Just to qualify for the CIF state wrestling tournament is quite an accomplishment, considering that only 32 high school wrestlers in each of 13 weight classes earn the right to compete in the prestigious season-ending meet.
But with the pride and glory of such an honor comes the battle against fatigue, achy muscles and bones, and, yes, even boredom.
As if a grueling four-month season isn't enough, Southern Section wrestlers who reach the state tournament extend their schedules an extra three weeks to compete in the divisional championships, the Masters meet and the state meet, which begins today in Fresno's Selland Arena.
The actual tournaments and matches aren't the problem. Those are fun. It's the days in between that truly test a wrestler.
Just ask Tom Osendorf, the Savanna High heavyweight who has signed a letter of intent to play football at Cal State Northridge in the fall.
Osendorf (45-1) won the 3-A title two weeks ago and defeated Pacifica's Steve Palczewski, 11-2, for the Masters championship last week. He is expected to contend for the heavyweight title.
But he's the first to admit that the sport and its accompanying workouts are beginning to wear on him.
"I'm getting sick of wrestling," Osendorf said. "It's all I do seven days a week. If I'm not wrestling, I'm running. If I'm not running, I'm wrestling. I'll be glad when the season is over, so I can relax, go out for track and catch some sun."
He also plans to revitalize his social life, which has been on hold since the season began in November.
"I want to go out and party again," he said. "I haven't gone out on a weekend in a long time."
But first, Osendorf has some business to attend to in Fresno. He may be tired of his daily grind, which includes 150 push-ups, 150 sit-ups and a few miles of running, but he has come this far and paid his dues.
"I'm not going to roll over, that's for sure," Osendorf said. "I better have something left."
The incentive of winning a state championship has kept Osendorf going these past few weeks--and kept him home on weekend nights.
"Sometimes my friends will want me to go to a party, but I stay home because there's a tournament the next day and I need to sleep," Osendorf said. "You have to have your priorities straight."
Things could be a lot worse. At least Osendorf doesn't have to sweat through all those workouts and worry about making weight. At 6-2 and 230 pounds, the senior is well under the 248-pound limit for heavyweights.
This has allowed Osendorf to taunt--make that torture --his teammates with devilish deeds, such as eating candy bars during weigh-ins or drinking quarts of water during practice while his weight-conscious teammates are not allowed a drop.
"They hate that," Osendorf said without a hint of remorse. "But I like getting on their nerves."
Of the three sports Osendorf participates in at Savanna--football, wrestling and track and field--he said wrestling is by far the most physically demanding.
But it's also the most rewarding.
He puts the shot and throws discus just for the fun of it. He's more serious about football, where he was a three-year varsity starter on both the offensive and defensive lines. But football is not so much fun when your team goes 5-25 in three seasons, and All-Orange League honors were of little consolation to Osendorf.
"You get sick of losing after a while, and it makes you want to quit," Osendorf said. "You get tired of everyone ragging on you. That's why wrestling is kind of nice, because if you lose it's your fault. You can't blame it on the guy next to you. I like that."
Osendorf hasn't had to make many excuses this season. His only loss came during the December El Rancho Tournament, when Simi Valley's Andy Silvestro pinned him in the third period. Silvestro has since gone to the 194-pound division, where he won 4-A and Masters titles.
Osendorf won the El Dorado and Buena Park tournaments and defeated Western's Jacob Harrington, 8-1, for the Orange League title. He became the first Savanna athlete to win a Southern Section individual championship, and he'll be bidding this weekend to become the Rebels' first state champion.
"I don't want to lose, because if I do lose it's embarrassing to myself," Osendorf said.
But even if he fails to win or place, Osendorf will find solace in at least one fact late Saturday night.
The season will be over.
A total of 416 wrestlers, including 23 from Orange County, will begin first-round action at 11 a.m. today. The second round is at 3 p.m. and the third round is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Semifinals begin Saturday at 11 a.m., the championship finals scheduled at for 7:30 p.m. . . . Andy Silvestro of Simi Valley is the only Valley-area athlete to qualify for the state meet.