Nick Jairdullo weighed between 160 and 170 pounds last winter.
He was big, but skinny and scrawny.
This year, Jairdullo is wrestling in the 182-pound weight class for South Brunswick High School. He is still big, but now he’s also rugged and sturdy.
Jairdullo spent the offseason lifting, building muscle and adding a series of new wrestling moves, including head locks, leg attacks and arm bars.
The junior also played football for the Vikings in the fall, starting some games at outside linebacker. Both experiences made Jairdullo literally, physically stronger.
In the winter, he showed up to wrestling practice with more confidence, on and off the mat.
“He has man muscles now,” said South Brunswick wrestling coach Bob Januska. “Nick has gone from being a boy to having man muscles and knowing how to use them.”
The hard work has paid off this winter. Jairdullo is 15-0.
At the Collingswood holiday tournament in late December, he won the 182-pound championship, beating four straight opponents. Jairdullo pinned his first three opponents and topped Washington Township High School’s Kris Frank, 6-3, in the final.
After the tournament, Jairdullo got a trophy for pinning the most opponents in the shortest amount of time.
“I’m doing alright. I had a good start. I’ve just been going match by match. Doing what needs to be done,” Jairdullo said. “I’ve been practicing hard. The harder you practice, the better you perform on the mat.”
The 182-pounder is not just executing more moves. He is going into matches with a whole new mindset. Each match, regardless of the opponent, Jairdullo tries to take control early.
“This year there’s been a big emphasis on controlling the match, moving them around to work up a shot,” Jairdullo said. “I’m just trying to be more aggressive. I have the confidence to go out there and hit more moves than I did last year.”
“He is more offensive minded,” Januska said. “In the tournament, he was setting up moves off a front head lock series. Front head locks to set up opponents and get off leg attacks. He has added a lot.”
Jairdullo has surprised himself and his coach.
“I did not expect to be 15-0,” he said.
“I expected to see growth but he really grew into his body,” Januska said. “I didn’t expect 15-0 but we knew he was capable.”
Now, Januska thinks Jairdullo can make the finals in any tournament, including the Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament and the state tournament in Atlantic City. But the wrestler is not focused on results, just the process.
“I just want to keep going out there, taking it one match at time and doing the best I can,” Jairdullo said. “I don’t want to make it about wins and losses.”
Jairdullo’s breakout season could position him for college recruitment. But he didn’t think too much about wrestling in college before, so the idea is still new to him.
He is also more focused on helping the Vikings improve on their 4-7 record. South Brunswick will be the host to John P. Stevens High School in its next meet, which is on Jan. 16 at 6 p.m.
“College is definitely an option. I haven’t given it much thought, but I definitely would like to, if the opportunity presents itself,” Jairdullo said. “But I’m really just looking to step up and be one of the guys to get points for the team.”