At last year's Division I state wrestling tournament, Whitmer's Tim Samson, then a sophomore, was the City League's biggest winner, placing fifth in the heavyweight (275-pound limit) class.
One year later, Samson may be Ohio high school wrestling's biggest loser.
Just ask his best friend and neighbor since kindergarten, fellow Whitmer junior Ryan Ernst. As the Panthers' former 215-pounder, Ernst used to get pushed around the mats in practice by Samson.
This year, Ernst does most of the pushing. At around 240 pounds, Ernst is Whitmer's new heavyweight. Meanwhile, amazingly, Samson has dropped three weight classes to 171 pounds.
Samson's once mesomorphic body type has - via increased training and the healthier diet - gone through a metamorphosis.
Competing at a high of 235 pounds last season, he is, depending on pre-tournament weigh-ins, at least 64 pounds lighter. Once outweighing Ernst by 20 pounds, he is now around 70 pounds under his former "little buddy."
"It's kind of weird in a way," Samson said. "But I've gotten used to it."
How did Samson make such a drastic change?
In stages, and not altogether intentionally.
When he joined the Lake Erie Wrestling Club for summer Junior Olympic competition, Samson and Springfield's Chris Holland were each coming in as heavyweights, and one of them needed to trim down to 215.
By then, according to Samson, he was already down to around 220 while Holland was closer to 240. Since he was closer to 215, Samson volunteered to take the spot.
"I didn't really try to lose it," Samson said. "I just started eating healthier - a lot more vegetables. I don't go home and and eat tons of food.
"Our [Lake Erie] workouts were pretty intense, and then I went right into two-a-days for football. Besides that, when I came home, I'd sit in front of the TV every night and do 200 push-ups and 200 sit-ups."
Samson, was now well into his new eating plan, which eliminated junk food and large portions and added low-sodium tuna, boneless/skinless chicken, and lots of vegetables.
By the time two-a-days rolled around in August, Samson, a two-way starting lineman for Whitmer, was down to 200. The physical demands of the football season and the continued diet melted away more of Samson's body, lowering him to around 183 when wrestling practice began in November.
"I had Tim in junior high also," Whitmer coach Tom Bridges said, "and even though he was a bigger kid, he was always a hard-training kid also. So, I don't know if [the weight loss] is all that shocking to me. He was never a lazy kid, and he just started watching his diet. That made the difference."
A knee injury forced Samson out of action until mid-January. By the time he returned, with Mustafa Eltatawy (26-8) performing well at 189 pounds and Jeremy Wright (18-6) doing the same at 215, the now 183-pound Samson's only roster option became dropping 12 pounds to crack the lineup at 171.
He admits he is physically weaker than last season, and has yet to fully adjust to the quickness, style and technique prevalent in the lower weight class.
In his first tournament, Bridges watched in disbelief as an opponent from Hilliard Darby took the once mighty Samson to the mat quickly and pinned him in 39 seconds.
It didn't take long for Samson to make his first adjustment at 171. One week later at Waite's Kerr Invitational, Samson decisioned the same Hilliard Darby foe 6-2.
"I knew it was going to be tough [coming back at 171], and I kind of psyched myself out before the match even started," Samson said of being pinned. "But I took that to heart and came back the next week and proved I could wrestle at 171."
Bridges said Samson is still battling the transition, and needs more matches at 171 to acclimate himself.
Samson is 12-4 entering tomorrow's City League tournament at Rogers.
Despite the massive drop and late start, he has earned enough respect to carry a No. 1 area ranking at 171 in the Northwest Ohio Wrestling Coaches Association poll.
"I feel like I'm back," Samson said. "I'm working on technique and conditioning every day. I think I can be competitive. The style is different and I've had to adapt to it. But I think I can be competitive and make it back to state, and place again."
A CL runner-up last season, losing to former Rogers heavyweight Steve Gawronski in the 2005 finals, Samson will be pressed by contenders Nick Harpel of St. John's Jesuit and Nate Pelker of St. Francis de Sales.
But Samson thinks he can compete for the title, and help Whitmer in its quest to upset three-time defending CL-champion Waite for the team title.
"I've never heard of anyone losing that much weight and getting down to 171," Waite coach Carmen Amenta said. "Usually the kids go up to the weight. But he's been eating a good diet and he looks really fit at that weight. He's going to be pretty tough in this month of February."
Looking ahead to his senior year, Samson said, although he is comfortable at his current weight, he plans to add around 20 pounds of muscle. He needs the bulk to be more effective in his football lineman role, and should move up a class or two in wrestling with Eltatawy and Wright both being seniors.
Contact Steve Junga at:
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