WEST ORANGE As wrestling practice at Olympia High commences, the boys run at varying paces around the small wrestling room — first at a jog, then a full-blown sprint and back down to a cool-off jog. They alternate with lunges, front and back rolls and even practice falling.
Wrestling season is coming to a close, with all four varsity teams covered by the West Orange Times & Observer and Windermere Observer preparing for the Class 3A, District 2 Meet Feb. 20 at Olympia High, but the training and conditioning that goes into it is not over yet — and the preparation for Saturday’s matches started way back in August.
“That’s kind of how high-school sports are in general: You can play it and only do it while it’s in season, but if you want to be any good at it, it’s pretty much a year-round commitment,” said Olympia wrestling coach Jeremy Bourst.
“What you put in your body is what you get out.” — Kristen Iannuzzi, West Orange High wrestling coach
During the regular season, the boys practice five days a week. There might be a meet or tournament every weekend — sometimes more than one. The regular season is preceded by the preseason, which is dedicated to getting the wrestlers into a shape conducive to training hard on the mat without injury.
Training typically starts at the beginning of the school year, and each wrestler will weigh in. They’re only allowed to lose so much weight based on the amount of body fat they have; therefore, each wrestler has a unique weight-loss plan.
“We do provide them with healthy eating plans and talk often about nutrition,” said West Orange High wrestling coach Kristen Iannuzzi. “We also talk with the strength-and-conditioning coach about weight-loss goals, but whether they follow that is up to them.”
In addition to nutrition and conditioning, Bourst added one of the main issues is hydration.
“A lot of kids have bad habits as far as drinking caffeinated beverages like teas and sodas, which is the absolute worst thing they can do,” Bourst said.
Hydration also comes into play when helping wrestlers regulate their weight — something they need to watch like a hawk, especially when it comes to meets and tournaments. Iannuzzi tells her wrestlers to “flood themselves with water” and get toxins out of their systems by drinking a gallon of water each day.
At West Orange, wrestlers train under Iannuzzi but first work with their strength-and-conditioning coach to get into shape. They alternate between distance running and short sprints and incorporate wrestling drills.
“They’re taking a pounding in there, wrestling each other every day.” — Jeremy Bourst, Olympia High wrestling coach
“What (our strength and conditioning coach) has really been doing recently is having us sprint three quarters of a lap to get our heart rate up, jog the last part, then repeat the whole process,” said junior Tyler Montes, a member of the West Orange wrestling team. “It gets our heart rates to go up and then back down.”
But aside from the grueling conditioning and training they put in — along with watching their diet, water intake and weight — many of them are able to remain focused on their academics and work hard both on and off the mat.
After the regular season is over, training and conditioning may last through the end of the school year and over the summer. Iannuzzi said the more wrestlers can train properly, the better they will perform in the long run.
“It’s by far the most demanding sport that someone can participate in in high school,” Bourst said. “They’re taking a pounding in there, wrestling each other every day. But it’s (also) one of the best sports there is, because if you can do this, you can do anything.”
Contact Danielle Hendrix at [email protected].