By Jeff White (email@example.com)
CHARLOTTESVILLE — The question he heard most from non-wrestlers — and Jon Fausey heard it often once his plans became known — can be summed up with one word:
Why, after winning the ACC title at 184 pounds last season, would Fausey choose to move down a weight class to 174?
Why would Fausey, a redshirt junior at the University of Virginia, choose to subject himself to a diet that dramatically reduced his daily caloric intake?
“Some of them were like, `It’s stupid. It’s dumb. Why would you do that?’ ” Fausey recalled recently.
And that reason is?
“I think ’84 is a really good weight for me,” Fausey said. “But the biggest thing in my decision to go down from ’84 to ’74, hands down, was, No. 1, where am I going to be in the best position for my body to win a national title? That is not the sole reason, but it was the main reason why I went down.
“Where are you going to be best to compete at and win NCAAs in March? And No. 2, it helps out the team. It definitely helps out the team.”
With Fausey at 174, another redshirt junior, Stephen Doty, is likely to start at 184. Doty competed unattached at 174 while redshirting last season and went 20-5. He may be more effective, though, at a heavier weight. In 2010-11, Doty went 7-2 at 197 and 1-0 at 184 (in addition to competing at 174).
At last season’s NCAA championships, Fausey posted a 3-2 record at 184 and reached the round of 12. At the NCAAs in 2011, he went 2-2 at 184. Penn State’s Ed Ruth, the defending NCAA champion at 174 pounds, will compete at 184 this season.
“There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be the best,” UVa coach Steve Garland said. “We want to have national champions, and Jon felt like, in his heart, he could be a national champ at 174. And frankly, we make decisions for our lineup based on the good of the team. Not to insult anybody on our team, but there wasn’t another guy on the team that had been to the national tournament from [the 174-pound] weight class, so it wasn’t going to disrupt the lineup.”
For a couple of years, assistant coach Alex Clemsen had talked to him about dropping to 174, Fausey said, but “I always just brushed it off my shoulder and said, `You’re just joking.’ ”
After Fausey returned from the NCAA tournament last spring, however, he met with another assistant coach, Jordan Leen, who also broached the subject of a move to 174.
His interest piqued, Fausey, who as a high school senior in Pennsylvania won a state title at 189 pounds, without having to cut weight, talked to his head coach about a possible switch. Garland worried that it would be unsafe for Fausey to drop down a class. But a machine in the office of Randy Bird, director of sports nutrition for UVa athletics, indicated otherwise.
The machine is called the Bod Pod, and it “measures body volume and body mass, then calculates body density from the relationship of these two values,” Bird said. “Once the overall density of the body is determined, the relative proportions of body fat and lean body mass can be calculated.”
Fausey, who stands about 6-foot tall, could safely drop to 174, Bird told him. However, Bird warned, it would be neither easy nor fun and would require extreme discipline.
“He had plenty of room to lose weight, but he would have to lose muscle, too,” Bird said. “He was too lean to just lose fat.”
That didn’t deter Fausey, and so he proceeded, using a diet plan formulated by Bird. The pounds did not melt away.
“I would say April and May I struggled,” Fausey recalled. “I went in waves. The plan, since I weighed about 187, was to get down to about 179, 180 by July 1, and that didn’t happen.
“I went down a little bit, and went up, and then went down. The plan was to lose about a pound-and-a-half a week, and I just went down, and then finals hit me, and I went back up, Then I went down again, and Memorial [Day] weekend went back up. I was really struggling with it. It was about an 800-calorie deficit every day, and I wasn’t used to it, and a big portion of it was in protein.”
Come June, though, he began seeing signs of progress, and by early July he weighed about 182. “And then the whole month of July I was dedicated to getting that last couple of pounds off. It was a slow process. I struggled, and I’ve had some slip-ups here and there with foods and whatever it may be. But by the end of July, early August, I came in and I weighed about 180, 181, hydrated.”
By the start of the fall semester, Fausey said, “I felt good. Don’t get me wrong. There were struggles. There were days and weeks I felt like crap. But now that I think my body’s adjusted to it, I’m feeling a lot better.”
Long before the Cavaliers officially opened practice last week, the NCAA certified Fausey to compete at 174, based on his weight and body-fat percentage.
Fausey, who was third in the ACC at 184 as a redshirt freshman in 2010-11, said Tuesday that he usually weighs around 177 when he gets out of practice. He plans to drop another pound or two in the next couple of weeks as UVa prepares for its first dual meet.
So how does a guy who’s already lean, already supremely fit, a guy who hasn’t weighed less than 180 since high school, go about losing a significant amount of weight?
