South Kitsap's 'heavyweight' is anything but

By all accounts, Ryan Sparber does not fit the role of a wrestling heavyweight.

The junior from South Kitsap doesn’t have that look about him. He doesn’t psyche out his opponents before matches and he doesn’t physically dominate during them.

But he does seem to win. And win a lot.

“He’s a really smart kid and he understands positioning in wrestling,” South coach Chad Nass said. “He’s not overpoweringly strong, he’s not overly fast. But he really understands his body position, which leads to his success.”

What began last year as a quick fix in the Wolves’ wrestling lineup has turned into a chance for Sparber to wrestle every day and contribute to a team that has its eyes on a state title come February.

And a month into the 2005-06 wrestling season, Sparber has racked up a pretty nice record of 6-2 heading into this week’s Pacific Coast Invitational at Battleground High School in Vancouver.

Sparber moved into the Wolves’ lineup as a heavyweight at the end of last year and returned in that role again this year despite weighing just 205 pounds. Most wrestlers in the heavyweight class are above 250 pounds with a limit of 275.

“Last year, it was kind of hard until I started doing it,” Sparber said. “Then I figured out I kind of liked it a little bit and just kept going with it.”

With no true heavyweight on the roster, Sparber’s move up made sense for two reasons.

One, it helped fill a void on the team and is producing instant points just about anytime Sparber hits the mat.

Also, the move also opens up more mat time and more possibilities for Sparber, Carl Welch and Matt Foxworthy. Those three have been and will continue to rotate through the top two weight classes and when regionals come, which gives Nass the option of putting in two heavyweights and one at 215 or vice versa.

Secondly, if Sparber didn’t move up, he might not be seeing much mat time, if any at all.

Sparber is still listed third on the depth chart at 215 pounds behind Foxworthy and Welch, and Nass said even with all his hard work and effort that most likely wouldn’t change.

But at 275, the mat is all his.

“His style, the way his wrestles, he’s just more suited for (heavyweight),” Nass said. “Guys that wrestle 215 have a tendency to be a little more muscle-bound. His style, with his conditioning, he’s so much more suited to be a heavyweight.”

At just 205 pounds, Sparber is continually giving up 40-50 pounds to his opponents, sometimes more. And that is a huge difference considering the lower weight classes in wrestling are separated by as few as five pounds.

In order to overcome the weight difference, Sparber has employed an old sports classic technique that Muhammad Ali made famous in the mid 1970s — the rope-a-dope.

Although Sparber doesn’t call it that, he enters many of his matches with the idea of making his opponent move around as much as possible. As their conditioning wears down, by the final round many of his larger opponents are sucking wind and he’s able to make his move.

It’s worked well so far this year – of his six wins four have come by pin, although Sparber said he takes more pride in lasting a whole match and winning a decision.

“A lot of it is, I try to wear down their conditioning because a bigger guy has a little less conditioning than a smaller guy like me,” Sparber said. “Once I get them down on the mat, that’s where I do something. Most of it is just waiting for them to something that I can work with.”

That’s a technique Sparber uses only when he’s up against a much bigger opponent. If he faces someone more his size and weight, it’s a straight-up match.

But he said he has to be careful, especially in the beginning of a match. If he shoots in too early, his opponent could get hold of him and then fall on top, leaving him in a bad position.

“I always tell him, ‘Use your rope-a-dope,’” Nass said. “And for the first couple of rounds, he just wears them out.”

But Sparber said the amount of weight he gives away is not really that big a deal to him. It’s everyone around him who makes it out to be more of a concern.

He said he works with guy that weighs less then him, like Brent Chriswell, on a daily basis and they kick his butt routinely. He looks at it as a learning experience — one that he hopes gets him into the regional round of the state wrestling tournament or beyond.

“If I can go and win a few,” Sparber says, “then that makes the team score even more in tournaments.”


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