0

Mr. Tough Guy: Lions' Petrushev growing into a strong wrestler

Tsvetomir Petrushev was born in Bulgaria and moved to the U.S. as a child. Last season, he won the Class AAAAA state championship as a freshman at Peachtree Ridge, a rare feat in the state’s highest classification. 

Tsvetomir Petrushev was born in Bulgaria and moved to the U.S. as a child. Last season, he won the Class AAAAA state championship as a freshman at Peachtree Ridge, a rare feat in the state’s highest classification. 

Peachtree Ridge wrestling coach Danny Sinnott needs just one word to describe Tsvetomir Petrushev — tough.

It may seem like a common trait for a wrestler to have, but with Petrushev it’s different.

“He’s one of the toughest, hard-nosed kids I’ve coached,” Sinnott said. “He was either raised that way or just has it from the get-to. I think it’s a mixture. It’s hard to coach toughness.”

The Petrushev File

Who: Tsvetomir Petrushev

Sport: Wrestling

School: Peachtree Ridge

Class: Sophomore

Favorite movie: “Never Back Down”

Favorite sports team: Atlanta Falcons

Dream job: UFC fighter

Noteworthy:

• Won Class AAAAA state championship last season

• Maintains 3.4 GPA

• Moved from Bulgaria when he was 6

• Holds a blue belt in Brazilian Ju-Jitsu

• Won North American Grappling Association world title

Just take his state semifinals match from last year as an example. Petrushev was nearly taken down three times by Kennesaw Mountain’s Jonathan Rivera. Petrushev fought off the takedowns and the duo went to overtime. That’s where Petrushev was able to pull off a 2-1, double overtime victory over the defending state champion.

“When I got into the second and third overtime, I felt like I’ve gone this far nothing will stop me. I’m going to finish what I started,” Petrushev said. “It was close. It was definitely a hand-sweating moment. It was awesome. It was a good feeling.”

Petrushev believes he gets his toughness from his early childhood. He was born in Bulgaria, which is known for producing Olympic gold medal wrestlers, and moved to the U.S. when he was 6. He sports a scar underneath his right cheek from a fall when he was 4 while growing up on a rural farm.

Like a lot of immigrants, his family moved to the U.S. for a better opportunity and a better education. He struggled to learn English his first few years in the U.S. and as a chubby kid, he didn’t have many friends.

Things started to change when he began wrestling in fifth grade. He wasn’t very good and after crying every time he kept losing to the same opponent, he decided to make a change.

Petrushev took more of an interest in the sport and won kids state championships as a seventh- and eighth-grader.

He continued his title run last year by winning the 152-pound Class AAAAA state title, a rare feat for a freshman in the state’s top classification.

“The biggest thing with him is he’s just tough,” Sinnott said. “He’s strong, physically strong and just tough. Some kids have that technical, slick-type thing. He’s more just flat out tough. The cool thing about it is he’s still got a lot to learn.”

Petrushev has been hit with a nagging injury this season, which hasn’t allowed him to wrestle much this year. But he sports an 8-0 record, which includes a Gwinnett County championship.

He’s bumped up two weight classes to 171 pounds this season, yet is still the favorite to repeat as a state champion.

“As the defending champion, I’m not slowing down any or dwelling on past accomplishments,” Petrushev said. “I know people are hungry for me and are going after me. I’ll be more prepared this year than last year.”

It has been a year and one day since Petrushev’s last loss when he wrestled up a weight class. He went 39-4 last year with 14 pins, with the two biggest wins at the state tournament.

“I think my mental toughness is the thing that helps me the most,” Petrushev said.

“There’s been moments where I’ve been tired and wanted to give up in a match and quit. But that’s not how I’ve been raised. My family, we never quit, that’s how I’ve been raised. My mental toughness got me physical, tough and strong.”