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Eagles proud with their two victories

By GREG AUMAN

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 25, 2001


LAKELAND -- Springstead came to the state championships with a shot at a state title. In the end, the Eagles had to settle for two.

Individual championships by junior Matt Booker and senior Gerard DeCristofaro were the highlight of the Eagles' third-place showing, matching the second-best finish in school history.

"I feel great -- our kids did they best they could do," said coach Bob Levija, whose wrestlers extend a Hernando County streak to eight years with at least one state champion. "I'm glad we had two state champs. This team went 26-1 and won eight tournaments.

"That's pretty good."

Booker, wrestling in the 135-pound class, got a two-point reversal and three-point near fall at the end of the second period and held on for a 7-5 victory against Fernandina Beach's Rudy Leming, who had pinned two of his first three matches in less than 1:20.

Immediately after Booker's win on the same mat was DeCristofaro, who had a key takedown with one minute left on the way to a 7-3 victory over Jacksonville Bartram Trail's Herman Klinger.

The Eagles were seconds away from a third title -- junior Steve Garofano, wresting in the 171-pound class, had a 2-0 lead in the final minute of his title match.

Garofano conceded an escape point late to University Christian's Jeremy Mosley, who came through with a takedown with nine seconds left to pull out a 3-2 victory.

"I was hoping to leave here a state champion, but I fell short," Garofano said. "The good thing is, there's next year."

Springstead scored 101 1/2 points, good for third behind Jacksonville University Christian (120.5) and Cardinal Gibbons (113). Pasco was close behind in fourth.

Miami South Dade won the Class 3A state title. Brandon won the 2A title.

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