There are several winners at the Alaska School Activities Association State Wrestling Championships. At the end of wrestling season, 28 large and small school competitors will be named Alaska's best, along with two team state champs.
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There are, however, another set of winners I'd like to talk about. While not as obvious, they probably feel like champions just as much as the wrestlers.
This group, of whom I speak, owns Anchorage buffets and runs the chain restaurants that probably make a ridiculous killing after the state wrestling tournament is through. These cooks and business people probably salivate more than the 14-to-18 year old boys ready to gorge themselves on everything they've been denying themselves for months.
"I'm going out for sushi as soon as I get my medal," Juneau-Douglas High School senior Steven Dyer said moments after becoming the 15th Crimson Bear in team history to win a state title.
During the season, successful high school wrestlers live a life of such self-control that it would make a Shaolin monk envious.
Grapplers focus on their weight the way Kate Moss before a Vogue shoot. Each wrestler is responsible for making a certain weight and trying their best to slip just under a specific number to keep as much strength as possible.
This means exercise, sweating and spitting to keep the scales tilted in the right direction. Most of all, however, it means starving.
Wrestlers watching their weight will deprive themselves of hamburgers, fries, steaks, shakes - you know, stuff that actually tastes good - in dedication to their sport, team and selves.
Think it's tough trying to shed a couple pounds when you're 30-something? Try being 16, in high school, and employing self-discipline when everyone at lunchtime is wolfing down subs and Snickers.
Wrestling is so much more than half-nelsons, arm bars and cradles. No other sport demands so much not only physically, but psychologically.
Want a state championship? Then deny yourself almost everything to realize the dream.
So when the season ends and the scale is put away, do you think these adolescents are going to celebrate with a little watercress salad and sparkling water?
On that Saturday night after state, the poor waiters and waitress at the Red Robin probably don't know what hit them. All they know is there are all these dudes in matching sweatsuits ordering enough meat to fill a Volkswagen.
And keep those steak fries coming!
"After four years of starving," Dyer said Saturday, "it's going to feel great."
In previous years, former JDHS wrestling coach Kris Mercer and his boys engaged in a week-long "fat off" competition.
The contest is exactly what it sounds like. The week serves as a celebration to the end of shared suffering.
For seven days, wrestlers indulge in two of the most underrated seven deadly sins - sloth and gluttony. Fatty foods and sugary drinks rule the day while the most physically strenuous activity they engage in is playing Halo on the XBox.
At the end of the week, the one who's ballooned the most is crowned King Corpulent.
Makes you want to open an all-you-can-eat cheesesteak shop, just in time for Christmas.
Of course, this is temporary. Eventually the wrestlers will put down the forks and pick back up the weights.
Dyer said he wants to wrestle in college and it's time to move on to another goal.
But first, pass Dyer some Dryer's.
"Now that high school wrestling is over and I accomplished my state championship year, it's time to move on to another goal," he said. "But first I'm going to take a week off an eat some ice cream."
Contact sports editor Tim Nichols at 523-2228 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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