LHW’s Wrestler of the Week (2/23): Andre Berry

It’s a fear of many varsity wrestlers who love to play football in the fall yet are passionate about their wrestling career: do you risk injury and ruin your winter wrestling season by playing football in the fall? It’s an even more tortuous decision going into your senior year with many wrestling goals yet to be achieved and the dream of a state championship still burning fiercely in your heart.

Andre Berry vs Matt Eberlein 2009 Section VIII finals. Photo is Courtesy of thematslap.com

It’s a fear of many varsity wrestlers who love to play football in the fall yet are passionate about their wrestling career: do you risk injury and ruin your winter wrestling season by playing football in the fall?  It’s an even more tortuous decision going into your senior year with many wrestling goals yet to be achieved and the dream of a state championship still burning fiercely in your heart.

Andre Berry decided to take that risk as he is as passionate about football as he is about wrestling.  During the third game of the 2008-2009 season, Andre Berry fractured his fibula, dislocated his tibia, and tore or sprained just about every ligament in his ankle, abruptly terminating his senior football season after the third game and seriously threatening his wrestling season too.

Andre, no stranger to adversity, suffers from severe asthma and has been hospitalized ten times throughout his young life, a few times for over week.  With the support of his adoring family, the tough love of his caring father, and the expert guidance of his varsity coach, Timothy Godoy, Andre was determined to beat the odds, and beat the odds he did.

After two surgeries where pins and plates were carefully placed in his leg, Andre began the long and arduous road to recovery in hopes of rescuing his last opportunity for a NYS championship.  The first step in his remarkable journey culminated on Saturday evening with a stunning 19-7 victory over his formidable opponent, Matt Eberlein, the number two seed in the weight class.

Not only were the coaches impressed with his victory, his fellow finalists were as well as they bestowed upon him the prestigious honor of Champion-of-Champions while the coaches bestowed on him the equally prestigious honor of Most Outstanding Wrestler.

On Friday Andre continues his journey in Albany at the Times Union Center where he will compete for a State Title.  No matter his seed, Andre will make nothing more of it than just a number while attempting to make the best of his once in a lifetime opportunity.   What else would you expect from a wrestler who worked so hard at a second chance for success?

In recognition of Andre’s outstanding accomplishments at the 2009 Section VIII Individual Championships, Lighthouse Wrestling names Andre Berry the Wrestler of the Week for February 23, 2009.  We asked Andre if he would underscore this recognition by answering some questions.

LHW: Congratulations on an outstanding championship tournament.  To win this tournament, you needed to get passed the first seed and then the second seed wrestlers, what were thoughts going into the tournament, what was your strategy, how did you prepare?

Andre: Thank you. Well, going into the tournament I was seeded as the four seed. I honestly had to view that as what it was, and that was just a number. I couldn’t get too caught up in the entire brackets and seeding process. I did know there where other wrestlers at 140 lbs that wanted the same thing I wanted, a county title. I knew coming into the tournament that preparation would be crucial.  Because of my shortened season my focus was conditioning. My father and I prepared by going to the gym at 5 am every morning and my coach definitely took care of the afternoon workouts.

LHW: In your finals match against Eberlein, a finalist at 135 last year, it looked as though you were determined to have no regrets as you wrestled on fire.  What was your strategy going into the match?  Did you ever have any self-doubt?  How do you keep it in check?

Andre: I think we all deal with a little bit of self doubt at times, it’s only natural. I believe how we handle it is what matters. I think I do an okay job of dealing with the butterflies after the first whistle blows. As far as strategy, my strategy was similar for all my matches. My goal was to attack hard and fast and try to put the match out of reach early for my opponent.  I needed to make them come out of their comfort zone and do things they weren’t use to doing. It’s funny because I heard comments that suggested that I tired in the later minutes. That couldn’t be more false. I am in the best shape of my life right now. It’s kind of like a football team with a big lead in a game. Why throw the ball when you can run it and limit your mistakes. I know it doesn’t look as flashy but I think the goal is to win, isn’t it?

