Winning or even advancing out of the Class 3A District 8 dual wrestling meet was not a realistic option for Venice or North Port on Saturday.

Their seasons already ravaged by COVID-19 cases and related quarantines, Saturday was about getting matches under their belts and getting ready for the individual competitions in mid-February.

“We’re way out of shape,” North Port coach Eugene Hill said. “We’re two weeks out of shape, but I was proud of the guys today. We still have one kid that is on quarantine, one of my better wrestlers, but we did as well as we could today.”

Manatee and Riverdale dominated the eight-team competition and advanced to this week’s regional round. North Port mustered a 2-1 record in pool play by routing Riverview 60-15 and getting past Lehigh 39-33 before falling to Manatee 55-27. In the re-pool, the Bobcats lost to Riverdale 67-3, but upset Lakewood Ranch 42-33 to finish third.

“Third place is pretty decent for us,” Hill said. “We did pretty well. We’re happy for where we’re at right now. If it wasn’t for this COVID mess that we’re in, I think we’d be a lot better. I’m proud of the job we did today.”

Venice opened pool play by losing to Lakewood Ranch 36-35 in a match where pins made the difference. Venice routed Gulf Coast 66-6 before falling to Riverdale 64-18. In the re-pool, Venice crushed Riverview 65-6, then edged Lehigh 41-34.

“We’ve got some young kids in our program, we really do,” Venice coach Pat Ryan said. “It’s not lack of effort and as a coach, you can only ask for effort. Now when the kid has more experience and more time in our room, I expect more than just effort. I expect them to do correct technique and not just flop around.”

If not for the pins during the Lakewood Ranch match, Venice would have been in the mix for a spot at the region meet, Ryan said.

“We’ve got work to do. Nobody wrestled perfect,” he said. “One thing I’m really going to focus on is not getting pinned. We don’t get pinned, we’re in the championship here. That’s unacceptable. They know it’s unacceptable, I know it’s unacceptable, but I’m the coach and I need to help them work on it.”

Manatee defeated Riverdale 51-19 to win the district title. Both advance to Thursday’s first round of regional duals.

The district individual bracketed tournaments begin Feb. 15.

“We’re just glad to be back and wrestling,” Hill said. “I’m glad we’re having a season, unlike some northern states.”


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