Bigger and better
BUTLER TWP – When Willie Bortmas peered down at the scale, the number staring back at him re-energized him.
Two-hundred and ten pounds. A number that gave the
“When I first stepped on the scale and saw that I was 210, it was cool looking forward to coming to wrestling again,” Bortmas said.
That's a feeling Bortmas didn't have last season. Wrestling at 160 pounds, Bortmas struggled with cutting weight and staying healthy.
Shifting up benefited Bortmas mentally and on the mat. Utilizing Bortmas' unorthodox style of using rolls has translated well against heavier opponents. Bortmas, who is ranked No. 5 in the WPIAL, has started the season 4-1, including a second-place finish at the Chartiers-Houston Tournament.
His only loss was to Montour's Cole Masek, who is the top-ranked wrestler at 220.
“Wrestling like a middleweight kid with explosion has allowed him to move up and take tools with him against opponents that are less athletic and a little rounder,” Golden Tornado coach Scott Stoner said. “Some of the stuff Willie does is things you tell him not to do. … It's so unorthodox. People count on you to roll in certain situations and he catches a lot of people with it.”
Fellow senior Ryan Hannon, who wrestles at 170 pounds, has seen the fire back in Bortmas. In attitude and in effort level.
“He's always in a better mood now. You can see him, he's always working a lot harder now,” Hannon said. “He used to come in here drained and everything. It's no fun when its like that.”
No fun was a fair assessment of Bortmas' junior season. He hadn't enjoyed wrestling as much. Bortmas never forgot the last time he did enjoy it.
“Before last year,” Bortmas said. “My sophomore year, my first year on varsity, I was so excited. I remember I won my first match against a kid from
During his junior season, Bortmas couldn't seem to catch a break. He struggled to cut weight and started to feel fatigued, during his matches he didn't feel as strong.
“He did a lot of weight cutting and that ends up being a distraction to you learning and developing because your mind is tied up in that and you're putting extra time in after practice,” Stoner said. “You realize that you have to do it, so you don't concentrate on practice as much.”
Bortmas also suffered a setback at the Southmoreland Tournament after Christmas. During a match, Bortmas was trying to escape and got slammed on his head.
The result was a concussion that had him sidelined for several weeks.
Doctors, MRIs and CAT Scans indicated nothing was wrong. Taking an IMPACT concussion test to get back on the mat was another thing.
Bortmas just wasn't reacting quickly enough.
“I did better in every subject, but my reaction time was slow,” Bortmas said. “It was a strange period. I don't know how to explain it. It didn't feel different, but everything was going slow.”
Bortmas returned before the end of the season. Stoner decided in the offseason to have him switch weight classes. So far, he's been showing improvement.
“The jump to the weight and not having to cut weight has allowed him to concentrate,” Stoner said. “The last few days he's been staying after practice working on a few things and he's been doing pretty well.”
On the mat, Bortmas likes to try his opponents by surprise. He views his opponents like a table, he's always trying to knock at least two of the legs out.
“If someone pushes me one way, I go with them because they don't expect you to,” Bortmas said. “They expect a fight, they are putting all the effort into pushing you that way, if I roll through with him that has worked for me in the past.”
While Stoner said a lot of coaches would advice against it, Bortmas uses it to his advantage.
His teammates don't even worry about it.
“Honestly, I've been watching him do that for 12 years now,” Hannon said. “It doesn't make me nervous at all. That's exactly how he wrestles.”
Bortmas' desire is back. That's helped expand his goals. He never thought he'd be ranked and now he's starting to think a postseason run may be possible.
“In the back of my head, I was thinking that would be cool,” Bortmas said of his preseason expectations. To see it shaping it up, it'll be a cool season.”