Big men on campus

Del Oro lightweights make each other better on their way to state tournament
By: Todd Mordhorst Journal Sports Editor
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LOOMIS ” Cody Billings dreams of owning his own restaurant one day, snacking on whatever he wants, any time of day. But for at least one more day, he'll be dining on the same strict chicken and broccoli diet he's relied on to make his 105-pound weight requirement all season long with the Del Oro High wrestling team. I think when I get back from state I'll probably have steak and lobster, said Billings, who will wrestle at the CIF State Championships today in Bakersfield along with teammates Corey Johnson, Jesse Stafford and Casey Schumacher. Billings weighed more than 120 pounds last summer and began the season wrestling at 112. For the past month he's feasted on Saturdays and Sundays after tournaments before going on a strict diet to get back down to 105 for weigh-ins at tournament time. The California Interscholastic Federation also requires that all wrestlers maintain a body fat percentage of at least 7 percent, further complicating the weight management challenge. But the biggest hurdle for Billings and the rest of Del Oro's lightweight wrestlers is avoiding sweets and treats throughout the season. Cutting weight just stinks because everyone else around you is usually eating, but you can't, Billings said. People at school will say, ˜I'm so hungry,' and I just kind of laugh. Last week I was three or four pounds overweight the day before (Masters) and I had to drop it overnight. The top caliber guys all have to do that. Del Oro's lean foursome has high hopes for the weekend. Schumacher is the giant of the bunch at 145 pounds and he's riding a remarkable hot streak. The junior has yet to lose in the postseason, winning the Sierra Foothill League title, Sac-Joaquin Section Division III title and the SJS Masters crown in successive weeks. I think all the hard work just started to pay off, Schumacher said. Everything started clicking and the more matches you win, the more confident you get. Stafford stunned just about everyone at the Masters tournament. The 135-pounder was the sixth seed heading into the tournament, but upset his way to the finals, where he lost to Oak Ridge's Kyle West. Stafford's brother Joe made the state tournament last year before graduating. Jesse is just a sophomore. Johnson is returning to state after just missing a spot on the podium in last year's state met. The junior was hoping to perform better at the Masters tournament, but wound up sixth. I lost a match that could have gone either way, Johnson said. It didn't hurt me too bad for my state seeding. You still have to beat good wrestlers to advance. A fifth Del Oro wrestler would likely be joining the group at state this weekend if not for a torn meniscus in his knee earlier this season. Connor Morgan took fourth at state last year as a sophomore, but the 119-pound star missed most of the season with the injury. He will be cheering on his teammates today in Bakersfield. We definitely miss Connor, Stafford said. He's pretty much ready to wrestle now. We've been practicing with him a little. We'll be tough with him next year. In Morgan's absence, Billings and Johnson have teamed up in practice while Stafford and Schumacher are often paired up. The four have learned from each other throughout the season. Champions come in pairs ” that's what our coaches like to say, Johnson said. Billings, who has a 32-6 record this year, is the lone senior in the state-bound group. He said he's not feeling any pressure this weekend after making his debut at state last year. I'd really like to place, Billings said. I know I can do it, I just have to go out and execute. Johnson led the Del Oro team in wins (29) and points scored during the regular season, but his postseason hasn't lived up to his expectations. He's hoping to make up for that today and tomorrow. The postseason hasn't gone exactly how we wanted it, but we're at the main goal now, Johnson said. The Golden Eagles are hoping to add to their substantial reputation. B.J. Mitchell and Micah Ferguson both won state titles for Del Oro in the past seven years. They also assured that Del Oro wrestlers ” no matter the size ” aren't often bullied on the Loomis campus. Nobody really messes with me ” I'm nice to everybody, Billings said. And everyone knows I wrestle, so it's good.