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Kosman masters art of discipline on and off wrestling mat

Groton — You are a parent. You worry. About a lot of things. Like every time your kid leaves the house or how to pay for college.

Now imagine being Mark and Nancy Kosman. Imagine worrying about whether your teenage boy eats too much. Ha. Good one. A teenage boy. They ring up grocery bills that can rival the Gross National Product of Argentina.

But if Jarod Kosman, who became local sporting royalty last week, one of but five wrestlers ever to win four Eastern Connecticut Conference championships, eats too much — or too much of the wrong thing ...

"Russian Roulette," Nancy Kosman said.

Jarod Kosman, a senior at Fitch, has been on a strict diet since the age of eight. He's 18 now. And only this past August did he discover the name of his ultimately rare affliction: Urea Cycle Disorder.

"We always knew his condition was related to the protein he ate," Nancy Kosman was saying last week. "But we never knew exactly what it was till this past August. Jarod's body lacks an amino acid and enzyme that works his urea cycle as it relates to how protein gets broken down in your body."

Hence, the four-time champ is relegated to 40 grams of protein per day. That's the equivalent of a protein shake. He eats no meat and no dairy, essentially adopting a Vegan diet. A strictly monitored Vegan diet. And remember: the combination of teenage boy and first-rate wrestler would normally produce somebody who could eat more than Charles Barkley.

"In the morning, I sauté vegetables and I have to measure them," Nancy Kosman said. "A cup of broccoli has three grams of protein. There's nothing he can eat unlimitedly. He has to count everything he eats."

And if he doesn't?

"It's about how much his body can take," Nancy Kosman said. "He's such a machine right now with what he eats and wrestling has him so disciplined. But if he one day, say, eats a lot of food, his body wouldn't be able to handle it. The ammonia in the protein would become toxic. He would become encephalitic. He'd act like he's drunk. He could go into a coma."

Jarod Kosman has lived with this since he was eight. Maybe that's why his dad, Mark, who is also his coach at Fitch, wept last week at the ECC tournament. His son made history in Fitch's home gym. All that work, all that discipline, all that sacrifice converges on a magical night.

And yet while dad cries and mom measures, sonny boy is just a regular kid with a unique outlook. It has been suggested that you never take time to dissect the moment when you are involved in it. Discipline is a fact of existence for him.

"It's not that bad. I do eat healthy," Jarod Kosman said. "It helps me out in the long run. I'm not one to complain. For some people, it's a lifestyle choice. Vegans to this voluntarily. Plus, wrestling is about staying focused. Same thing with my condition. Don't stray. Don't get sloppy with anything."

Still, kids eat bad food. It's part of the fun. Most kids subscribe to the theory of "broccoli is not for me, not even possibly." Bring on the wings.

"I know it stinks when he watches his friends eat a pizza or a burger," Nancy Kosman said, "and Jarod has his little teeny hummus cup."

Moreover, he takes medication three times per day, including a synthetic enzyme that helps the body — whose vagaries we all take for granted — working better than it has in most of Jarod Kosman's life.

"When he was little, I'd say, 'Jarod, eat this pork and I'll pay you,'" Nancy Kosman said. "But it's like his body knew not to eat meat. What kid doesn't eat a hot dog? But his body kinda knew.

"It's such a rare disease. They're still learning. It's amazing how far genetics have come. I can't say enough about his team at Yale."

Then Jarod's mom paused and said, "You know, the last two years, there have been times Jarod was a real pain in the (rear). But we found out that he was probably having ammonia spikes."

Jarod Kosman, who goes to the Class L tournament this weekend as the No. 1 seed, will wrestle in college. But his college of choice must come with a genetic center nearby.

"He has a 3-page protocol that his geneticist handed me," Nancy Kosman said. "If 9-1-1 were to be called, they wouldn't know how to treat him."

All of which makes this story of a four-time ECC champ another in the conga line of examples that the human body is one complicated apparatus.

"Anyone who knows me knows I'm a control freak and a hard ass," Nancy Kosman said. "I swear God gave me Jarod because it's my mission. He's not going to fail on my watch. I won't allow it. I make sure he eats. He doesn't need me. He can do his meds himself and can cook himself. But I'm there to make his life easier."

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro


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