Cooking Up the Wins
Published: January 24, 2013
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The relationship between a wrestler and his food is often cruel.
Delectable, creamy sweets test the willpower of a wrestler seeking to cut weight, of an athlete trying to get down to his lightest, yet most powerful, weight class.
Abington Heights senior wrestler Nick Senuk fights those same cravings, but instead of running away from the challenge of dropping weight, he has embraced food and seeks to make it a way of life.
You see, Senuk has a passion for food that may turn into his future.
"I want to open up a restaurant, and have it become profitable enough that I can open a second restaurant," Senuk said. "I always set my goals high and do my best to achieve them."
Senuk's idea is to run an upscale restaurant as well as a pub-style joint that features burgers and fried foods actually began a few years ago. His love for cooking began, innocently enough, when in the summer of his freshman year, he got a job as a dishwasher at Colarusso's in Clarks Summit. Liking what he was doing and dreaming big, the determined Senuk had something to chase after.
It also turned out that the restaurant business runs in his family's bloodlines.
"My mother's grandfather had a restaurant, which is another reason for wanting my own," Senuk said. "He owned Tallo's, which was on Main Avenue in West Scranton."
He puts in a lot of time to pursue this field, spending upwards of 25 hours a week at work, a little less during wrestling season.
"If it's not school, school work or wrestling, I'm there," Senuk said.
By starting at the bottom and moving up as jobs became available at Colarusso's, Senuk is seeing the restaurant business from a few different perspectives, and is honing his skills and mind with each day on the job.
"I worked my way up to the prepping line, like getting Wednesday's food ready on Tuesday," Senuk said. "Tenderizing the meat with a mallet, stuff like that."
He has big dreams, including moving away from Pennsylvania and taking his chances of restaurant success about as far away from the winter snows as possible. A recent trip to Las Vegas opened his eyes.
"I haven't traveled a lot, but I'd like to go out west," Senuk said. "I fell in love with the environment, the location, the atmosphere. The mountains out there were beautiful."
While formulating his life plan, Senuk has gotten off to a strong start on the mat for the Comets, as his determination to succeed spilled over into his athletics.
He has been winning most of his battles in wrestling this year, wrestling at a comfortable 138 pounds, but still isn't satisfied.
"I should be doing better. I suffered an illness, and it's causing me to not perform to the best of my abilities," Senuk said. "I started out with flu-like symptoms, but it turned out I had bronchitis."
It ruined what had been a strong start to the season, as he won his first seven bouts, including three straight to capture a title at the eight-team Nazareth Invitational, an effort he was especially proud of.
"Won with a tech (technical fall), a pin and a decision in overtime," Senuk said.
But his illness derailed him as he suffered his first loss, a disappointment, but one he should cast aside with positive thoughts. It came after the illness, and was to a state fourth-place medal winner.
"I've battled back. Still, getting victories is a plus," Senuk said.
Armed with a positive attitude, Senuk grinds his way through his busy season when he juggles Colarusso's with wrestling and school, attacking all three with the same intensity. Trying to be at his best in all of his endeavors has made an impact on his life, where lessons he has learned in one aspect carry over to other parts of his life.
For instance, his work life has given him insight on how to handle the challenges of school and sport.
"I've learned about time management there," Senuk said. "I know when things have to go out."
He applies that to his school work, setting up time frames to get assignments and projects done.
What he has picked up in wrestling will follow him in whatever he ultimately does with his life.
"It teaches you a lot more than just wrestling," Senuk said. "Wrestling has taught me discipline and about winning and losing."
"In life, you're not always going to win. I've learned how to bounce back and come back stronger than I was."
Senuk has dealt with the challenge of keeping his weight fairly steady with a smart plan of not over-indulging on the foods he likes. Like any wrestler keen on winning the battle with food, he fights the temptations of the foods that aren't the best for him.
"I enjoy chicken with pasta," Senuk said. "There are so many ways for them to go together, with different sauces, different pastas and chicken."
"I have a very strict diet," he continued. "I know what I have to do to make weight. I started 12 pounds over my weight class, but now I'm down to four. But I like ice cream, milk shakes, steak and cheese and pizza."
He is looking to the next step in his career, being accepted in the College of Culinary Arts at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, R.I. He may have the chance to keep pursuing wrestling as the Wildcats are ranked among the top 30 colleges in Division III. But he knows whatever comes up, his life has him prepared for whatever challenges lie ahead.
"I'd like to wrestle, but I don't know much about the program," Senuk said. "They seem interested, and I'm very interested."
Interested in food, in wrestling and in working hard, Senuk hopes to achieve all of his many personal goals. And he'll savor the flavor the spice of life gives him along the way.