Big Julius is gone. But he will not be forgotten, as long as there is . . . well, it seems silly to call him Little Julius.
Julius Askew Jr., with his shaved head, thick shoulders and bulging thighs, bears a remarkable resemblance to Big Julius. Still, he pales by comparison to the figure cut by his enormous father.
Both wrestled for San Fernando High. Big Julius, as the elder Askew was affectionately known, competed during the early 1970s before transferring to Granada Hills as a senior. He excelled in football and wrestling at College of the Canyons and Michigan State.
Young Julius, a senior with a 20-7 record, is a favorite to win a heavyweight title in the City Section finals today at San Fernando and advance to the state tournament next week at the University of the Pacific in Stockton.
Much of young Julius’ motivation stems from the memory of his father, who died at 42 of a massive heart attack in January 1996.
“He’s been an inspiration to me more than anything,” Askew said. “I do a lot of thinking. I think about my dad all the time.”
Askew, 6-1 and 235 pounds, is driven by a desire to purge memories of being ridiculed by schoolmates because of his weight.
“I used to be a fat kid,” he said. “I weighed about 215 pounds in eighth grade, but I was only about 5-8. The kids picked a common enemy and that was me. I pushed myself and that’s the reason why I did it.”
Big Julius, whose weight at one time exceeded 340 pounds, was jovial with a booming voice, according to Dwight Chapman, a lifelong friend now a health teacher and assistant football coach at San Fernando.
Chapman recalls feeling the front steps of his home quake when Askew came to visit.
Askew was in good physical shape during his playing days but fought a battle with obesity in later years and ignored doctors’ warnings to lose weight. One day, while his son watched television in another room, Askew was speaking with Chapman on the telephone and was stricken.
Chapman said Askew simply drifted off to sleep during their conversation.
“He started to snore,” Chapman said. “I thought he was kidding me. I said, ‘Julius, stop it!’ I got mad and hung up on him.”
Chapman didn’t learn until the next day that his former football and wrestling teammate at San Fernando had died.
Askew is survived by his wife, three daughters and his only son.
“If he was here today, he’d be pushing me,” young Julius said. “I want to do as good as he did, or better.”
Askew recently approached Terry Fischer, wrestling coach at El Camino Real and his father’s former competitor. Wrestling for Moorpark College, Fischer lost a 6-2 decision to Askew in a heavyweight match.
Fischer provided young Julius with photographs of the bout.
“They’re very similar,” Fischer said. “His dad was very intense, very strong.”
Askew described his father as a disciplinarian not opposed to giving his son a deserving swat.
“My dad was fun, but at times he was scary,” Askew said. “I think about him and I’m still scared.”
Askew laughs lightly at his remark, a brief departure from his sullen demeanor. Those close to Askew describe him as pensive since his father’s death, which he seldom discusses.
“I think he misses his dad more than he lets on,” said Mike Castillo, San Fernando’s wrestling coach. “But he’s a pretty nice kid. It would have made a lot of people angry at the world.”
When pressed, Askew admits his father’s death has had a devastating effect.
Askew has been academically ineligible for parts of the last three years, including last fall, when he played defensive tackle.
“There were times when I’d be in school and my mind would go,” Askew said. “I wouldn’t be thinking about anything. I had a lot of people come to me, especially at this school. Everybody knew about it. And my church helped a lot.”
Chapman describes Askew as “the most popular kid on campus.” He is president of the campus Bible Study club and a member of the church choir.
“He’s very well-mannered, very well-liked,” Chapman said. “He doesn’t curse, doesn’t smoke or do drugs.”
Askew’s academic problems appear to be behind him. His grade-point average is above 2.0 and he plans to attend Valley College next season.
Yet, keeping the wrestler focused remains a challenge.
During the dual-meet finals last week, Askew seemed to wrestle recklessly against Alex Perez of El Camino Real, losing a match that ultimately decided the championship.
Askew was cautioned for head-butting Perez and penalized one point for unnecessary roughness. The wrestlers tumbled off the mat several times.
“He’s a very intelligent kid, but the one chink in his armor is that he’s easily distracted,” Castillo said. “It comes down to concentration and keeping up to the task.”
Perez will compete at 215 pounds in today’s tournament. After the season, Askew said he is likely to give up wrestling and concentrate on football. And his health.
“My grandfather and father both died of heart attacks,” he said. “I’ve learned from their mistakes. I don’t want that to happen to me.”
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Masters of Their Domain
There will be 22 wrestlers from the Valley and Ventura region trying to reach the state finals at the Southern Section Masters Meet today at Fountain Valley High.
Five Southern Section champions--heavyweight Chad Troxler of Simi Valley, Cristobal Gonzalez of Ventura (189 pounds), Stuart Young of Highland (152), Dustin Clocherty of Ventura (135) and Alex Herrera of Alemany (135)--will compete.
Troxler and Gonzalez placed third in the state as juniors. The state meet is next Friday and Saturday at the University of the Pacific in Stockton.
The top eight in each of 14 weight classes will advance. The City Section finals today at San Fernando High will send the champion of each weight class to the state finals.
The Masters Meet includes 280 wrestlers from the Southern Section’s four divisions.
Wrestlers from the region participating in Southern Section Masters Meet today at Fountain Valley High:
Spikie Gonzalez (Rio Mesa), 3rd in Division I
Arvee Bermudes (Moorpark), 3rd in Division IV
Dustin Clocherty (Ventura), 1st in Division I
Alex Herrera (Alemany), 1st in Division IV
Trevor Clocherty (Ventura), 6th in Division I
Craig Baldwin (Camarillo), 6th in Division II
John Garfinkel (Highland), 2nd in Division II
Larry Schneider (Thousand Oaks), 2nd in Division II
Robert Estrada (Highland), 2nd in Division IV
Dan Pagnella (Lancaster), 3rd in Division IV
Josh Berman (Camarillo), 2nd in Division II
Stuart Young (Highland), 1st in Division IV
Tyson Chiarro (Palmdale), 3rd in Division IV
Tiloi Tuitama (Hueneme), 3rd in Division I
Cristobal Gonzalez (Ventura), 1st in Division I
Dylan Hull (Agoura), 3rd in Division II
Rickie Ford (Palmdale), 3rd in Division IV
Joe Martinez (Ventura), 2nd in Division I
Steve Jauregui (Thousand Oaks), 2nd in Division II
Chad Troxler (Simi Valley), 1st in Division II
Mark Martinez (Ventura), 2nd in Division I
David Heermance (Highland), 2nd in Division IV