ST. PETERSBURG — Dana Harrington Jr. is in motion, shuffling in a wide circle, loosening the muscles in his arms and shoulders.
Wrestling practice begins and Harrington becomes an agile, prehensile crab, making the mat squeal and pop with each explosive takedown and reversal.
With his cobra-like quickness and technical proficiency, the Dixie Hollins senior displays the same traits his father, Dana Sr., showed when he won a state title (112-pound class) at St. Petersburg in 1991.
About the only thing Harrington does not have is a state title. He has a good shot at winning this season and is ranked No. 1 in the 132-pound weight class in Class 2A by scout.com.
“Dana has as good a shot as anybody of winning,” coach Nick Spataro said. “When Dana is on, he is really on.”
At first, Harrington was not drawn to wrestling. His father took him to the state tournament a few years ago and he was turned off by the sport.
“I didn’t like the singlets, and there was too much touching,” Harrington said. “I just wasn’t having it.”
Harrington concentrated on football and basketball in youth leagues. As a freshman, he tried out for the basketball team and was cut.
So Harrington tried wrestling.
“I actually liked it a lot,” he said. “I wish I had tried it sooner.”
Since then, Harrington has worked obsessively to hone his skills. He has wrestled more than 100 matches in each of the past two offseasons. His father also has been able to impart the moves he used to win his state title.
“My dad and I are close and we’re able to talk about wrestling,” Harrington said. “He’s at every match. And whenever we wrestle at St. Petersburg, I go up and kiss and touch his picture in the gym.”
Now Harrington is a wiry perfectionist who works his brain as much as his major muscle groups every time he twists his opponent into a human ampersand.
“Technically, Dana is better than his father,” Spataro said. “You can show him a move once, and he’ll know it and put in his arsenal. But his dad was just an animal on the mat.”
Harrington has won so many matches, collected so many medals that his bedroom walls are decorated with copies of the weight brackets he has won at tournaments.
“Dana has his own trophy room at home,” Spataro said. “I told him one day he should wear all his medals to school to show everyone what he was about. He did and there were so many around his neck he could barely walk.”
Harrington also was the starting quarterback on the football team. But there is not much of a market for 5-foot-6 quarterbacks at the next level. So he knows his ticket to college is wrestling.
“I’ve really been working hard trying to make it,” said Harrington, who has a 2.7 grade point average. “I want to go to college and wrestle. I know I’ll miss my family, but it’ll be nice to see what college life is like.
“But first I want to go out and win a state title.”