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Mitchell wrestler Mendez goes through life-changing weight loss
Senior drops 75 pounds, is 14-1 at 215 weight class
Chances are, when Braulio Mendez walked into the Mitchell High School wrestling room in August for preseason workouts, his teammates didn’t recognize him. After all, the senior came in weighing 227, a far cry from the 290-pound norm from his junior season.
After a couple of months of practice, he’s down to 212, wrestling in the 215 class and finding success on and off the mat. Mendez, 18, was 33-14 in the 285-and-up heavyweight class a year ago and is 14-1 so far this season at his lower weight.
That record includes a 10-0 mark from the Mountain Vista Survivor Series tournament, where wrestlers have up to 10 matches in two days. All of the victories came by pins in a total of 22 minutes and 34 seconds.
“Last year, something in my head just clicked and I said, ‘All right, this year I’m going to work harder and try to cut some of this weight off,’” said Mendez, a two-year team captain. “I didn’t feel healthy, didn’t feel good and didn’t feel good about myself. I never thought I’d lose this much weight, and just the other day I was making jokes because some people make New Year’s resolutions to lose 20 pounds and I lost 75.”
Mendez has adjusted to his new weight class considerably well.
“You have to use more technique at 215 than at the heavyweight level, where you just try to outmuscle them,” Mendez said. “At 215, there are a lot of guys out there with good technique and strength, so you have to put all of that together. I don’t feel that I’m stronger than the other guys, and in the end, it’s all about who wants it more.
“I feel more confident on the mat and feel like I can take on any 215-pounder right now.”
Mendez said he first started losing weight in late May, when he agreed to take some diet pills with his mother, Angelita Zamora, as a weight-loss experiment, but only stayed with those about a month. He lost 10 pounds with pills, then decided to make a lifestyle change.
“I started eating well and eating right,” said Mendez, who had to be fitted with a smaller singlet this season. “I would go out and ride my bike, go to the park and play basketball and go to my cousin’s house and play basketball or football for hours. The more and more I pushed myself to do more exercise and try to eat less, the easier it became.”
Mitchell coach Kevin Meyer said that Mendez has been a great leader and a positive example for the rest of the team.
“Braulio brings a great sense of pride and extraordinary leadership skills into the Mitchell wrestling room,” said Meyer, who is in his 15th season at Mitchell. “Braulio is well on his way.
He has the right attitude and the right goals for the future. As a coach, having him as a team captain makes my job a lot easier.”
Mendez — who works construction part time to help his mother support him and brothers Alexis and Freddy — said the weight loss has not only helped him on the mat, it has given him an elevated level of self-confidence.
“I believe in myself more,” said Mendez, who has set his sights on qualifying for the state tournament. “I have one of the best coaches in the state who believes in me, so I’m going to work hard this year, through all the pain, running, pushups and situps. I need to work hard and show people what I’ve got and that I can be somebody.”