Pitman High senior Gustavo Verver could audition for one of those before-and-after TV ads. You know, one of those "I used to be a weakling, but look at me now" spots.
As a freshman, he won only one match. As a sophomore, he reached the sub-section. As a junior, he missed the State Championships by perhaps only an unlucky draw.
This season, Verver is 22-2 and rocketing up the rankings in the 189-pound class. He used the Big Valley Classic in Stockton last weekend as a personal showcase with two pins, three majority decisions and a well-earned title.
"My technique is better and I'm stronger," Verver said.
Take a good look at Verver — sloped shoulders, bulging arms, tree limbs for legs. This physique is no accident.
"Between wrestling, lifting and running, I think he works out 19 times a week," said second-year Pitman coach Adam Vasconcellos, the former assistant coach at Central Catholic. "He had 93 matches last summer between USA Wrestling and camps. He really blossomed.
"Gus is the first kid I've ever been around to love it all. He's even excited to practice."
And did we say he's strong?
"When he does squats, his butt will touch his calves and he pops right up," Vasconcellos said. "When he's in the down position, he escapes in 10 seconds. He lifts everybody."
Verver attributes his progress to hard work and attitude.
"It's more mental than anything," he said. "You know you're better than the other guy and you've worked harder than him."
NOTES — Beyer senior Zac Andrews (20-5) was stunned by his overtime loss to Bishop Manogue's Gary Albright at the Big Valley 172-pound finals. Andrews, appearing in his first finals, carried a 5-2 lead deep into the third round. An encouraging chat afterward with Beyer coach Tim Louis helped, but it wasn't enough. "I'll probably run to make up for the fact I lost," Andrews said. ...
Golden Valley and Atwater officials ran the Big Valley Classic, and Pitman's mat was rolled onto the middle of the arena for the championship matches. ...
Alex Nuanez of Sierra, ranked second in the section at 171, recovered from an 8-0 loss to Verver to defeat Jonathan Morales of Pioneer Valley 5-3 for third place. ... Beyer's Jake Congleton, the No. 1-ranked wrestler at 103 pounds in the section, led 4-3 in his semifinal against eventual champion Arnulfo Olea of Exeter before losing 12-6. Congleton eventually took third. "He just hit a wall. The conditioning will come," Louis said. ...
Jacob Hill of Grace Davis, ranked fourth at 189, missed the Big Valley tourney due to an ankle he sprained in Reno. He should return in two weeks. ... Coming up Saturday: The Engel tournament in Escalon.
Staff writer Ron Agostini can be reached at 578-2302.