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Beyond the podium: Sam LoRusso’s journey to wrestling excellence

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By Dom Nicastro


On paper, Saugus High School senior Sam LoRusso is not a wrestling state champion. But he kinda is.

Consider this: LoRusso wrestles for the Saugus-Peabody cooperative team. They compete in Division 1. Had Saugus had a team of its own, it’s likely competing in Division 3. And LoRusso beat the Division 3 state champion in the 157-pound class – Adrian Guzman of Ashland – in the All-State wrestling tournament. See the logic? LoRusso is pretty much a state champion.

What he actually is for the record books is a podium-placer among the best of the best in competition in his weight class. LoRusso – unbeaten in dual meets the last two seasons – advanced further in the state meets with fourth places in the last two weeks: at Division 1 States and then at All-States, which features all wrestlers across Massachusetts from all divisions.

In the dynamic and oftentimes grueling world of high school wrestling, certain individuals stand out not just for their accomplishments on the mat but also for their journey to success. LoRusso is one such individual, whose name has become synonymous with resilience, progression and excellence in the Massachusetts wrestling community. He’s beaten wrestlers that beat him earlier on the biggest stage, has come from behind in big matches and even powered through a swollen eye during States.

He’ll compete at “New Englands” this weekend in Providence, R.I. He’s gotten recognition as one of the best wrestlers in his weight class by The Schwartz Report; LoRusso was ranked 15th in New England after Division 1 States by that report.

As he prepares to make his mark at “New Englands,” his story offers a compelling look into the making of a high school wrestling standout. LoRusso’s wrestling narrative is a chronicle of continuous improvement and strategic preparation. Beginning his wrestling career at a young age in Saugus, LoRusso has developed a wrestling style that is as tenacious as it is tactical. With a fourth-place finish at both the Division 1 States and All-States in the 157-pound class, his journey is marked by a steady climb through the ranks, punctuated by intense offseason training.

“I really turned it on in the offseason,” LoRusso said. “I turned it on in my sophomore offseason to go to junior year and I did really well. I was a little bit undersized last year for my weight. But this last offseason, I grew a lot, and I got up to 175 in the offseason and was lifting really heavy. I was going to wrestling five days a week.”

This offseason grind paid dividends, allowing LoRusso to hone his technique and build the physicality needed to dominate his weight class. But it was not just the physical training that propelled him forward; mental preparation played a crucial role as well. LoRusso’s approach embodies a holistic view of athlete development, where mental fortitude is as critical as physical prowess.

His coaches – integral to his growth – have offered more than just technical guidance. They’ve instilled a mindset that has allowed LoRusso to excel under pressure. “All my coaches are great… they helped me turn it up mentally,” LoRusso said, underlining the psychological edge he’s cultivated.

The cooperative wrestling program between Saugus and Peabody High Schools has also been instrumental in his development, creating an environment that nurtures talent through collaboration and shared resources. It’s a symbiotic relationship that has seen individual prowess translate into collective success, with the team boasting a remarkable record that neared 20 team wins.

LoRusso’s ascent is also a narrative of community and family. His brother, Max, a junior, shares his wrestling ambitions, echoing the competitive environment that permeates their home. “Everything I did, he did it with me,” LoRusso said of his brother’s training regimen, highlighting the shared journey that has seen them both become forces to be reckoned with on the mat.

Away from the physical battles of wrestling, LoRusso excels academically, boasting a GPA that reflects his diligence. His success in the classroom mirrored by his achievements on the mat paints the picture of a student-athlete who has mastered the balance required to excel in both arenas. He wants to get into a union after high school and possibly work with family on elevator maintenance and other trades.

As LoRusso sets his sights on “New Englands,” he does so not only with the skill and determination honed through years of rigorous training but also with the knowledge that his journey has been shaped by the support and guidance of his coaches, the unwavering spirit of his family and the camaraderie of his teammates. And this helps: He’s just simply good on the mat.

“I would say [my style] hasn’t changed much,” LoRusso said. “I just got better at it. I have a very – I would say – I have a very strong style. I go out there with heavy hands. I just try to wear guys down. I’ve got better conditioning than them. I’m not going to stop. Just wrestle through all the positions and just go hard for six minutes. I mean, my coach tells me that a lot of times, even if the kid is better than me, I beat them because, he said, I just bully kids.”

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