“Weighing in at 103 pounds, standing 5 feet 3 inches tall, welcome to the mat — the Crushin’ . . . Russian!”
Sergei “CJ” Sidrow may have astounded his Rappahannock County High School community this weekend by finishing sixth at the VHSL State Wrestling Championships, but his personal perspective is even more impressive.
The Monday after his victory, the freshman superstar strolled the RCHS hallways proudly wearing at least two accessories: his souvenir tournament T-shirt and a huge smile.
If passersby looked carefully enough, however, they could also see the partially hidden award medal hanging around his neck, modestly concealed under his shirt.
This humble, soft-spoken rookie wrestler was adopted from a Moscow orphanage only nine years ago. His first American home was San Diego, where he was introduced to the English language and home-schooled for a year. Subsequently he lived in Nebraska, Northern Virginia and now . . . Rappahannock.
His parents, Michael and Theresa Sidrow, have a son named Rob, a seventh-grader, and an older daughter, Lauren. When asked about family, Sidrow gave a normal, adolescent response to the question of how he likes his siblings. He simply smiled, shrugged and rolled his eyes.
Sidrow’s responses to the subject of wrestling revealed a more enthusiastic, animated side of his personality. “Practice is the hardest part of wrestling,” he said, “but it is a cool sport. There’s a lot of hard work and sweat.”
RCHS wrestling coach Jamie Harris described Sidrow as “an athlete. He is fearless – dedicated. After the snowstorm, on off days when we couldn’t practice, he was out running — for miles. CJ has a lot of heart.”
Heart must be the main ingredient for success in Sidrow’s chosen sport. Before this season, he had never wrestled, yet he persevered. After last week’s victories, the freshman varsity wrestler holds the credentials that allow him to offer advice to other athletes. “Sports help keep your grades up. If you want to do sports, you must have good grades. ”
In addition to the heart element, the question of motivation arose. Sidrow explained it like this: “Beating someone on the mat made me want to do it again and again.”
Coach Harris said: “He’s quick — strong. He works on take downs from the mat and on being explosive. No matter who his opponent was, CJ never showed concern about someone who might be better than him.”
In a candid moment, Sidrow shared an aspect that coaches and fans cannot always see – an athlete’s thoughts. “When I’m at the mat, I don’t think of how big the other guy is. My first thought is making coach proud. Then, I block out all noise . . . make a sound- proof box and hear nothing but my coaches,” he said, referring to Harris and assistant wrestling coach Jason Spence.
Determination and dedication: exemplary qualities in a young athlete — and ones that will not, apparently, be laying dormant until next year’s VHSL wrestling season. Coach Harris announced that club wrestling begins next week, as the “Rappahannock Rage” invites athletes from Madison, Page, Fauquier and Culpeper to join them on the mats.
When asked if he had any advice for students who might be interested joining the team, Sidrow had an immediate response: “Just do it!”