Sunday, July 15, 2007

`Little runt' grew up to become a champion

When Fremont Coach Bobby Soto saw Boris Novachkov for the first time in 2003, the Bulgarian native weighed 85 pounds dripping wet.
But Soto could see that the slender youngster was one of the most naturally gifted wrestlers he had ever encountered.

Four years and 40 pounds later, Novachkov is graduating from Fremont High as the most decorated wrestler in school history, with two state championships under his belt and a scholarship to Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo in hand.

"He was a little runt when he first came to the room," Soto said with a laugh. "We joked that I used to be able to control him with my index finger. Now I have to give everything I have and use my whole body."

Novachkov was a national freestyle champion in Bulgaria before moving to Sunnyvale in 2003 with his parents and older brother Filip, the 2005 Mercury News wrestler of the year who won a state title in 2006 and is on scholarship at Cal-Poly SLO.

But as a freshman, Boris was too light and didn't earn a spot on the varsity because Filip wrestled at 103 pounds.

"We teased him, saying he went from Bulgarian national champion to a junior-varsity league champion when he came to America," said Soto, who coaches Fremont with Erik Duus.

But the teasing didn't last long. In summer 2005, Boris won national junior titles in freestyle and Greco-Roman.

"It was a little frustrating not being able to compete as a freshman, and everyone joked with me about it," Novachkov said.

"But when I won those national titles, I knew my time would come."
He followed that by cruising to the CIF state title at 103 pounds, the same year Filip won at 119 and teammate Greg Crane won at 160.

"That was my best memory - it was special because we all won it together," Boris said.

When Novachkov moved up three weight classes to 125 pounds for his senior season, some thought he wouldn't have the strength to compete there. But he dispelled those notions in December by winning the Walsh Ironman Invitational in Ohio, considered one of the toughest tournaments in the nation.

"I want to win at everything I do, whether I'm running or wrestling or playing any sport," Novachkov said. "I just don't like the feeling of losing."

He defeated Los Gatos' Naveed Bagheri 8-1 for his second consecutive Central Coast Section title, then rolled through the competition at the state meet, beating Freedom's David Prado 7-1 to win the title.

"Boris' balance is amazing, and he knows how to use hips so well, he is never in a bad position," Bagheri said. "I learned something and came out better for it every time I wrestled him."

Now Novachkov is embarking on a new phase of his wrestling career, and many think the sky is the limit.

"Boris wins because of his mentality - he has goals that are far beyond those of regular high school kids," Soto said. "He has Olympic aspirations - he is looking at the highest accomplishment you can make in wrestling."

First he will work toward his goal of winning at Cal Poly.

"Boris is so technically advanced, nobody can really do anything against him," Cal Poly Coach John Azevedo said. "He'll need to get used to the physical nature of college wrestling, but I think both he and Filip can become NCAA champions. They are going to make an impact"

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