By BRANT JAMES
© St. Petersburg Times, published April 14, 2001
SPRING HILL -- Gerard DeCristofaro would look into the eyes of anyone who asked and, with that predator stare underscoring his words, say those who work the hardest get what they want.
The Springstead senior always knew he outworked everyone. So a Class A state title at 140 pounds would be his.
It was, along with a 49-0 record with 38 pins, conference, district and region titles and victories over five wrestlers who went on to place in the top five at state.
DeCristofaro was never as imposing physically as he was mentally. Wiry, freckled and with a bright buzz of blond hair, he wasn't always the strongest or the quickest; but invariably the best prepared.
"As an athlete, he was a C-minus," Springstead coach Bob Levija said. "Through work ethic and heart, he became an A wrestler."
DeCristofaro's routine of running early in the morning, at lunch and before bed plus practice after school and after dinner hammered him into an unrelenting, unstoppable force.
"I don't think anybody was in the shape I was in," he said. "What do I get out of it? Right when the ref raises my hand, that means I earned something no else was there to help me with. It's something I did all by myself."
DeCristofaro became just the third Eagle to finish undefeated and set a school record for wins.
He began preparing for his senior season when he went 41-4 as a junior but failed to place at state at 130. He did not stop until he beat Jacksonville Bartram Trail's Herman Klinger 7-3 for the state title. "At the end of last year, he said, "I will win a state title,' and that's what he did," Levija said. "He worked for it every single day."
TITLES: Class A state, region, district, conference championships.
TITLES: Class 2A state, region, district, conference championships.