On January 12, the Berkeley High School wrestling team faced San Lorenzo and Hayward High School at San Lorenzo’s campus. After two long-fought battles, BHS prevailed, beating San Lorenzo 48-36 and winning by tiebreaker against Hayward, 42-42.
The competition was a type of event called a dual meet, in which wrestlers from two schools pair off with opponents in similar weight classes, and scores are compiled from all matches between the two teams. BHS first wrestled against San Lorenzo, then went through this same format against Hayward. This is different from tournaments, which have wrestlers from multiple teams compete in a seeding and bracket format all at once.
The dual meet took place in San Lorenzo’s gym, on two enormous mats. The crowded gym quickly filled with a cacophony of teammates shouting advice to wrestlers and referees’ whistles ringing out.
Before the game, a couple of players had to lose weight in order to make their weight class, so multiple players, including BHS junior Eli Moulton, did jumping jacks and running before weighing in.
This is the hardest part of wrestling, according to senior and co-captain Gabe Ross. In his freshman year, he lost 15 pounds in four days, by going on “basically a three and a half day fast and a two day water fast.”
In wrestling, a match can be won in two ways:.Wrestlers can pin both shoulders of their opponent to the mat, which ends the match. The wrestler with the most points wins if both wrestlers are still standing by the match’s end. Matches are 3 periods long, and each period lasts for 1 to 2 minutes, depending on whether the wrestlers are varsity or junior varsity.
Points can be earned in a number of ways, including by escaping holds, taking the opponent down, nearly pinning them, and when your opponent commits a dangerous technical violation.
BHS started off against San Lorenzo, a team whose wrestling style closely mirrors BHS’s, according to Head Coach Ben Nathan.
The match started off back and forth, with both teams racking up wins through grueling matches. The vast majority of matches ended in pins. On opposite sides of the mat, San Lorenzo and BHS wrestlers hollered at their teammates. This noisy environment, high adrenaline, and protective headgear wrestlers wear to protect their ears combine to make it particularly hard to hear instructions.
BHS senior and wrestler Darius Thomas said that during a match, “I can’t hear a thing.” Because of this, “You really need to know your stuff before the match. … It’s muscle memory, and it’s what you learned,” Ross said.
While at first glance, wrestling may seem like a simple display of brute force, detailed technique goes into each match.
When wrestlers start with the team, Nathan starts with basics. “The most basic way to get a take down is to take a shot, do a double leg take down. … literally the most basic technique in all of wrestling. There’s five or six things that they have to do in order to do this properly. For a lot of people it’s something that getting it right is not easy to do,” Nathan said.
From there, wrestlers are greeted with a dizzying array of options. There are 5 ways to get someone flat, 10 ways to pin somebody.
BHS wrestlers showed off their technique throughout the match against San Lorenzo, including two strong matches from junior Teagan Duffy and senior and co-captain Emily Lim.
San Lorenzo had a brief winning streak, but this came to an end when Ross defeated his opponent with a powerful throwdown. Berkeley emerged victorious, 48-36.
After a long break, Berkeley matched up against Hayward. Each match was extensive and dramatic, with neither BHS nor Hayward seeming willing to back down. Players and coaches screamed advice from the sidelines, including recent BHS graduate and Assistant Coach Dashiell Allen. BHS fought their way through many matches, all of which ended in pins.
Several hours after the dual meet began, at 8:10 p.m., Duffy came back to the mat for BHS’s final match. Her arm had been pulled behind her head in a previous match, straining her shoulder. With the score tied 42-42, the teams having scored equal pins, the tie was broken on forfeits — Hayward having forfeited more matches than BHS.
The team filed out of the gym for the long bus ride home. BHS is set to host the West Alameda County conference finals, taking place on February 11.