It was summer break, but Hoosick Falls state champion Luis Weierbach was up before 6:00 in the morning and running by 6:30. At the Ranger Intensive wrestling camp at West Point in July, that was just the start of the day’s exercise, which also included three practices per day.
“I got an inside look at Cadet life,” Weierbach said of the experience. “The counselors were Cadets, so they gave us inside knowledge on what to expect and I got to know the coaching staff. It was intense. The atmosphere there reaffirmed what I already thought I wanted for my future and told me that West Point was where I needed to go.”
Weierbach captured the attention of the Army staff during his time on campus and a few days ago he made things official, as he gave a verbal commitment to head coach Joe Heskett and the Black Knights.
The decision wasn’t a surprise to those familiar with the Section 2 star. Weierbach has known for quite some time that the military would be an important part of his life. (He also considered the Naval and Merchant Marine Academies).
“At a very young age, I knew I wanted to serve,” Weierbach said. “My grandfather was a Marine. He left service life behind when he passed, and I felt that legacy was left to me. I realized early on that service academies have a lot to offer.”
He saw a lot more of what the United States Military Academy offers during his time at the Ranger camp.
“We ran a lot, so I had a chance to see a lot of the campus,” Weierbach said. “Additionally, there were leadership seminars, where we learned about West Point and the military. The speakers talked about qualities common among Cadets and also general life lessons. I really took a lot from these leadership seminars – it was really insightful information.”
While Weierbach was the recipient of insightful information at those presentations, he also has experience on the other side of leadership seminars – as the teacher.
Earlier this year, the senior was a keynote speaker at the “Life of An Athlete” conference in Lake Placid along with his school’s superintendent. The audiences included students from various parts of the country as well as school administrators and staff.
“The conference in general was about how an athlete should live including nutrition, fitness and a healthy lifestyle,” Weierbach said. “We talked about our Hoosick Falls Code of Conduct and how implementing it has impacted our sports performance over the past few years.”
As a freshman, he qualified for the state tournament and went 2-2, just missing All-State status. As a tenth grader, he moved up the ladder, earning fifth place at 99 pounds. Then, in 2012-13, Weierbach made another leap, putting together a perfect 37-0 campaign at 106 pounds in which he won 30 bouts by bonus points.
What helped him get to that next level?
“The mental game changed for me,” he said. “I realized that while this sport is largely defined by athleticism, strength, speed and technique, a lot of it comes down to the mental aspect. It’s one of the things my coach, Landon Nelson, has helped me with – being mentally prepared, envisioning possible scenarios and taking no opponent lightly. Whether it’s the first match of the season at a small tournament or the state finals match, you need to have the same mentality.”
That approach definitely came in handy in Albany, in his third appearance at the biggest event of the New York high school season.
“The atmosphere at the state tournament can make or break any wrestler,” Weierbach said. “Having that experience before was definitely an advantage. I was nervous my freshman year, but by last year, I was used to it. I would go so far as to say that having my supporters there empowered me and motivated me to do better.”
He began strong, pinning Brody Sheppard in just over three minutes in his opening contest before recording a pair of shutout decisions in rounds two and three. And then, wearing a “throwback” Hoosick Falls singlet, Weierbach defeated Dolgeville’s Danny Fox 3-1 in the title bout to strike gold.
“The state title was the product of so many hours of hard work, so in that regard, I appreciate it more than anything else in my career,” he said. “But what was most special about the state title was that it was the first one in my school’s history. More exciting than hearing them say ‘Weierbach’ when they were announcing the winners was when they said ‘Hoosick Falls’. I wore the throwback singlet to show that I represent Hoosick Falls. I would not have accomplished it without the support of my team, my coach and the whole community.”
That’s a theme that’s very important to the future Army 125 pounder. Weierbach emphasized on a number of occasions that his championship was the product of the efforts of many around him.
“We set the goal of bringing home a state title at the beginning of the season – myself, my coach and my team – not just me,” he said. “I think in wrestling it’s often misunderstood that it’s an individual sport because you’re the only one on the mat. I’ve played football, baseball and soccer and I think wrestling is just as much a team sport. In the room, behind the scenes, when the opponent isn’t watching, there’s a team effort to develop the speed, technique and toughness to go out on the mat alone. Nolan Foster was my main workout partner and he really stepped up his game this year. He was excellent. He pushed me and I wouldn’t have done what I did without him, my other partners or my coach.”
So what’s next?
Weierbach said his offseason regimen “isn’t typical of a state champion.” He wrestles with Journeymen at some tournaments, trying to get in around 20 matches. But he also has a lot of other things on his plate, including working at his high school doing maintenance and being a lifeguard at the town pool.
“I try to stay active all the time,” he said. “I drill with the New York National Guard, so that certainly keeps me in shape. Right now, I’m playing varsity soccer, which I love too. But once the wrestling season starts, it’s game on and wrestling gets my attention.”
It’s had his attention in the winter season since he first discovered the sport upon arriving in Hoosick Falls as a seventh grader.
“I grew up in New York City and I never knew about the sport of wrestling until I moved,” he said. “I never even heard of it outside of what we see on TV [in the WWE]. I’m certainly glad that I got involved. I never would have thought I’d end up where I am now with wrestling.”
He did, however, think he’d end up serving his country. That journey begins next fall when he moves to West Point. For now, though, he has a few more things left to achieve.
“I haven’t decided on what weight I’ll wrestle next year, but one thing’s for sure,” he said. “We will work harder than anyone in New York State and refine and perfect and do whatever is necessary to win another state title.”
Luis Weierbach said that there were so many people who have helped him behind the scenes that he couldn’t mention them all by name and didn’t want to leave anyone out. He wanted to thank Hoosick Falls – a community that has supported him over the years and made his accomplishments possible.