Super Mario needs no Luigi

Feb. 14, 2002, midnight | By Eliot Stein | 18 years, 11 months ago

Star wrestler Bracamontes is a monster in the 125-pound weight class

Blazers be warned: If you happen to see a gaunt-looking Mexican-American cruising Blair Blvd sporting his trademark above his lip, do not feed him; he has a lot on his plate to lose and cannot afford to miss weight. The trademark is his often defended 'stache, and the Mexican-American is senior Mario Bracamontes, arguably the best wrestler Blair has bred in the past two decades.

Currently the top-ranked 125-pound wrestler in the county and third-ranked public school wrestler in the state in his weight division, Bracamontes has developed a remarkable habit of winning that has earned him a 32-2 regular season record during his three-year varsity tenure. As a co-captain on the wrestling team, Bracamontes has fine-tuned an amazing year-round work ethic that has rubbed off on his peers, making wrestling the winningest team at Blair during the past two years, with a 24-3 record.

He's a stud

Bracamontes isn't a social wrestler. Preferring quick pins to dramatized grapples, he regularly makes a sacrificial lamb of his opponent, earning pins in the first round. "Sometimes when I'm beating [my opponents], I tell them that it'll all be over soon," Bracamontes says.

By no means does Bracamontes possess the stereotypical wrestler's build. He is one of the taller wrestlers in his weight class, bearing long, narrow arms and wiry legs. Bracamontes is the antithesis of the short, broad wrestler seen on television, pinning his opponents with freakish strength. On paper he wouldn't stand a chance. Yet by wrestling with brains and tenacity, Bracamontes has garnered an unbelievable 94 percent varsity winning percentage, with his only two losses occurring during his sophomore year. His quick lunges and sprawls are deadly, and his masterful employment of "The Turk" and "Ball and Chain" is impeccable.

Last spring in the 119-pound weight class, Bracamontes became the first Blair wrestler to win a county championship in 26 years. He then won three matches at the regional tournament, earning third place before placing sixth at the state tournament.

Bracamontes added another coveted bullet to his expansive resume when he beat Mount Hebron wrestler and personal rival Zack Wendell in the finals of the Big M Tournament last December, becoming the first Blazer to win in the tournament's 20-year history.

On Jan 28, with blood oozing from his mouth, Bracamontes pinned Laurel wrestler Chris Markley to win Springbrook's Grapple at the ‘Brook tournament.

From hunted to hunter

Bracamontes entered Blair without the luxury of having participated in a youth wrestling league, as many of his upper-county counterparts had done. Instead, Bracamontes' passion for the sport came only from years of wrestling his older brother and his friends. "I hate to admit it, but [my brother] helped me compete against stronger wrestlers," he says.

Once at Blair, Bracamontes tried out for the wrestling team but, to his disappointment, failed to make varsity his freshman year. "I could only do 25 push-ups, and the seniors would always yell at me," Bracamontes recalls. Determined to win their approval, Bracamontes endured the workouts and earned a 10-4 record on JV.

His sophomore year, Bracamontes' biggest challenge was maintaining an irregular weight. As a natural 120- to 125-pound wrestler, Bracamontes was forced to fit an unnatural 119-pound mold and often missed weight, limiting his number of matches. Still, Blair wrestling coach Jake Scott saw potential in the young wrestler and worked to improve Bracamontes' confidence and skill.

Yet it was not until the summer of 2000 that Bracamontes came into his own as a wrestler. In addition to training all-year round with the Blair Mat Club, a wrestling club which meets twice a week, Bracamontes credits his trip with recent Blair graduate and wrestling stand-out Camilo Rincon to the University of Iowa's wrestling camp as the stimulus that propelled him from a good wrestler to the superb wrestler he is today.

While at Iowa, Bracamontes trained with wrestlers from around the nation and learned moves from Dan Gable, an Iowa State graduate who achieved a 181-1 career record and is known as the greatest wrestler of all time.

The following fall, Scott saw a much improved, much more consistent Bracamontes bloom. "Mario's always had great potential and a great competitive edge. When you combine these two things, it equals greatness," Scott says.

Mario the motivator

As one of three co-captains on the wrestling team alongside seniors Michael Immerman and Cuong Vo, Bracamontes is responsible for running much of the team's daily practices. In addition, he often instructs the underclassmen, demonstrating moves and leading warm-ups.

Bracamontes' teammates can attest to his significant role as a motivator. "Everybody sees his dedication, and it motivates them to work harder, to work up to his level," says senior Ryan Brown.

"Before important matches when we're in a huddle, I always tell the guys to wrestle the body, not the name," Bracamontes says. "It's just about who wants it the most."

In addition to his role as a wrestling team captain, Bracamontes is a scholar, earning a 3.5 GPA first quarter while juggling his commitment to the very successful Blair soccer team, where he is a defensive fixture.

Growing up playing soccer in neighborhood leagues before high school, Bracamontes traveled to Belgium to compete against foreign teams in 1998. He typically works at the Takoma Park Soccer Camp during summers.

Through all of his triumphs, Bracamontes keeps a level head. Not one to brag, he boasts team results above his own. Coach Scott cites Bracamontes' positive attitude as one of his best qualities. "He's just a great person who's very conscientious," he says. "He's a great guy to hang out with, always the life of the party."

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Eliot Stein. Eliot Stein is an 18 year-old senior at Blair High School and a co-opinions and editorial editor in his second year on the Silver Chips staff. He attended Highland View Elementary School and Takoma Park Middle School and has lived in Silver Spring his whole … More »

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