EAST MANATEE -- Palmetto's wrestling team walked out of Braden River's gymnasium Wednesday with the big trophy given to the county champion. It was the second time the Tigers claimed the county crown -- not bad for a program that wrestled its first match in 2005.
As happy as coach Bryan Wilkes was, however, he'll be happier if Wednesday's win serves as a harbinger of what's to come.
The Tigers return to Braden River on Feb. 1 for the Class 2A-District 10 tournament, where they hope to win a team district title for the first time after five runner-up finishes.
"We won this championship, but we're not celebrating because we know we want something more," Wilkes said. "We want to win a district championship. ... (The Tigers) are comfortable in this gym, so we're hoping we can ride that wagon right in."
Never miss a local story.
The Tigers crowned just two individual champions: Chase Washington at 145 pounds and Robert McLachlan at 195.
Wilkes considered that a point of pride.
"It's a team effort," he said. "Other guys picked it up, which makes it nice to know that's a possibility in these tough dual meets."
The Tigers' first county championship came in 2010.
"Trying to get (Palmetto's nameplate) on that trophy is important to us. We don't act like it isn't important, because it is important to us," Wilkes said. "So when we do get on that trophy, we're very happy."
After dropping the tournament's first match to Palmetto, Manatee won its next four to place second.
The Hurricanes were unable to use four of their wrestlers because they would have exceeded the state lim
it of 18 weigh-ins after competing in an early-season JV tournament.
Had they wrestled, Manatee would have been on the hook for a fine.
"So it's my fault for wanting my kids to wrestle more. ... We got penalized for our kids trying to wrestle," Manatee coach Andy Gugliemini said. "We can't take a fine -- we need to do everything the right way. That's what I tell the kids. So we did."
Manatee crowned a county-best five champions, as Caleb Rudisill (113), Tyrek Hoyte (126), Dakoda Dossey (152), Jesse Fulk (160) and John Baldwin (170) won gold medals.
Hoyte was named the tournament's most outstanding lightweight wrestler, and Fulk was named the most outstanding heavyweight.
"There's no doubt in my mind; we're still the best team in this gym," Gugliemini said. "We're going to celebrate our individual honors, we're going to take home some hardware. We have great wrestlers at Manatee."
Lakewood Ranch took third and were led by county champions Hunter Reed (106), Dylan Cameron (120) and Jared Dipsiner (138).
Brothers Gage Takacs (220) and Kane Takacs (heavyweight) won county titles for Southeast, and Petro Marin was a champion at 182 for Bayshore.