Roger Moore, NCAA.com
If you’ve ever stayed in a hotel in a city that is hosting a wrestling tournament, you’ve probably seen or heard it — high school or college, freestyle or folkstyle, that familiar sound of tennis shoes thumping up and down the hallways for a couple of hours in the evening.
You won’t find any room service trays outside the doors. And if you happen to take a trip to the end of the hallway for a vending machine snack, the trip back might be a little sheepish because a few ghost-like figures with sunken cheeks and growling stomachs might give you a stare to remember.
It’s all part of the grind and a big part of the lifestyle of the college wrestler – weight management. When it comes to weight, dual meets are considered easy. A two- or three-day event on the other hand is another world, a world that most cannot comprehend.
Just about every hotel in the Cedar Falls, Iowa, area housed a wrestler or two during the 2011 NWCA National Duals on Jan. 8-9 who spent time thumping up and down hallways trying to cut those last couple of pounds.
The grind typically starts Thursday and doesn’t end until sometime Sunday afternoon. Ithaca (N.Y.) College senior 149-pounder Blaine Woszczak knows all the feelings, physical and emotional.
“It’s something you train your body for,” said Woszczak at 8 a.m. on a Sunday morning in Cedar Falls. “It takes a little time to get used to and I really didn’t start cutting a lot of weight until my junior and senior years. You have to get your body ready for March, for those three or four days when you want your body to feel right.
“I’ve never missed weight. There’s been a few close calls, but I’ve tried to keep it under control.”
Perhaps the top collegiate wrestling competition outside of the NCAA Championships every March, the National Duals feature two days of dual meets. Wrestling begins at 9 a.m. but student-athletes must make weight two hours before taking the mat.
After two or three dual meets, typically ending around 5 or 6 p.m. that first evening, the process starts again as another weigh-in will take place at 8 a.m. the next morning. Some wrestlers have to shed a pound or two. There are some who might lose as much as 10-12 pounds.
Woszczak’s Ithaca Bombers, one of the top teams in Division III, beat Heidelburg and St. John’s on Day 1 to advance to the semifinals. Against St. John’s, Woszczak beat two-time Division III national champion Myanganbayar Batsukh in overtime.
“It’s a lot easier thinking about making weight when your team is doing well, when you are coming off a big win,” said Woszczak, a product of Wall High School in Manasquan, N.J.
And so it began.
Ithaca was set to face powerhouse Wartburg in Sunday’s semifinals at 11 a.m.
“I was 6 (pounds) over after we got done wrestling (Saturday) around 5 (p.m.), so I had a bit of a night ahead of me,” said the Bomber senior. “We (stayed) at the Ramada in Waterloo and of course the gym is closed at 4 o’clock on Saturday. We had to find something to do to cut weight (in the UNI Dome) and the last thing you want to do is wrestle after spending all day wrestling. Most of the time you’d rather go hit the bike or something else. Personally, I like jumping rope, doing sprints. I worked out three times (Saturday night).”
Still about a pound-and-a-half over weight, it was time for bed around 10:30 p.m. Wake-up call came at 5:30 or 5:45 a.m. as members of the Ithaca squad headed back to the UNI Dome for a workout to get rid of those final pounds before the 8 a.m. weigh-in.
“Some nights are tougher than others,” Woszczak said. “But I try to think about the match I’m going to wrestle the next day. Your stomach makes some strange sounds, your body feels weird sometimes, but it’s something you get used to as a wrestler.
“The first night is a lot tougher than the second night of a two-day tournament. By that second day you are used to being down. I always sleep better the second night, I guess it’s because you get used to being hungry, I guess of being miserable.”
Day 2 of the tournament brought a close lose for Ithaca to eventual champion Wartburg. Two hours later the Bombers accepted the fourth-place trophy after a loss to defending DIII champion Augsburg. But Woszczak (20-2) picked up a pair of wins over ranked opponents, including previously second-ranked Tony Valek of Augsburg.
Woszczak’s weekend included a 4-0 mark and DIII’s outstanding wrestler trophy. A few days later he found himself ranked second at 149 pounds in the NWCA Brute-Adidas individual rankings.
With a 122-34 career record, Woszczak is closing in on Bob Paniarello’s school record of 129 victories from 1982-87. Woszczak’s career already includes a pair of All-America seasons, finishing fourth in both 2009 and 2010. A year ago he was named an NWCA Scholar All-American.
This from an athlete whose top high school finish at a New Jersey state meet was sixth.
“It’s going to be strange, not thinking about making weight anymore,” Woszczak said. “People think we are crazy sometimes, wonder why we go through all this. It’s just part of the sport, something we’ve dealt with for along time.
“But I’ll admit I am looking forward to the time when I can just walk by a water fountain and just take a drink whenever I want.”
The finance and management major is scheduled to graduate in May. In the meantime, he’ll be getting ready to make weight again for another two-day event, the New York State Championships, an 18-team event that includes New York schools from all three divisions.