After not making the varsity wrestling team his freshman year of high school, Bob DeProspero, a 1981 Robinson graduate, went on to win all but one match in the remaining three years of his high school career. He thus became a three-time state champion.
"I watched him beat up on people," said Fairfax High School's wrestling coach for the last 28 years, Mitch Sutterfield, when asked if he remembers coaching against DeProspero.
Sutterfield added that DeProspero's only loss was the greatest wrestling match he had seen. He said the mat-room was full of spectators who went crazy after seeing an underdog Oakton wrestler pin DeProspero. DeProspero remembers it well, also.
He said it was the Northern Region final of his senior year, 1981, and he got caught in a head lock and then pinned by an Oakton wrestler. DeProspero went on to beat that Oakton wrestler in the state finals. "I was okay with it," said DeProspero. "The news made the front page of the Washington Post Sports section, and I didn't understand what the big deal was."
In 1979, as a sophomore, DeProspero won the Virginia state title in the 98-pound category. In 1980 he was the 105-pound state champion. In 1981, his senior year, DeProspero won the 112-pound state title.
HE SAID his father had a great influence on him as a wrestler. An old high school and college wrestler, his father started teaching Bob DeProspero wrestling at the ripe age of four. DeProspero continued to learn, some from his father and some from attending camps. After not making the varsity squad his freshman year at West Springfield High School, Bob DeProspero continued to wrestle in a local junior wrestling league. He said typically high school kids left the league to compete for their schools, but he thought the league offered better quality wrestling than junior varsity at high school.
The summer between his freshman and sophomore years, the DeProspero family moved, and he transferred to Robinson. The rest is history: three state, two regional and three district individual titles as a Ram.
"IT IS EASIER to be small and excel in wrestling than in any other sport," said DeProspero of his success. He said his greatest strength was his proficiency, an ability to put opponents in places where they didn't want to be, and then meet them there. "My dad and I would laugh because everyone thought I was lightning quick," he said.
"He was a man among boys," said Bryan Hazard, the wrestling coach at Robinson for the last 10 years. "His holds were better, his sense of body position was better. I molded my style after him," said Hazard, who graduated from Robinson in 1991, and remembers watching DeProspero wrestle in the high school's mat-room.
On top of his personal accomplishments as a high school wrestler, in his three years at Robinson DeProspero also won two team state titles, two team regional titles and three team district championships. In those three seasons, Robinson recorded a 35-1 record.
DeProspero remembers the first of the two team state titles. It was his junior year, 1980, and a Northern Region school had not won a AAA or IA state title since the sport's VHSL inception in 1963. DeProspero asked coach John Epperly what he had to do in order for Robinson to win the team title. The coach told him if he won his match by a major decision, more than eight points, it would be impossible for Gar-Field to take the championship away from the Rams. At one point during his match, DeProspero let his opponent take a point away, putting himself in danger of being pinned and losing the whole match. He took the gamble in order to take the opponent down later for two points. The gamble paid off, and DeProspero won his match by more than eight points. The Rams became the first Northern Region team to win the VHSL AAA state title.
AFTER HIGH SCHOOL DeProspero went to Oklahoma University, but ankle injuries kept him away from titles. He said his college career did not live up to what many expected of him. At one point during his college career, DeProspero was ranked 10th in the country, but then re-aggravated the ankle injury. The injuries came to a point where he was told he would either have to stop wrestling, or have an experimental surgery. DeProspero chose to stop competing, as he wanted to be healthy for a later family life.
He spent time as an assistant coach at the university, helping younger wrestlers develop better wrestling techniques. He also returned to the local area in the summer, where he ran intensive camps, and during Christmas breaks, when he would wrestle with some of the new Robinson wrestlers.
He moved to Texas where he started a wrestling club with a teammate from Oklahoma. One of their prospects recently finished second in the Texas High School state tournament.
DeProspero attributes his life successes directly to his success in the mat-room. He said he tells the wrestlers in his club in Texas all the time that wrestling teaches life. "[Wrestling] more than anything prepared me for life," said DeProspero.
Don't Forget About: John Epperly, Jr.
Another three-time individual state champion Robinson wrestler is John Epperly, Jr., the son of the Robinson wrestling coach who coached DeProspero. Epperly won the 105-pound title in 1982 as a freshman. In 1983 he was the 112-pound champion, and in 1985 the 126-pound champion. He was also a four-time district and a four-time regional champion.
"[Epperly] would have been a four-timer [state champion] but he got really ill his junior year during the state tournament," said Hazard.
DeProspero said Epperly had superior technique. He added that he and Epperly prided themselves on always being in top shape conditionally.
"DeProspero and Epperly are the two best wrestlers to ever come out of the state of Virginia," said Hazard.
During Epperly's four years at Robinson, the Rams won one team state title, three team regional titles and three team district titles, boasting a 44-3-1 record. Epperly went on to wrestle at Lehigh University, where he became a two-time All-American in 1988 and 1989.
Bob DeProspero is 65 in a survey of the area's Top 100 Athletes by Connection Newspapers in 2000.