This wrestler is fit and won’t miss his Thanksgiving meal

| October 26, 2023 | 0 Comments

USA Wrestling is this country’s national governing body for the sport of wrestling, which, with the possible exception of athletics (“track and field”), is recognized as the world’s oldest competitive sport. USA Wrestling says that, “guided by the Olympic Spirit,” it exists to provide “quality opportunities for its members to achieve their full human and athletic potential.”

USA Wrestling’s 2023 Senior Team won the World Freestyle Championships in Belgrade, Serbia, in September, with four Americans winning individual gold medals.

’84 Olympics

Never before has this country dominated international wrestling as it does now. There was that one bright moment in 1984 — the Los Angeles Olympics — when seven American wrestlers won gold medals, but those games were boycotted by the Eastern Block countries, which at the time ruled international wrestling.

This recent world domination by the U.S. correlates directly with Living the Dream, a privately funded organization established in 2009 that awards monetary prizes for gold, silver and bronze medals in international wrestling. At present, an American Olympic gold medalist in wrestling receives $250,000 from the nonprofit.

Family roots

JUNKYARD DOGS teammate Nelson LaBombard and coach Gary Bairos between matches at a local wrestling tournament.

Wrestling prowess begins much earlier, though

Windsor Square resident Nelson LaBombard, a ninth grader enrolled at Harvard Westlake, is on that school’s Wolverine wrestling team. He’s been wrestling for almost four years, having started with the Beat the Streets Los Angeles program.

Nelson’s wrestling lineage goes back much further than four years, though. His father, John LaBombard, competed for the University of Pennsylvania and was teammates with Brandon Slay, gold medalist wrestler in freestyle at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. Nelson’s grandfather, Jack LaBombard, wrestled for Cortland State and was a revered coach at Queensbury High School in upstate New York. Jack LaBombard also is an inductee into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame (NWHOF), New York Chapter.

“Nelson has wrestling in his DNA,” laughed his father.

Gary Bairos
Two years ago, Nelson joined Gary Bairos’ Junkyard Dogs wrestling club, which provides practice and competition off season for local wrestlers. The club’s purpose is to support and build a strong wrestling program at Harvard Westlake and provide an opportunity for kids to wrestle year-round.

Bairos was an All American wrestler at Arizona State, and he once was the head wrestling coach at Harvard Westlake. He left high school coaching to pursue other interests, including as an actor, director and producer. He currently is producing a documentary, “No Girls Allowed,” about Tricia Sanders, a four-time world champion in wrestling and the first female ever inducted as a Distinguished Member into the NWHOF.

Bairos also has returned to Harvard Westlake, where he now is the junior high coach for the seventh and eighth grades. The head coach is Junior Amazan, and that’s who coaches Nelson LaBombard during the wrestling season.

Extreme weight management is often part of wrestling, which means missed meals and dehydration a day or two leading up to a competition.

“I don’t encourage my wrestlers to lose weight,” said Bairos. “I tell them to learn how to wrestle first, and beginners especially should not worry about the scale.”

Nelson LaBombard competes at 145 pounds but won’t be missing Thanksgiving Day turkey.

“He’ll wrestle at his natural body weight,” said Nelson’s father, John. “In the morning, he weighs 143, so 145 likely will be the weight he wrestles.”

“I just try to get them as fit as possible,” said Bairos.

HARVARD WESTLAKE wrestler Nelson LaBombard (in red) breaks down an opponent.

For Nelson, neither his cardio nor his weight have ever been a challenge, and one reason might be because he runs cross-country in the fall. He’ll also play golf this spring, once the wrestling season is over.
“Nelson is extremely athletic,” said Bairos. “He has a high ceiling for improvement.”

Our state is one of the best states in the U.S. when it comes to high school wrestling, but that doesn’t include the Los Angeles area. Few high schools in greater Los Angeles have wrestling teams. But that’s changing, and local wrestlers like Nelson LaBombard are at the forefront of the shift.

“Nelson is a P.O.W.,” said his father. “A Prisoner of Wrestling.”

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Category: People

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