"They're small, but they're tough"
June 25, 2008 · Updated 11:22 AM
"Photo: Even though they are considered lightweights when it comes to wrestling, Falcons Bruce Hymas, Luke Smith, Chris Long and Sean Rumberger prove that strength has little correlation to physical size.Matt Johnson / staff photoWhen it comes to high school sports, it's tough for a little guy to catch a break.The football team wants its players to be big and heavy. Basketball players need to be tall. But on South Whidbey High School's wrestling team, it takes all sizes and all weights to make a team.In fact, the Falcon wrestling team employs some of the smallest athletes in the high school. This year, wrestlers weighing as little as 103 pounds have gone to the mat for the honor of the school. More than half of the Falcon wrestlers on the 1999-2000 squad could be considered lightweights, tipping the scales at less than 150 pounds.These grapplers are, in many cases, archetypes of the perfect wrestler. While wrestling fans watch the heavyweights when they want to see power moves and rapid pins, small Falcons like 130-pounder Luke Smith and Sean Rumberger, 119-pounder Bruce Hymas, and 125-pound Sean Rumberger bring finesse, flexibility and longer, technical matches to the mat.What they lack in brute strength, said Sean Rumberger, wrestlers in his weight category make points with quickness and agility. Sculpted like a small body builder, Rumberger relies on his flexibility to escape holds that can easily pin a 215-pound wrestler. A half-nelson is not going to put his shoulder to the ground -- it takes a crossface cradle, a figure four, or an armbar to do that.But before any of those moves will work, an opponent has to tire him out.I can grapple for 20 minutes straight, no problem, Rumberger said.Although bigger is generally better in high school sports, few of South Whidbey's lightweights have any desire to put on weight. Junior Luke Smith, one of the team's most experienced wrestlers, is used to the 130-pound division. Being a bigger wrestler would not necessarily make him more successful.You're in your own weight class, so it doesn't matter, Smith said. It's mostly how much you want it.But as these wrestlers get older, it gets more and more difficult to stay at a particular weight. Even though they are light to begin with, wrestlers in the lower weight categories often have to shed five or six pounds before a match. Bruce Hymas, who normally weighs 125 pounds, has to slim down to 119 for his matches. He said there are two ways to drop the weight -- the smart way and the not-too-smart way.If he does it the smart way, Hymas reduces his food intake three days before a wrestling meet. Two days before, he switches to a fruit, vegetable, and water diet. On the day of the meet, he eats and drinks little, having perhaps just an egg for breakfast and nothing until just after weigh-in.Once, Hymas forgot to drop his weight in advance. So, an hour before a match, he did everything he could to drop water weight, including spitting and working up a sweat. It worked -- he did lose the weight. But he paid a price in the ring when his opponent promptly handed him his only loss on a fall this season.As the team's acknowledged mini-Schwarzenegger, Hymas cuts an impressive figure in the mat room during practice. As do his fellow lightweights. Occasionally, their physiques draw the attention of the team's heavyweights, sparking impromptu David vs. Goliath matches.Freshman Chris Long knows enough to avoid those matches when he can. When he can't, he moves as fast as he can, using speed to fend off crushing power and weight.You're a little more cautious around them, Long said.Hymas knows what he means. He got hurt while wrestling one of the heavyweights on his own team a few weeks ago and had to sit out several meets. But Smith does not shy away from the lopsided matches. He regularly grapples guys who weigh 15 , 20, 30, even 50 pounds more than he does. He does not win often, but if he can make a practice match a long one, he stands a chance. He has seen his share of big guys falter from fatigue in long matches.When they go into overtime, they're, like, dead, Long agreed.Overall, the diversity of mass on the wrestling team makes for better practices, with lightweights, middleweights and heavyweights learning from one another. When the season ends in February, the wrestlers will increase in size and circumference a bit when they finally break their training diets. Smith said he is going to head for the first greasy spoon he sees for a bacon double cheeseburger. Long has a Dairy Queen Blizzard in mind.The wrestlers grapple today at the North Cascade Conference preliminaries at South Whidbey High School. After that, they will move into the NCC championships on Feb. 5."