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Gator wins area's first girls state championship

By JAMAL THALJI

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 4, 2001


OVIEDO -- History was made in about, oh, 40 seconds Saturday night.

That's how long it took Land O'Lakes' Dana Kearney to take down Ocala Forest's Jennifer Campbell, drag her back in bounds, throw her onto her back and pin her in the final of the 122-pound class of the Florida Ladies State Wrestling Championships.

Kearney and Gators teammate Jessica Worthington, both sophomores, made history at only the second ever girls high school wrestling tournament. Kearney became the first girls wrestler from the Tampa Bay area to win a title. Worthington is the first to earn second. About 80 girls from across the state made their way to Oviedo for the unofficial state championships in a sport that is beginning to take life in Florida but is not yet sanctioned by the Florida High Schools Activities Association.

Land O'Lakes coach Ed Goodpaster said he was proud of the hardware both brought back to Pasco County.

"Dana being a state champion was no surprise at all," Goodpaster said. "And I was very proud of Jessica coming here to her first state championship and finishing second."

For Kearney, it was the ending she envisioned after finishing third last season. She is a starting lightweight on the boys varsity who qualified for the regionals last season and is Land O'Lakes' third state wrestling champion in the past two seasons. "I felt very good," she said. "I was just really ready for this.

"Ever since last year, I knew I could come in here and win it."

In her first season in the sport, Worthington, who starts for the Gators' boys junior varsity team, flew through the tournament until the 131 final.

There, she met defending state and AAU national girls champion Kristen Ianuzzi of Winter Springs. Ianuzzi scored the first takedown and built a 6-2 lead that Worthington could not overcome even though the Gator took over the last three minutes of the match.

Worthington closed the gap to 8-6 and slammed Ianuzzi onto her stomach and kept her there for the last 1:30 but could not turn her over before time expired.

"I was very nervous," Worthington said.

"I was trying to get her in a half, but I ran out of time."

Both Gators reached the final by plowing through their respective brackets. Both were unseeded, however, because neither had wrestled in last week's Seminole Athletic Conference tournament, the local confederation of Seminole County schools that sponsors its own girls wrestling league.

In fact, Kearney's bracket included six wrestlers who placed at last year's state meet. -- not that it mattered.

Kearney started her run by pinning Forest's Aimee Nelson in 5:30. Then Kearney scored a technical fall over Merritt Island's Alana Campitelli, winning 17-2. Kissimmee Gateway's Sulika Cuevas was next to fall as Kearney pinned her in 5:26 in the semifinals. Worthington started by scoring a pin in 3:45 over Paxton's Charmaine Morgan. Then Forest's Danielle Daubert fell to Worthington 18-11. Worthington pinned DeLand's Christine Anasterio in 5:45 in the semifinals. Gateway won the state title, scoring 113 points, 71/2 more than runner-up Forest. DeLand was third with 82 points, and defending state champion Lyman was fourth with 65.

Land O'Lakes finished seventh as its girls scored a combined 511/2 points.

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