Rodriguez has big mat goals in view

Albert Rodriguez has established himself as a standout wrestler at 220 pounds. Photo by Chris Mora.

After a third-place finish in the Morningstar Invitational in Los Banos on Dec. 15, Albert Rodriguez realized he needed to make a dramatic improvement in one area of the sport: conditioning. Rodriguez watched the video of his semifinal match that he lost, and his lack of conditioning was glaring.

“I got tired later in the match and then got pinned in the third round,” the San Benito High senior said. “I think I should’ve done a little better, but I wasn’t conditioned enough. That is something I’m going to work on so it doesn’t happen again.”

Competing in the 220-pound division, Rodriguez did rebound after the semifinal loss in Los Banos to win the third-place match, 3-1. If Rodriguez’s conditioning and cardio become a strength, he’ll most likely find himself atop a podium later in the season in the Pacific Coast League Finals and Central Coast Section Tournament. That’s because unlike last year when Rodriguez had trouble cutting weight to be at 220, this year he’s a lighter 220 and expects to enter the important tournaments fresh, both mentally and physically.

“I’m 215 pounds now (as of Dec. 18), and I feel comfortable where I’m at,” he said. “Last year I had to drop weight too fast, and it wasn’t the right way to do it. Instead of going into CCS healthy and more energized, I was really tired.”

Despite a big weight cut prior to the tournament, Rodriguez still managed to go 3-2. This season Rodriguez said he won’t have to resort to drastic measures to make weight. That means Rodriguez should come into every tournament fresh and ready to give his best performance.

“I feel healthy and now it’s a matter of getting my endurance up,” he said.

Rodriguez is coming off a solid junior season in which he finished as the runner-up in the Gabilan Division 220 pound weight class. Through Dec. 14, Rodriguez was ranked No. 10 in the CCS in his division. Ryan Enciso of Gilroy and Nathan Fernandez of Monte Vista Christian were Nos. 3 and 4, respectively, meaning Rodriguez has his work cut out for him if he plans on getting his arm raised in the league championship match.

However, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Rodriguez win the title. He’s one of the more agile and athletic 220 pounders in the section, and moves like wrestlers one or two weight classes below him. He scored on an escape in the second period and then produced a reversal in the final period in the third-place match in the Morningstar Invitational. In addition to his conditioning, Rodriguez noted he needed to improve other aspects of his game as well.

“I need to work on my top (game) breaking my opponents down,” he said. “I have some trouble keeping them down and flat on their stomach.”

In the Gabilan Division 220 pound title match last season, Rodriguez lost by a point, a tough ending to a solid tournament run.

“That was heartbreaking for me,” he said. “Once we face them in a dual, I’m going to ask to face him.”

Rodriguez, who had another stellar season playing linebacker on the football team, has an entirely different mindset when it comes to wrestling.

“Wrestling is a one-on-one thing and the outcome is all on you,” he said. “In football, I have to make sure every single one of my teammates are in the right position and know what they’re doing.”

The similarity in both sports—and all sports, for that matter—takes place in the mental side of things.

“I don’t want to put my head down when I’m sad because I don’t want my teammates to see that,” he said. “Win or lose, I want to keep my head up.”

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