Bubba works out just fine

WOODBRIDGE — The name “Bubba” is usually reserved for the larger sect of American society. Think Bubba Smith and Bubba Paris, former linemen in the NFL: athletically, their worth is measured in girth.

Somewhere between his earliest and most recent days, Woodbridge wrestler Bubba Bush wasn’t a Bubba, at least not in the sense of the more famous Bubbas.

When Bush was born in Mississippi, he checked in at 10 pounds. As a matter of course in that part of the country, babies born that big are Bubbas. Those who knew him then nicknamed him Bubba — even if the moniker wasn’t always accurate.

“I get asked about it a lot,” he said.

As a junior last year, Bush wrestled in the 152-pound weight class, little more than half of Smith and Paris. He sprinted to an undefeated record, only to lose twice in regionals and miss the trip to states.

This year, Bush is undefeated again, and looking much more Bubba-ish. He’s bulked to up just over 180 pounds, and wrestles at 189 — three weight classes higher than last season. That might not mean much in lower weights, where classes divide at five-pound increments, but in the upper weights, those three classes represent 30 pounds.

Bush put on the extra weight in the offseason, hoping to bulk up for football and wrestling. It worked, and the extra weight hasn’t proven to be a deficiency. Bush is finding his own strength on par with those he competes against.

“There’s a significant strength increase,” he said. “And I thought everybody would be a lot stronger.”

This season has been an unqualified success for Bush. Not only is he unbeaten, but he’s rarely found himself in trouble.

“I’d like to see him improve when he’s on bottom, but that never happens,” said Vikings coach Anthony McDuffie. “I’m not saying he’s perfect, but he’s all right.”

That’s not to say Bush hasn’t had his difficulties.

Late in last year’s wrestling season, Bush was diagnosed with diabetes. Now, it mostly affects his training — when his blood sugar isn’t within its normal levels, he’ll have to take a break from whatever he’s doing.

McDuffie knows all about it: His father has diabetes too, although it’s a different type than Bush’s. But Bush’s enthusiasm, in spite of the diabetes, helps his coach.

“I can say [diabetes] made a difference in my life. But he’s so positive, it’s hard to be negative, when you’re around someone who’s had so many problems,” McDuffie explained. “If something like that would ever happen to me, I hope I’d act the same way. That’s coming from a 33-year old to a 17-year old, but that’s the kind of influence he has.”

Unlike last year, Bush has the diabetes under control and feels better than last year.

Since he’s pretty far under the 189-pound weight limit, he doesn’t have to be concerned about skipping meals just to make weight.

“Last year I was sluggish, and that’s because I was hungry,” he said.

But the other side is that when Bush wrestles an opponent much closer to the weight limit, he’s giving up seven pounds. And when occasionally bumps up to 215, he could give up better than 30 pounds.

That’s where last year helped. Bush hasn’t lost the quickness that one might expect to see when comparing 152-pounders against 189-pounders.

“[The quickness helps] all the time. Constantly,” he said. “Especially when I’m up at 215, it’s crucial.”

Save for the weight gain, Bush is in much the same position he was last year, unbeaten, looking strong as the postseason approaches. But last year at regionals, Bush finished fifth and, by one spot, missed the chance to go to the state tournament.

He didn’t have any concrete goals when this season began, because of the uncertainty of the move to 189. But as the season has progressed and his success has continued, his focus has shifted to earning that trip to Chesapeake.

“I want to go to the state championships,” he said. “That’s every wrestler’s goal.”

With each win, Bush takes another step, and a trip there seems to gather more momentum — just what you’d expect from a guy named Bubba on a roll.

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