Nguyen (106 pounds) and Steve Chopek (126).
Nguyen (53-7 overall) pinned two of his first three opponents before going the distance and losing a 3-0 decision against Ryan Rowland of Oviedo Hagerty.
Chopek (56-4) pinned his first two opponents before muscling out a 6-4 decision in the semis. He eventually lost a tight finals bout 3-2 against South Dade’s Tyler Orta.
Nguyen won titles at PCAC’s and regionals and placed third in the district. Chopek won at PCAC’s, districts and regionals.
North Pinellas had 13 total wrestlers advance to states. The other 10 came from Dunedin, East Lake and Palm Harbor University.
Dunedin’s three qualifiers totaled 30.5 points and placed 15th in the Class 2A meet won by Lakeland Lake Gibson (189.5 points). Desrion Arnold (48-7) led the charge for the Falcons, earning a second-place finish at 182 pounds. Arnold, the PCAC and District 2A-9 champ and Region 2A-3 runner-up, won his first three bouts by decision last weekend, including a 10-1 major decision in the quarterfinals. The finals defeat, a 3-0 decision, came against Fort Myers Riverdale junior Jesse Martinez.
Jacob Krebs (126 pounds) nearly wrestled his way back into the third-place match before dropping his final two bouts and placing sixth. He finished with a 50-9 overall record. Senior John Jannelle qualified after placing fourth at regionals and finished his year with a 47-9 record.
East Lake sent four wrestlers to the Class 2A state meet: Jason Leggett (132 pounds, 47-7 record), Billy Ryder (170, 42-11), Noah Bassous (182, 39-11) and Madison Davila (285, 44-5). Davila wrestled back into the fifth-place bout before falling 3-1 against Orlando East River’s Kevron Gadson.
PHU was represented at the Class 3A meet Dylan Sparkman (106, 61-6), Colby Sparkman (152, 50-8) and Ben Mason (182).