SAN DIEGO — Looking at 246-pound wrestler Corey Farkas, one would think he just muscles opponents to the mat.
But Farkas says it's technique rather than strength that earned him titles in Greco-Roman and freestyle two weeks ago at the Cadet National tournament in Battle Creek, Mich. He is only the fourth California wrestler to win both at the tournament.
Farkas will try to win another Greco title at the Junior Nationals in Cedar Falls, Iowa, Monday through Wednesday. He will skip freestyle competition, having been forced out of qualifying by the flu.
"I'm really weak for my size," Farkas said. "Most of the guys I wrestle are a lot stronger than me. My wrestling coaches at Poway (where he will be a junior) harp on me for not lifting weights after practice."
Although this will be his first appearance at the Junior Nationals, Farkas says his experience at the Cadet meet the past two years will give him an edge over wrestlers who have never competed at that level.
"I feel pretty confident, but the competition is going to be a lot tougher (than at Cadets)," Farkas said. "The guys are going to be bigger and stronger. I'm going to have to rely on my moves even more than last week."
His goal is to place in the top five against competition that includes Indiana's Jeff Pease, defending champion in both Greco and freestyle, and Illinois' Brian Rose, fifth in Greco last year.
Wrestlers are randomly divided into two pools. When four wrestlers remain in each pool, they enter round-robin competition for a spot in the semifinals.
Farkas and Poway teammate Byron Campbell, who will be wrestling at 143 pounds in freestyle, went up to Anaheim to practice with California state teammates the week before flying to Iowa.
Farkas said he likes both wrestling styles equally but that he is better at freestyle because of his 10 years of youth and high school wrestling experience. Coaches at those levels usually stress learning leg shots that are also used in freestyle, but Greco wrestlers rely on upper body throws and are not allowed to use their legs or their opponent's legs in takedowns.
"A lot of heavyweights won't shoot (in freestyle), because a heavyweight could sprawl on you with all that weight," Farkas said. "I like to shoot and as a heavyweight that's kind of unusual. That's one of my advantages over stronger guys. I can shoot and take them down.
"I'm an OK thrower for a heavyweight, but heavyweights aren't elaborate throwers. We just kind of get the job done. Heavyweights aren't (usually) strong enough with their body size and weight to lift a guy like that. Some of them are, but I'm not. I have to do stuff like arm throws and headlocks."
Because freestyle is similar to high school wrestling, competing nationally gives Farkas experience with leg attacks and counterattacks he can use against high school opponents later.
And simply being on the mat during the summer gives him an advantage over some high school opponents.
"I'll definitely have an advantage over wrestlers who just sat around over the summer or wrestlers who wrestle but also play football and play football over the summer," Farkas said. "They lose a lot of their skills. Wrestling over the summer keeps you in shape. You don't get rusty, you keep working your moves and you keep getting better."
After finishing in a four-way tie for ninth at the 1990 state high school tournament, Farkas plunged right into freestyle and Greco tournaments without any time off. He has been a year-round wrestler since transferring to Poway from Granite Hills for his sophomore year. He began working out with the Poway team the previous summer.
A week before the 1990 San Diego Section tournament, Farkas tore cartilage in his right knee while wrestling 191-pound teammate Art Kimble (Farkas says doctors told him there likely had been some slight tearing occurring throughout the season).
"It's a lot better now," Farkas said. "Then, I couldn't even move my knee. I was wrestling with a really stiff leg. Now, once in a while, if I twist it, the cartilage will pop out and I won't be able to bend my knee. I'll have to have someone help me stand up, and it eventually slips back in."
Farkas began wrestling in first grade because he was too big for football, which was his first love.
"I wanted to play Pop Warner football, but I was always so big and there was a weight limit so they were going to make me play with the older kids," Farkas said. "A flyer came around at school for wrestling. I said, 'Well, Dad I want to try wrestling since I can't play football.' And I stuck with it."
Farkas said he eventually played football for seven years, including his freshman year of high school, but gave it up to devote more time to wrestling.
Only once over the years has Farkas felt like giving up the sport. During sixth, seventh and eighth grades, many friends who began wrestling at the same time he did were quitting. Farkas said he stuck it out by only working out, not competing, and then taking time off between seasons.
"I think that's what saved me from being burned out and quitting," Farkas said. "I was starting to get a little burned out, everybody does. I had some time off, then when you get back into it you think, 'Hey, I'm glad I didn't quit.' "
Winning, Farkas said, has proved to be his biggest motivation.
"Once you start winning national titles, that really helps a lot," Farkas said. "Once you win one, you want to win another one. Then you say, I want to win state next year. I want to go to college. I want to win NCAAs. You just keep setting bigger goals for yourself and try to reach them. If you do set a big goal for yourself, and you do get it, you really feel good."