A reigning state champion headed to an Ivy League school who lives on a farm, where he slaughters cows and cuts firewood, Lewis Fernandes has parlayed brains and brawn into a record-setting scholastic career.
Fernandes, who has registered the most pins in Voorhees High School history and is on pace to become the program’s winningest wrestler, recently set what is believed to be a national record for 285-pounders with a three-second fall .
“Everyone was shocked,” Fernandes said of his pin, which came against an opponent from Hopatcong during a quad meet two weeks ago. “People came up to me and said they blinked or looked away or were looking down at their phones and it was literally over.”
FloWrestling and InterMat currently rank Fernandes, who is committed to Cornell University, which is ranked among the Top 10 college programs nationally, as the sixth best heavyweight in the country.
According to the latest data from the National Federation of High School Associations and Wrestling USA, Fernandes’ pin is the fastest ever in the country for 285-pounders.
“As soon as the whistle blew, I went forward right away and blast doubled the kid,” Fernandes explained. “I held him on his back and squeezed as hard as I could and the ref called the pin. When your adrenalin is going, you’re not ready to do the math. The clock said a minute and 57 seconds. I didn’t realize it was a three-second pin until I came off the mat and my coaches said, ‘Nice job.’”
No video of the fall exists because the individual in charge of recording the bout was not as quick as Fernandes on the draw.
“It was impressive for any kid at any size and any weight,” Voorhees coach Eric Hall said of the pin. “He (the Hopatcong wrestler) went flat to his back and Lewis pounced on him. I credit that to his strength and his size and his speed. He covered him and the ref did a good job of identifying that when he was turning the corner to make the call.”
The previous national record for 285-pounders, according to the NFHS record book, was four seconds, a mark Wyoming’s Justin Irene set in 2013. North Dakota’s John Fors, and Georgia’s Ben England recorded three-second pins in 1990 and 1995, respectively, at 275 pounds, according to the NFHS record book. The national federation changed the largest weight class from 275 pounds to 285 pounds 13 years ago.
Owner of 123-22 career record, Fernandes, who last year became Voorhees’ first state champion since John Brienza won a 130-pound title in 1998, needs 13 more wins to break the school record for victories, which Jadaen Bernstein set five years ago.
Growing up on his family’s working farm in Tewksbury with cattle, chickens, pigs and other animals, Fernandes and his older brothers, Michael (Voorhees Class of ’17) and Scott (Voorhees Class of ’18), benefitted from physical labor.
“You’ve got to mow the lawn, take care of the chickens, take care of the pigs, slaughter the cows,” Fernandes said, adding that he and his siblings also chop down trees for firewood to keep the house warm in the winter.
Of his work around the farm, which includes carting 200-pound logs that need to be lifted and placed on a splitter, “you don’t even notice it’s getting you stronger, but it does for sure.” Fernandes also credits Scott, who recorded 115 career wins, and Michael, who logged 110 career victories, with enabling him to become the family’s best wrestler.
“One day, I kind of got to their level with the way they pushed me so far,” Fernandes said. “The competitiveness between me and my brothers, that’s what really pushed me throughout my career.”
Fernandes said he and his siblings also received tremendous support from their parents, Robert and Gina, who Hall credits with raising three gentlemen.
“They were raised the right way,” Hall said. “Lewis was raised to work hard and to respect adults. I really believe that work ethic and constant drive that he has, you see that in maybe 1 out of 100 kids. He is so driven to be successful and to be good and ultimately great. I think that’s what separates him from so many kids that come through this sport, which is very difficult and hard to master. And he’s done it. He’s got a ton of potential. I can’t wait to see him wrestle in college.”
Fernandes said he chose Cornell University, where he plans to major in business, because he desired an Ivy League education and because he perceives the school’s wrestling program to be a family.
“What it came down to is the guys there are amazing people, something like no other (school) I visited,” said Fernandes, who Big Ten and ACC schools recruited. “No one really had that family atmosphere like (Cornell) did. I value my education and they are a Top 5 program.”
Hall said Fernandes also possesses a unique combination of strength and sensitivity to human pathos, the latter of which the wrestler felt for his opponent following the three-second pin.
“I felt kind of bad,” Fernandes said, adding that he never meant to show up his opponent. “It (the national record) is just another pin for me.”