Despite moving up two weight classes from a year ago, Ethan Rossi is having his best season yet. The San Benito High junior entered the week at No. 3 in the Central Coast Section rankings at 126 pounds, having posted some solid results at the Apple Cider Tournament in Watsonville and the Firebaugh Tournament.
“I’m doing much better than in previous seasons,” he said. “Previous seasons I had injuries and as a freshman I was 93 pounds wrestling at 106 (the lowest weight division), so that was tough. But I got a good growth spurt, put on some muscle and now I’m at a good weight.”
Having jumped two weight classes in a year, Rossi feels stronger even though he is going up against bigger opponents. The 5-foot-6 Rossi has peace of mind being in a heavier division, as he can make weight without having to stress out about it, as was the case at 106.
“I don’t have to cut as much as I used to,” he said. “I still have to watch what I eat, but I don’t have to worry and cut as much.”
In terms of the major differences of competing in a heavier weight class, Rossi said he has to be more aware of every situation, knowing one slight mishap can result in him getting caught for a near-fall or pin.
“I have to always be on alert and think of moves,” he said. “If I take a bad shot against these guys at 126, I’ll pay for it. So I have to set my shots up better and take more shots from the outside. Going into the season I wasn’t worried at all moving up in weight. I figured weight wouldn’t matter as long as my technique and skill were there.”
Rossi made good use of his time in the off-season, honing his technique and overall skill set. Rossi spent plenty of time working on setting up his shots effectively.
“Before I didn’t think about what I was shooting for,” he said. “Now I have to look and set it up more. … My bottom game has also gotten better. I’ve been working on wrist control off the whistle, being smarter and knowing the position I’m in and not working into a worse position.”
When Rossi gets an opponent on the mat, he does a great job of keeping him there. Rossi likes to incorporate arm bars and quick tight waist moves off the whistle in the hopes of gaining an instant advantage. In the neutral position, Rossi likes going for the outside single leg takedown to set up a series of moves and finish off an opponent. Rossi strengths lie in the top and neutral positions; however, he’s eager to improve his bottom game as well.
“My bottom is OK,” he said. “It’s not my best game, but I can catch people if they make a mistake and get an escape out of it.”
Rossi said his finest moment of the season thus far came in a semifinal loss in the Firebaugh Tournament. Facing a tough opponent, Rossi dropped a 6-5 decision. However, Rossi was able to land some excellent shots against a quality opponent and simply ran out of time in defeat.
“In each tournament Ethan winds up in one of the toughest weight classes,” Balers coach Steven Salcedo said. “I consider him one of our best wrestlers even though he is not placing the highest. Some of his best matches have been losses. But he’s a competitor and is right there on the cusp of getting over the hump (in terms of) getting to the finals of tournaments. If he keeps wrestling the way he has been, I’m sure he’ll be in a good spot toward the end of the year.”
Rossi hopes that spot will be in the finals of the league and Central Coast Section Championships. Rossi finished fourth in the league tournament and sixth in the CCS Championships last season at 106. Rossi has come a long way. In his freshman season, Rossi earned a spot on the varsity team only to struggle and get dropped to the junior varsity squad. He went on to win the league title at the JV level, setting himself up for a solid sophomore season last year.
Rossi said Spring Grove assistant principal Andrew Parra—who was Rossi’s wrestling coach during Rossi’s middle school years—was the reason Rossi started wrestling in the sixth grade.
“He’s the biggest reason I continued wrestling; it was because of him,” Rossi said. “He took me to work out with him after practices, showed me more moves on how to get out of different situations, went on runs and to tournaments in San Jose and Santa Clara. He introduced me to the Razorbacks (club wrestling program) with coach Salcedo. It was all a positive experience.”