Osei's Discusses Past as Star Pa. Wrestler

PISCATAWAY, N.J. — Before David Osei was the starting center of the Rutgers football team, he was one of the best high-school wrestlers in the country. During the bye week, Osei discussed his past as a heavyweight wrestler and how it helps him in football with ScarletReport.com

PISCATAWAY, N.J. — As the head coach of a Division I program, Greg Schiano spends much of his free time visiting high school football games for scouting and recruiting.

Wrestling is not usually on the agenda, but Schiano traveled to one in Eastern Pennsylvania three years ago to see a budding star in David Osei.

Schiano came to see Osei, the 13th member of his 2009 recruiting class, wrestle for Abington High School (Pa.) against arch-rival Pennsbury (Pa.), but did not see the show he was hoping for.

Because by the time Schiano sat down with his hot dog and soda, Osei's night was over.

"My match lasted like six seconds before I pinned him," said Osei, who makes his third career start this weekend against Ohio. "[Coach Schiano] joked with me after. He went all the way over to see me and by the time he sat down, it was over. I saw him right before. I had the first match, so I saw him when I walked out there. Right after, I just hit a good move and it was over."

Osei won 132 times in high school and ranked as high as No. 8 in the country, but chose football over a future as a college wrestler.

"I always wanted to play football," Osei said. "I joined wrestling to get better at football and I just liked it. I was good at it. All of my friends were on the team, so I stuck with it. I wound up getting better and better. I think [my wrestling background] helps me a lot, especially in pass protection. I already so much about control of your body and leverage and I think that's kind of why."

Rutgers has a long list of successes in recruiting high-school wrestlers, most recently Kevin Malast and Alex Silvestro.

The toughest adjustments for wrestlers going to football are in putting weight back on for football. Osei, who wrestled in the 230s in high school, bulked up to 285 pounds in his two-plus years since coming to Rutgers.

Abington wrestling coach Jeff Franko, who taught Osei to wrestle, remains in close contact with his star pupil to this day. Osei gave Franko tickets for his first career start against N.C. Central and will play in front of his former coach again Saturday against Ohio.

"It was an awesome thing," Franko said on watching Osei earn a starting job. "The thing is, he was about 245 pounds when he left Abington and Rutgers was on him. I give Schiano a lot of credit. He had a lot of foresight and saw his potential. He was definitely undersized for a lineman, but now he's a legitimate 285.

"I'm not surprised he put on the weight, but the thing with Dave, is that there is no fat on him. A lot of linemen kind of have those jellyroll stomachs, but David's is legit muscle. They put it on his upper body. He always had stronger legs and thighs and now, his upper half. Two years of solid lifting as a backup put him where he is today. He paid his dues and now he's at the top of the depth chart."

Franko, like Schiano, said he thinks Osei projects well as a tackle because of his athleticism and strength.

"The thing about David is that he may be soft-spoken socially, but he's a born leader," Franko said. "He's very smart and as a blocker he can have a mean-streak and lay into some people."

Osei's first career start did not go as smoothly as he would have liked, he said, but major improvements were made against North Carolina.

Schiano credited Osei with major improvements, particularly in the mental part of playing center.

"I'm starting to get everything now," Osei said. "In my first game, I thought I understood, but I still had some nerves. I get it now and I think I did a lot better after having that game experience. The first time out there, you're like ‘oh man,' but then you kind of calm down and just play football."

Like the rest of the offensive line, Osei said he would like to improve his run-blocking for when Ohio comes to town.

"It comes back to my wrestling days," Osei said. "I'm so comfortable in pass-blocking because I was 235 when I wrestled heavyweight. I'm used to leveraging guys. That's what I do best right now. I'm used to controlling the other guy. It's the run blocking that I know I can do better."

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