Wrestling | Manatee, Palmetto to host duals tournaments this weekend

Manatee, Palmetto hosting tourneys

jlembo@bradenton.comJanuary 10, 2014 

Palmetto's Cody Henson wrestles Brandon's Troy Joyce at the Southeast Duals Saturday. TIFFANY TOMPKINS-CONDIE/Bradenton Herald

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BRADENTON -- When it began eight years ago, Palmetto's Tiger Duals featured just five teams.

On Saturday, the field will be stretched to 16.

And if Palmetto coach Bryan Wilkes has his way, the tournament will became one of the biggest in the state.

"We want to make that a premiere event, to where we can move it to the convention center," he said. "That's the goal."

Meanwhile in Bradenton, Manatee will be finishing up the Coach Kelly Memorial Hurricane Duals, which gets underway Friday.

What began as an individually-bracketed tournament in 1985 -- current Hurricanes coach Andy Gugliemini was the champion at 149 pounds -- became a dual when Gugliemini took over Manatee's

program in 1996.

"It's a cross section of Class 2A and 3A teams," Gugliemini said. "And it's teams you don't see every week."

Manatee is the only local team competing in a field that includes Lakeland, Englewood Lemon Bay, Largo Pinellas Park, Dunedin, Harmony, Holiday Anclote, Kissimmee Gateway, Port Charlotte, Jupiter, Tampa Alonso and Nova.

Wrestling begins at 4 p.m. Friday and resumes at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, when the top six teams meet in the championship pool.

"It's good-quality competition," said Gugliemini, whose Hurricanes are 21-6 and ranked eighth in Class 3A by Scout.com. "And the way we set it up the second day, you're facing teams of your same ability."

Similar to Palmetto's program, which wrestled its first match during the 2005-06 season, the Tiger Duals have grown each year.

This year's field includes locals such as Bayshore, Southeast and Lakewood Ranch, as well as national power Brandon, which won last week's Southeast Duals.

Other notables include Sarasota, Booker, Riverview and Charlotte.

"There's great competition. We run it to where people are out of there at 6 o'clock, and our hospitality room is second to none," Wilkes said. "And that actually does matter to a lot of coaches -- being fed well and taken care of."

What Wilkes really wants is for the Tiger Duals to become a 32-team dual-meet tournament with brackets.

"We'd invite the best teams," he said. "We couldn't call it a state championship, but I think a lot of teams would want to come there ... so that's a goal."

As for why the Hurricane Challenge has kept clicking along, Gugliemini credit the Fulks, Todd and Regina, for running it so well.

The Fulks' son, Jesse, is 31-1 and the third Fulk to wrestle under Gugliemini.

"It runs on time, and everybody is treated right," Gugliemini said. "That's how it should be. It shouldn't be a mess."

This year's Hurricane Challenge features a new twist: an induction into the wrestling team's newly created Ring of Honor.

The first honoree is Brian Skelton, a state champion from 1982-84.

Skelton's singlet will be framed and hung in Manatee's wrestling room. The ceremony is slated for 7 p.m. Friday.

"We're going to induct two guys every year," Gugliemini said. "But for the first one, I figured why not start with the best guy ever."

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