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Champ has his hands full

Gerard DeCristofaro has become a hotter Division I wrestling prospect since he won the 140-pound class in the National Open last week.

Not that he cares right now.

Despite having been accepted at NCAA Div. I Campbell, Loras College (Div. III) and William Penn University (NAIA), and D-I Appalachian State and George Mason showing interest, the state champion and Springstead graduate doesn't have the time to think about college.

Not with the Junior National Championships beginning Saturday in Fargo, N.D.

"I'm training and working hard for Junior Nationals," said DeCristofaro, who left with Team Florida on Sunday. "That's all I'm thinking about. After that, I can concentrate on schools."

His father, Ralph, and mother, Nancy, have time, though.

"The Division I coaches haven't talked to him right yet, but they all know he won," his father said. "There's been numerous calls since he won, so right now we're just waiting to see what kind of money they offer.

"Gerard is like blowing everyone off right now," Ralph said. "He wants to win Greco and Freestyle. His goal is to wrestle for the U.S."

DeCristofaro, who will wrestle freestyle and Greco _ an Olympic discipline _ at the FargoDome, has to sign a national letter of intent by Aug. 20. Meanwhile, he needs to concentrate, as the 31st annual Nationals is expected, again, to draw most of the top high school-aged wrestlers.

The tournament is a proving ground for future international wrestlers, and until the most recent Olympics, a former Junior Nationals champion had won a gold medal in every Olympics since 1984. A notable alum is 13-time international medalist Bruce Baumgartner, a 1978 national champ who is president of USA Wrestling.

Other Hernando County participants in the Junior Nationals this year will include Springstead 135-pound state champion Matt Booker and his brother, Nate; the Eagles' Fabien Lewars amd Hernando's Billy and Charlie Combs.

Ralph DeCristofaro nearly missed his son's exploits in the National Open, but he will take in every aspect this weekend. He wasn't going to attend the event, but Gerard called the night before the semifinals to ask he and his older brother to make the trip _ quickly. Ralph and his son, Anthony _ a 2000 Springstead grad _ made the eight-hour jaunt to Birmingham, Ala., in time to see Gerard defeat Bryan Hart of Pennsylvania 13-6 in the semis and pin Chino Duran of South Dade at 3:50 in the finals.

"They were excited for me," Gerard DeCristofaro said. "It was nice to have them there."

DeCristofaro hopes this Junior National turns out better than last year. It can hardly not. Last July, he contracted blood poisoning during the tournament and had to fly home early.

"I've been training hard," DeCristofaro said. "It's kind of tough to stay ready for Greco after just wrestling freestyle last weekend, but I still have another week."

Staff writer Brant James can be reached at (800) 333-7505, ext. 1430. Send e-mail to

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