Once 360 pounds, Washington Twp. wrestler loses weight, gains starting spot – NJ.com

Washington Township’s Shane Tait wrestles Hunterdon Central’s Ryan Seemon in a 285-lb bout during the Beast of the East Wrestling Tournament at University of Delaware in Newark, D.E., Saturday, Dec. 17, 2022.Joe Warner | For NJ Advance Media
Shane Tait’s goals when he joined the Washington Township wrestling program as a sophomore were simple and had nothing to do with his success in the sport.
At 360 pounds, Tait needed a lifestyle change and thought wrestling was just the sport to give it to him.
Two years later, Tait is down nearly 100 pounds and is now an important member of the starting lineup for a 13-1 team which is ranked No. 16 in the state. He now easily makes the 285-pound weight class that took him two years to reach.
“I was 360, I needed to change my life and I didn’t want to die at a young age or have health problems,” said Tait after the Minutemen’s 35-27 win over Paulsboro Friday. “I thought maybe if I wrestle, it will make me mature and get me into shape. The first year I wasn’t really trying, and I had a hard time (losing weight) because of the COVID year, so I lost about 30 pounds.
“Last season I started out at 335 and ended up 265. I still feel like there’s more I can do to make myself look better, but I’m really happy with how far I came.”
Tait wasn’t originally sure the commitment would last more than a week but something funny happened on the way to using the sport to become a healthier version of himself.
“It turned into me really liking it, and here I am now,” said Tait, who lifts and wrestles at the Patriot Wrestling Club in the offseason.
Tait joined the starting lineup a week ago when John Stone, the starter for the last year-and-a-half and a state qualifier in 2022, graduated and left to join the Rutgers football team. Tait won all three matches last Saturday after taking over the starting spot and on Friday night delivered a key 6-3 decision at heavyweight that snapped a 24-all tie and propelled the Minutemen to the victory over Paulsboro.
“Shane came to the program, he was almost 400 pounds and he put a lot of time in and made a lot of effort to make himself healthy,” said Washington Township coach Eric Ring. “It started off at the beginning, we’re going to help this kid, quote, unquote, save his life, that type of deal. Slowly and surely, he kept working hard and getting better, and I think just recently he realized I might be able to be all right at this.
“That first quad he got into some spots and he was exhausted, but he kept pushing and we said, man, we didn’t know he had this in him and I don’t think he did either. He said after those matches he was going to pick it up and start running harder on the track, so it’s great to see him grow.”
While excited to be in the lineup, Tait said he was in no hurry for his fellow senior to depart for Rutgers so he could move into the spot.
“I was actually really nervous, I’ve never been a varsity starter in a sport in my life,” said Tait, who also played one year of football. “Originally (Stone) wasn’t going to wrestle at all. It turns out he wanted to wrestle until the beginning of January, but that gave me more time to get ready until the spot was mine after I only wrestled four times all last year.
“I can’t slack off now. I have to win more matches like I did tonight.”
Ring said Stone face-timed the team when they were on the bus after they swept their quad meet last Saturday – the day the all-state lineman moved into Rutgers – and his replacement went 3-0.
“The Stone dynamic was great, they were great with each other, they helped each other a lot and Stone helped Shane get ready for when it was go-time,” said Ring. “It was a unique situation, and it was great watching those two together.”
Tait did wrestle at the prestigious Beast of the East to start the season because Stone was on his recruiting visit and won his opening match before losing the next two. He is 5-3 overall this season.
“Those kids (at the Beast) are the best, I didn’t even think I’d win one,” said Tait.
Asked if he set any goals for himself now that he’s a varsity starter, Tait said he didn’t.
“I’ve already achieved my goals,” said Tait. “I just want to get better from here.”
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Bill Evans covers the BCSL, Cape-Atlantic, Colonial, Olympic and Tri-County Conference. He can be reached at bevans@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @BEvansSports.
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