Unlike most high school wrestlers who cut weight instead of moving up to a more ideal weight class each year, Ryan Cerrato chose to grow. And he certainly has grown at Newport Harbor High.
He used to be a 119-pounder three years ago as a freshman. That might be hard to believe, but Coach Dominic Bulone said he has the pictures to prove it. The amount of muscle Cerrato has packed on since probably matches his weight from when he first stepped on a scale for Bulone.
What Bulone sees now is a strapping 171-pound Cerrato. The senior receives compliments on his muscular physique.
Some think Cerrato is on steroids.
"It's kind of cool to say that I'm not," Cerrato said. "I'm a nice guy. I'm not one of these gnarly [buff guys]."
The only rage Cerrato exhibits is on the mat, where he has a record of 23-7 with 18 pins. The main objective for him is to flatten whomever he wrestles.
The match usually ends with the opponent on his back and Cerrato on top.
"It's one of the best feelings," Cerrato said of pinning an opponent and "hearing the tap on the mat and the whistle blow."
Cerrato wanted to hear those sounds on a bigger stage, at the Five Counties Invitational at Fountain Valley High.
A couple of weeks ago, Cerrato asked Bulone if it was possible to compete in the tournament with some of the best in Southern California in his weight class. Cerrato was already looking ahead, even though it was the first day of competition at the Asics Southern California Challenge at Godinez High on Jan. 7.
Cerrato asked Bulone, but he did not get the answer he wanted. Bulone explained that in order to wrestle at Five Counties you need to receive an invitation.
Six days before the event, Cerrato left an impression on someone who might just get him into Five Counties. Brady Woodbury, Fountain Valley's coach, saw Cerrato compete on the final day of the Asics Southern California Challenge and evidently came away impressed with his sixth-place showing.
"He asked my coach and invited me to it," said Cerrato, who gladly accepted the invitation.
The decision to invite Cerrato made sense. In a tournament known as the "Beast in the West," Cerrato certainly fits the bill of an imposing wrestler.
He went into last week's tournament fearless. He was just thrilled to be part of the 46th edition of Five Counties.
"I felt like I wasn't like supposed to win or supposed to place, so I could just do my thing," Cerrato said.
Cerrato definitely did his thing during the two-day event. He went 4-2 with two pins and was one victory away from getting a chance to place in the top eight.
Credit for Cerrato's success is due in large part to his loose approach, his strength, and the fact that he did not know many of the wrestlers he faced.
The ones he never met, Cerrato won those matches. All he remembers is what was in front of the singlet of each opponent he beat, "Ayala" followed by "RBV" and then "Cypress."
Cerrato opened the tournament with Chris Aguilar of Ayala and then Tony Gagnon of Rancho Buena Vista and each result was the same, win by pin.
"I was feeling better about Five Counties," Cerrato said. "The confidence was going up."
What shot Cerrato's confidence was going up against two wrestlers he knew.
Santa Ana's Alfredo Becerra was the first to defeat Cerrato, earning a 7-3 victory and dropping Cerrato into the consolation bracket. After staying alive with two wins, Cerrato faced Norwalk's Milian Christian.
The two faced each other at the Asics Southern California Challenge, where Christian won. This time Cerrato jumped ahead, 2-0, and then 4-3 going into the final period.
Cerrato was on the verge of moving on, but an escape by Christian tied the match. Then Christian gave Cerrato a taste of his own medicine, pinning Cerrato in 3:54 to end his debut at Five Counties.
"I just felt like I was so close and I had that," said Cerrato, who is hoping the experience at Five Counties, tabbed as the precursor to the CIF State championships in March, helps him reach state for the first time. "I got over it. I at least got invited and made it that far.
"I'm like right there with those guys. I can compete with those guys."
Hometown: Costa Mesa
Born: Oct. 4, 1993
Weight: 175 pounds
Coach: Dominic Bulone
Favorite food: Pizza
Favorite movie: "300"
Favorite athletic moment: "Going to CIF my sophomore year [at 130 pounds]."
Week in review: Cerrato went 4-2 and recorded two pins, barely missing out in placing in the top eight at the prestigious Five Counties Invitational at Fountain Valley High.