Fresh off his first season of prolonged action for Cornell University, 2018 Junior World silver Andrew Berreyesa (82 kg, NYAC/FLWC) has begun refocusing his sights on Greco-Roman ahead of next month’s US Open.
Berreyesa, one of the US program’s best lockdown prospects, engineered a mesmerizing run to the Junior World final last summer that included a white-knuckle 2-2 criteria decision over Turkey’s Muhutdin Saricicek in the semis. That victory ensured the US would have at least one Junior World finalist for the second year in a row, as well as two medalists overall for the third year in a row.
The summer then gave way to the fall, and as he notes below, Berreyesa didn’t require all that much downtime following his medal-winning performance before zeroing in on the college season. In the midst of his campaign, the native Nevadan was thrusted into the lineup at 165 pounds — around 15 pounds less than he was competing at internationally a year ago. No big deal. He experienced flashes of success for Cornell this winter, certainly more than enough to predict even more soon down the road.
But that’ll all be on hold until the 2019 fall semester.
Entering Greco this coming spring, Berreyesa is upgrading. No longer a Junior competitor, he will be thrashing around at both Senior and U23, with the latter age category already having yielded strong results; Berreyesa was a U23 Trials finalist last June.
This is a surging wrestler who does all the right things on and off the mat, and one the field will be keeping a close eye on. Just as importantly, the populous needs to be aware, too. Like Kamal Bey (77 kg, Sunkist, world no. 7), Mason Manville (77 kg, Army/WCAP), and Carter Nielsen (82 kg, Minnesota Storm/OTS), Berreyesa is a vital part of American Greco’s next generation, although it is becoming increasingly clear that generation’s arrival has fully been established.
Andrew Berreyesa — 82 kg, NYAC/FLWC
5PM: One of the most impressive but least talked-about details regarding the Junior Worlds last year is that you had three tough opponents before the final, they were three tough matches, and you gritted them all out. That has made me wonder if you actually benefited from domestic competition, if only because all of your tournaments here included wins just like the ones in Slovakia. You knew you could dig down.
Andrew Berreyesa: I would say that it was just the game plan Ahad (Javansalehi) had for me. I would be wrestling with Jon Jay (Chavez) and he would pull some athletic stuff, just start throwing me all over the place, and Ahad would say, Alright, the goal is now to not let him score on you; you don’t score, he doesn’t score at all. The game plan was to be gritty, the game plan was to be really stingy about points.
It was right in my wheelhouse. All of those matches leading up to it? The Open really wasn’t that great, I wasn’t great in the pummel or anything. But after U23, it all started coming together. Then it was the Trials, then I trained throughout the summer, and it all kind of culminated at the World Championships.
5PM: Following the Worlds, which took place in September, if you required a break, how long of a break did you have to decompress?
AB: I think that I was given two weeks but I only lasted one week because that was all I really needed. We were in the middle of preseason, so there wasn’t a lot of wrestling. It was more running and lifting and that sort of thing. It wasn’t like I was moving right into the college season or anything.
5PM: Given your experience as a World medalist, and there are a lot of differences between you from last year and this year, and then jumping in this season in the starting lineup, was competing collegiately what you had previously envisioned before you began attending Cornell?
AB: I don’t really think so, I don’t know. I was a little banged up in the beginning and then I spent the first half of the year as a backup. And then I ended up cutting down to 165 and got into the lineup. I feel like I ended up being more dependent on Greco ties throughout the year because I felt so much more confident.
That’s not how I really envisioned my freshman year going. I expected maybe to just be a backup and do my thing, or, to just start from the beginning of the year and go right into folkstyle. But then after the Greco medal, everyone starts noticing me as “the Greco guy”, and as soon as I get into the lineup, nobody will ever tie up with me. So then other parts of my wrestling got exposed, in folkstyle terms. I don’t know if it really went how I envisioned it at all (laughs).
5PM: Okay, right, how do you address that, because obviously when you’re competing in college that’s what they know you for and I would think guys would definitely be hesitant to enter positions they know you favor. I’m sure they bail out of tie-ups and things like that. Is that difficult to adjust to? Or does it just come with the territory?
AB: I think it was difficult to adjust to. I said it to my mom after I didn’t qualify for Nationals, I said, I hate how you can be passive in folkstyle. It’s not stalling in folkstyle, but if it were Greco it would be passive, for sure. I’d take a hook and maybe get into a throw or something, and dudes are going to drop their heads down and limp-arm out of ties.
Something I worked on with Kyle Dake a lot is disguising upper-body ties and I didn’t really do a great job of it, even towards the end of the year. But that’s what I would need to work on for folkstyle, disguising it. If I just run up on a guy and dig an underhook, he’s for sure going to bail out of it. But if I go for a leg attack or anything below the waist — and then come up — that’s where I can score. That’s where I’m good.
5PM: Where are you at now, what are your immediate plans leading to April?
Andrew Berreyesa: I’m bulking back up to 82. I actually just got one of my wisdom teeth out. They didn’t make me loopy or anything like that. It should be a quick turnaround. I’ll probably take it a little light until we go to Sweden and that will be two weeks from now. That is where I plan on getting really back into it with a full-on training camp again. And then from there, I’m going to hit the ground running until the Open.