John Dergo won his final match at Huff Hall on Feb. 18 and will look to do big things at this year's Big Ten and NCAA Championships.
Feb. 25, 2010
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - "It's a wrestler's dream."
Being able to eat anything, that is, and that is how Illinois' wrestling coach Jim Heffernan describes this season for both John Dergo and Jordan Blanton. The two wrestlers adjusted their weight classes for this season after suffering through a rough 2008-09 campaign. According to Heffernan, the decision to change weight classes came naturally throughout the course of the summer.
Dergo is now wrestling at 184, which is a welcome move up after spending the last two seasons at 174.
"Last year, weight was always on my mind," Dergo said. "I would always be worried about eating too much and it put stress on my body. Now, I eat whatever I want and try to stay pretty healthy. I eat a lot of calories, which removes the stress so I know I can come up to practice with a lot of energy and be ready to wrestle."
He says that the biggest difference from last year is the fact that he can work harder and get more out of practice.
"I am always lifting and staying strong and I think that has a positive mental effect," he said. "Last year when I was cutting weight I felt myself wearing down halfway through practice and definitely by the end of the season. I felt like I just didn't have much left. This year I'm able to go through practices and feel strong when I leave."
"We're seeing more explosion out of Dergo, which he was lacking over the course of time last year."
The extra explosion has helped Dergo become the No. 2 wrestler in the nation at 184 pounds, with wins over the Nos. 1, 2 and 3 wrestlers in the nation. Last year, Dergo's highest ranking at 174 was No. 11 and he reached the Round of 12 at the NCAA Championships, falling one win short of All-America status.
The switch also has helped Jordan Blanton to reach the No. 14 spot in the nation at 174 pounds.
"I think they're both at their correct weights," Heffernan said. "Guys are going to perform better when they are at the correct weights and both of those guys, in my view anyway, have had success. I think they are very comfortable and they will do their best at those weight classes."
"I think the transition to a lower weight class is going really well," Blanton said. "I think I'm wrestling the best I have my entire life and I think it's going to start showing in my performances starting this week, and then carrying on to the national championship."
What is the recipe for a national champion? According to Blanton, it's not very scientific.
"I like the Jimmy Dean's brand microwaveable breakfasts, with ketchup and hot sauce on it for breakfast. For dinner, I go for Subway or Jimmy John's. I just try to be careful about what I'm putting into my body. I never drink pop; instead, I try to drink water or milk. I just try to stay on the right track."
Blanton is hoping that track will lead him to the top of the podium at the NCAA Championships.
"I try to live my lifestyle the best I know how and the way that would be the most conducive for a national champion," he said. "I want to do everything perfect, from going to class, studying, training, maintaining my weight, controlling my diet, conditioning and everything else."
While Dergo is able to do a lot more strength training this season to build up muscle, Blanton gets to log extra workouts. Blanton says he typically tries to get some wrestling in twice a day.
Heading into the week of the Big Ten Championships, Dergo and Blanton hope to continue living the "wrestler's dream."