LHW: Earlier in the season you suffered an 8-6 overtime loss to Rob Mancino of East Meadow; then in the qualifying finals, you defeated him by a score of 11-0 to win the qualifier. That earlier loss seemed to mark the turning point in your season.  What significance if any did that loss have for you?  How have you prepared yourself since that match?

Andre: That was surely an eye opener for me. It was in January and it was my first match back. Against their wishes, I pushed my coach and my parents to let me come back to wrestle because I thought I was ready. Mentally I was ready but physically I wasn’t ready. I had a 6-1 lead I believe in the second period. I have to say that Mancino did a great job of taking advantage of my weakness. He is a hungry wrestler, he saw I was tired and he pushed hard. That loss taught me to never let my conditioning be a factor again, if I need to go high speed for six, trust me, I can and will.

LHW: It’s an outstanding acknowledgement of your achievements to earn both the Champion of Champion (voted on by the wrestlers) and the Most Outstanding Wrestler honors (voted on by the coaches).  How does it feel to have such distinguished recognition and what does it mean to you?

Andre: It is one thing to win counties which is an honor in itself. Then, I have a group of coaches that recognize my talent and accomplishments and they acknowledge me for that, I would like to truly thank them for that. However, I think the COC honors will stand out the most to me because this is from the guys that went through what I did to get here. They put aside any type of selfishness and self pride and chose me. That was big to me. I didn’t expect either one of these honors but they are truly and greatly appreciated.  Wow, a dream come true.

LHW: Why do you wrestle?

Andre: Well, I started in the seventh grade of middle school; I think I wrestled like two matches. At that point I decided I wasn’t going to wrestle again and that is when my father took over as middle school coach. Try getting out of that one. So in eighth grade after being forced to wrestle, I kind of fell in love with it. I love the sense of accomplishment of achieving victory. I guess you could say it was addicting.

LHW: That’s it for the serious stuff.  We’d like to ask you a bunch of fun questions, and we hope you find them to be fun as well. What’s your favorite song/Band?

Andre: “Unstoppable” by Drake. It’s my anthem for wrestling.

LHW: What’s your favorite movie?

Andre: “Superbad”. That has to be the most hilarious movie ever. It was just as funny the 99th time I watched it.

LHW: Speaking of movies, if Hollywood was to make a movie of your life, who do you want playing you?  Who do you want playing the leading lady (ies)?

Andre: Although he is not as good looking as I am, I would have to say Will Smith. My leading lady would be Beyonce. Now that I think of it, if Beyonce accepted the part, I would have to play myself for this one. I always wanted to be an actor anyway.

LHW: When not cutting weight, what are some of your favorite foods? Do you prefer mom’s home cooking or going to restaurants?

Andre: Hi, my name is Andre and I am a junk food addict. Seriously, I love all kinds of seafood and I go crazy for my grandma’s home cooking.

LHW: When not wrestling, what are some of your interests and/or hobbies?

Andre: Like other guys my age, I enjoy bowling, the movies or just hanging at home playing video games. I am a Madden beast.

LHW: What are three things most people don’t know about you that you think they would be surprised to learn?

1) My little brother Adrian is a 7th grade varsity wrestler. I think I am his biggest fan. I’m very proud of him.

2) My life long dream was to be a professional basketball player. That’s not looking too good right now.

3) Don’t tell anyone but my hair is not really blond.

LHW: Are there any final words you’d like to leave your adoring family, friends, and fans with?

Andre: To all the young and future wrestlers. If you work hard and believe, you can achieve just about anything.

I would like to thank: My mother it was your love and prayers that got me through the tough times. My father for your tough love that kept me inspired. My brothers and sisters for bugging me at the right times. My grandparents you have always been a great support and many ways to me. To Coach Godoy for teaching and pushing when I needed it. To my Knight teammates with a special shout out to Troy Sterling, Mike Walker and Miles Levy. To the Uniondale community for all your support, you guys are tight. And last but not least to all the people that have been leaving the comments on the blogs and forums about me, good or bad, keep it up, it’s truly motivating. My mom always tells me, if you are not talked about, you are not thought about, thanks for talking I owe this one to you.

Thank you Andre for taking the time to answer these questions with LHW….We’re all excited for your success so far this season, and we wish you God speed in your title bid in Albany.

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