By GREG AUMAN, Times Staff Writer
ZEPHYRHILLS -- Shane Hand had already left his name indelibly in the record books when he became the second wresting state champion in Bulldogs history.
Last week, he had a memento of his memorable junior season permanently inscribed on his left biceps.
The large black tattoo shows a growling bulldog, with "2002" and his weight class, "275," written above, and "STATE CHAMPION" inked beneath the school mascot.
"I've planned on getting the bulldog for a long time," said Hand, who got a thumbs-up from both parents before he had his arm emblazoned. "Now, to have state champion written on there, I guess I'll never forget it."
The tattoo, in some ways, is like the season he finished on the podium in Lakeland -- a little painful at times, but something he wanted, something that will a part of him forever.
"It's a thrill, and everything's changed," said Hand, who went 51-1, finishing with an 8-4 win against Cardinal Gibbons' Leon Harrington in the state heavyweight final. "It's a big achievement, but I'm also looking forward to next year."
Next fall, opposing linemen on the other side of the ball will have another piece of inspiration as they prepare to go up against one of the county's top two-way standouts.
Next winter, the pressure to repeat his success will be a new challenge for Hand, who will go into the season as the wrestler every heavyweight will be motivated to beat.
"Harrington will still be there, a lot of the best competitors will be there," said Hand, who dominated his opponents so much this season that he only went to the end of the third and final period five times in 52 matches.
"They'll be gunning for me, trying to take it away from me, but that will help me keep going, too."
The reputation preceded him even at a weightlifting meet on Wednesday, where several Pasco competitors were kidding him about his newfound fame.
"Ooh, that's the champ, look at him," Hand heard his rivals saying. "Aw, I want a piece of that kid."
His gold medal now has a place in the trophy box in the front room of his family's home, nestled among 11 trophies and 15 other medals.
He's considering several national wrestling camps this summer, when he'll begin in earnest his defense of his state title, clearing room for another medal in the trophy box, and possibly an update on that tattoo.
"He's a great kid, and he worked hard to earn that championship," River Ridge coach Mike DeGennaro said, noting that Hand would still have been in good position to win a state title if he were up one division in Class 2A with the Knights.
"I was really glad to see him win it."
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