Last year when 2011 Fox Lane graduate Steven Rodrigues competed in the ASICS/Vaughan Junior & Cadet National Championships in Fargo, N.D., he wasn’t even on the radar screen at the prestigous wrestling event.
He was determined to change that and change it he did as he took fifth place in the 135-pound weight class at this year’s championships.
“It meant a lot especially after last year when I didn’t place,” Rodrigues said. “It was a great accomplishment. To do that out of 100 kids from all 50 states, in a huge arena like the Fargodome, and to go 9-1 is a pretty good result.”
Rodrigues says he attributes his success to devoting his time to the style of wrestling that the championships require.
“It’s a different style of wrestling than high school,” Rodrigues said. “It’s an Olympic style, it’s a freestyle of wrestling. Last year was my first year of doing that and I wasn’t really ready for it. This year I dedicated myself to it right after the high-school season to wrestling freestyle full-time with Max Askren and it was great. It was 100 times better this year than last year.”
Askren was a national champion at Missouri and training with someone of that ilk helped Rodrigues immensely. What also helped was being able to work-out with another Section 1 stud, Brian Realbuto from Somers.
“I got to train with Brian Realbuto a lot, who ended up winning the tournament,” Rodrigues said. “Everything was great.”
Realbuto wound up winning his weight class at 145-pounds in the championships that took place July 15-23.
“I have known Brian since I was a little kid, in second grade,” Rodrigues said. “Ever since, we have been great friends. He is one of the toughest wrestlers and hardest workers out there. It was great to see him win. It made me feel good to see one of my friends accomplish what he did.”
Rodrigues will now be wrestling at Rutgers University, where he has been working out since July 1.
“I have been going against guys 21, 22 years-old,” Rodrigues said. “I even went up against assistant coach John Leonardis, who was a three-year varsity wrestler at Lehigh University. It’s a completely different level. Guys are bigger, stronger, faster, better. It’s something that takes a lot of time and even more commitment than high school. I have to work even harder now if I want to be successful at the next level.”