“With the extra calories, it was more about quantity,” Fausey said. “Randy calculated that I was burning about 3,400 calories a day. So in the summer I would eat about 2,700 calories per day.
“My old diet plan to maintain weight was so many grams or so many servings of protein, so many servings of fruits and vegetables, so many servings of fats and carbs, all that, and this is minimizing that. I’m still eating five times a day, but instead of getting five servings of protein, now I’m getting three to four servings of protein. Instead of getting six servings of carbs, now I’m getting four servings of carbs. And instead of getting three to four servings of healthy fats, I’m getting a serving and a half.
“The vegetables and fruits didn’t change that much. I think it used to be eight or so servings of fruits and vegetables, and it was down to like seven.”
Fausey said he eats at the John Paul Jones Arena dining hall about four nights a week. The rest of the time he cooks for himself.
“I eat a lot of greens and vegetables,” Fausey said. “One of the little things that Randy really taught me is there’s certain foods out there that you can eat a ton of. I eat a lot of spinach, I eat a lot of collard greens, I eat a lot of carrots, a lot of peppers, just a lot of non-starchy vegetables. Also, I put down a lot of fruit, such as apples and pears.”
Cutting back on his meat consumption was more difficult.
“Going from eating 140, 150 grams of protein a day, down to 90,” Fausey said, “it’s a significant jump down. Now I can eat a little bit more protein, but when I look for protein, I look for lean protein.”
His biggest weakness is peanut butter, and that’s where he’s had to alter his diet the most. Peanut butter is no longer a fixture on his grocery list, and the jars he does buy Fausey keeps out of his sight at home, to better avoid temptation.
“I crave peanut butter,” Fausey said, smiling. “And peanut butter’s not bad. It has good fat in it. But I just love peanut butter so much that if I’m eating an apple or a banana or whatever it be, I should eat it without it, but if peanut butter’s just sitting there at my house and I’m doing work and studying, I just open it up and take some and dab it on. I would use it in my oatmeal, I would use it on fruit, I would use it on toast, I would use it on everything.”
That Fausey would lose some muscle as his weight dipped was inevitable, Bird said. But the training regimen Fausey follows, under the direction of Garland and Everrett Gathron, UVa’s strength-and-conditioning coach for wrestling, has reduced the impact of that muscle loss. The muscles Fausey needs on the mat have not suffered.
“In the weight room I’ve actually gotten stronger,” Fausey said. “All my numbers in the weight room have gone up five to 10 kilos or have stayed the same. None of my major numbers have gone down. I feel very, very strong. I would say that my upper body has gotten a lot stronger, compared to last year, which is crazy to say, but it has.”
Fausey, whose brother, Shawn, wrestles at Drexel, is from Dalmatia, Pa., a small town about 35 miles north of Harrisburg. There were only about 90 students in Fausey’s graduating class at Line Mountain High School.
At UVa, he’s a fourth-year student in the Curry School of Education. He’s on track to earn a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology in May, after which he’ll pursue a master’s in exercise physiology. He should finish that program not long after concluding his wrestling career at UVa in 2014.
And after that?
“I want to be here,” said Fausey, who’s active in the Athletes in Action sports ministry at UVa. “I want to be in Charlottesville. Whether it’s a year, or it’s five years, or it’s the rest of my life, I want to be here, making an impact and being involved in this community.”
For now, he’s focused on reaching his goals on the wrestling mat. At last year’s ACC tournament, Fausey was one of three individual champions for UVa, which finished second in the team standings, behind Maryland.
A team that potentially ranks among the best in UVa history opens the season Nov. 3 with three dual meets — against Anderson, Ohio and Chattanooga — at Memorial Gym.
Fausey can’t wait, and not only because he wants to see how he’ll fare as a 174-pounder.
“I’m just eager to compete, to be honest,” he said. “And whether that was at ’74 or ’84. I love it. I love the training. I love being in there every day with the guys and getting after it, but to be honest, I just want to compete. I want to wrestle someone other than a teammate of mine.”
Garland, skeptical at first about Fausey’s plan to change weight classes, could not be happier now.
“His body is completely transformed, so in hindsight it’s totally the right thing now,” Garland said, “Looking at it, we’re like, `Man, he did make the right call ultimately for himself.’ ”
Moroever, given UVa’s options at 184, which include Doty, sophomore Nick Kidd, redshirt freshman Zach Nye and freshman James Suvak, Fausey’s move “doesn’t hurt the team at all,” Garland said. “It potentially helps the team.”