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Wootton wrestler goes up by cutting down

COLLEGE PARK – In the sport of wrestling, athletes tend to move up weight classes as they progress from year to year. But for Wootton senior Ralph Bernardo, he decided to do the opposite.

After wrestling at heavyweight during his sophomore season, Bernardo dropped down to 220-pounds as a junior last year. He found immediate success and placed third in the MPSSAA 3A/4A wrestling tournament at his new weight.

This year, Bernardo is 40-0 at 195 pounds and is a favorite to reach the state finals after advancing to the semi-finals at Cole Field House at the University of Maryland on Friday night. Over the past two seasons, Bernardo is a combined 84-2.

“As a heavyweight as a sophomore everyone was just too big. I couldn’t wrestle with them, so I had to drop down,” Bernardo said. “Last year at 220 even a lot of those guys were too big. So I figure at 195, who could be bigger than me?”

He said he made the decision to drop to 195 when he stepped on a scale before the season started and weighed 205, closer to 195 then to 220.

“I don’t feel like he’s lost a lot of his strength, he’s probably picked up a step in quickness,” said Wootton head coach Kevin O’Neill. “He’s been wrestling really well.”

It is relatively uncommon to see a heavy wrestler drop weight classes because the weight difference from weight-class to weight-class is larger. But Bernardo says there are only a few differences from 220 to 195-pounds.

“The speed (has been the most noticeable change). At 220, I was probably the fastest guy. At 195, I’m the strongest guy instead. It’s just a different style, a different mentality you have to wrestle. You have to actually do more moves. You can’t get just one takedown and ride them you have to score points.”

Another difference, Bernardo says, is that the lower the weight class, the more active they are on the mat.

“Well I figured I had to get used to defending shots because at 220 last year I think I wrestled one guy who took a shot on me and he actually wrestled 195,” he said. “So just wrestling defense. Last year I was one of the few 220s who actually did moves but this year lots of guys do moves you just got to counter them.”


By Tim Schwartz

MoCoVox Sports

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