- March 6, 2023
Braden River senior Chance Sharbono’s first time on the wrestling mat came when he was 6 months old.
His father, Christian Sharbono, had a college reunion at the University of North Carolina-Pembroke, where he himself wrestled. He brought Chance along, and decided to place him on the mat in a Braves' T-shirt.
It was in his blood.
After finishing third in the 138-pound division of the Class 2A tournament last year, Sharbono has proven he is one of the state's elite high school wrestlers. Considering his background, it might seem everything comes natural to him.
But it was still a lot of work.
Sharbono does not have a typical chiseled wrestler’s body. His father, Christian Sharbono, said he was “a little pudgy” in his youth. That never stopped him.
Instead, it motivated him to work harder. Everything that Sharbono has accomplished has come less from natural gifts and more from his tenacious attitude.
Around sixth grade, Sharbono started to develop. He got stronger, and learned which moves were most effective. He became comfortable with his balance anywhere on the mat. He started winning more, and he never slowed down.
Now, Sharbono’s workout routine is what sets him apart from everyone else. After the usual team practice, he will head for a 30-mile bike ride. Two to three days a week, he does an additional low-weight, high-rep cardio lift session. He does all of this because, simply, it's what he needs to be the best.
“This was not me pushing him,” Christian Sharbono said of his son. “This was him pushing him.”
Sharbono said the hardest thing about wrestling isn’t the grueling workouts, or the matches themselves, or studying tape for technique. It’s making weight.
“I like to eat,” Sharbono said.
He still wrestles at 138 pounds. Every Monday morning he gets his metabolism going with coffee. It helps him throughout the week, he said. For lunch, he’ll have a small sandwich, the type varying. Then three times throughout the day, he’ll have a peanut butter energy ball.
The rest of the week follows suit.
Sunday is his cheat day, and Sharbono’s favorite guilty pleasure is Italian food, especially meatballs.
He is not a typical jock. He spends most of his spare time playing video games. Christian Sharbono said his son is just as content to play games with his online friends as he is to hang out with his local friends.
Before a match, Sharbono queues up old Taylor Swift songs on his phone, instead of hip-hop or rock. The strategy was taught to him as a freshman by Fox Baldwin, a former state wrestling champion at Osceola High School who is now at the University of Virginia. Sharbono thinks of Baldwin as a role model. Baldwin had listened to Swift getting warmed up for a match and Sharbono watched. Right before the match, Baldwin called Sharbono over, popped his headphones over Sharbono’s ears and left for the mat. Baldwin then tech-pinned his opponent in the second round, and Sharbono has followed his lead ever since.
At a Braden River practice session, Sharbono now has people following his lead. He leads the team through warm-up drills, looking over at coach Damon Eikenhorst for a nod of approval. He also teaches basic technique to the new members of the team, slowly walking through single-leg takedowns and other moves step by step. He pauses to explain why he’s doing something or why the move works. If someone doesn’t understand, he does the move again.
“I love passing on technique,” Sharbono said. “This needs to be out there. Wrestling can’t die. It’s one of the original sports, dating back to the Greeks and Romans.”
Sharbono loves wrestling because it is completely one-on-one. There’s no wiggle room to blame failures on other people.
He plans on majoring in either electrical or mechanical engineering when he gets to college. For the Sharbonos, wrestling is first and foremost a way to obtain an education.
“I want to find a way to supply clean energy to the world in a world in a less costly manner,” Sharbono said.
He is looking at smaller schools and has visited Wheaton College in Illinois, and plans on visiting Benedictine College (Kan.) and Roger Williams University (R.I.) in March, once the state tournament is over.
Sharbono has not forgotten how last year’s ended. He’s come tantalizingly close to his goal, and feels like he should have won it all. It’s not a good memory, but it is an important one, because it’s driving him to make sure this year’s tournament has a different ending.
“This year, it will be me jumping into my coach’s arms,” Sharbono said. “I am not letting my senior year escape without a state title. No way.”