UB Bull James O'Hagan adjusts to new weight expectations after high school wrestling career

Center O’Hagan talks weight expectations for each sport


Before James O’Hagan became the anchor of the Buffalo football offensive line, he was a wrestler by trade. And he was one of the best.

He held the title of the best heavyweight in the state of New York and was one of the top wrestlers in the country at 285 pounds.

But holding that title also had its limitations. For O’Hagan, it was food.

Hovering around 285 pounds may sound easy, but weight management is a much taller task than many imagine. Now that his wrestling days are behind him, the rising sophomore center’s only focus is maintaining the perfect body for football. And he can finally do something he longed to do in high school.

“I finally got to eat,” O’Hagan said with a chuckle. “For offensive lineman, I notice that we can eat a bit more. With wrestling, it was worrying about what you can eat and watching your weight, especially near the end of the year. I had to watch my limit so I can still wrestle in high school and college. In college, I got to be around 305-310 and stay in that limit.”

As a freshman this past season, O’Hagan won the starting job and played in all 12 games while anchoring the offensive line. With some upheaval on the line due to two starters graduating for next year’s team, O’Hagan returns as one of the more experienced players on the unit as just a sophomore.

But before O’Hagan entered the starting lineup for the Bulls this past season, he was a 285-pound freshman offensive lineman, who was still in wrestling mode. He wrestled at 285 pounds and maintained that weight up until he arrived on campus.

During O’Hagan’s first year at UB in 2014, all five Bulls offensive linemen were returnees and played nearly every snap. The coaching staff saw potential in O’Hagan, but wanted him to get better, so he was made a redshirt – preserving a year of college eligibility while allowing him to get bigger.

He doesn’t binge eat, however. Wrestling and football are different sports in terms of conditioning, but for someone who has played both sports, O’Hagan knows it’s necessary to gain healthy weight rather than weight that could slow him out.

“The strength and conditioning coach worked with me and monitor what we eat,” O’Hagan said. “It was a change, that’s for sure. I had to slow down on some of saturated fats I ate, like cookies and ice cream. It wasn’t too tough … I replaced them with some lean meats, six to eight fruits and vegetables a day and a ton of water.”

The coaching staff wanted him to get bigger and O’Hagan obliged. From his high school days to his football playing days at Buffalo, O’Hagan said he gained 20 pounds, pushing his weight to 305 pounds.

Peter Horvath, the Director of UB Sports Nutrition, assists athletes in figuring out what to eat and how to eat and maximize their energy throughout the game. For Horvath, the process of gaining weight is two-pronged: getting enough calories and eating carbohydrates and protein 30 minutes before a workout.

“That act is getting them anyway is through a healthy food, so they can consume the fat intake by consuming nuts, olive oil, whole grains,” Horvath said. “As for eating before a workout, that’s when we push a snack or chocolate milk and various shakes.”

Horvath also recommended spreading protein intake throughout the day, as opposed to one large meal, like dinner, full of protein. For O’Hagan, he likes to split the protein intake among the 6-8 meals a day he eats. Usually, it’s the lean meats like chicken breast.

The ability to eat is something that O’Hagan called “different,” when comparing his eating as a high school student to a college student. A part of that could be attributed to wrestling and playing football in high school. For O’Hagan the offensive lineman’s diet, and the ability to eat without the same restrictions he had in high school, helped his career.

O’Hagan eats roughly 4,000 calories per day – nearly double what the average human consumes on a daily basis. O’Hagan balances out his 6-8 smaller meals out throughout the day, including eating one right before his football practice.

O’Hagan calls his pre-practice meal, usually a meat and a vegetable “something light, but something that allows me to get through the practice.”

For Horvath, the key to maintaining energy throughout a workout or practice is to make sure the person is getting enough calories leading into the workout, something that’s “often tough for students to fit in their academic life.”

“It’s important to make sure they’re getting their carbohydrates leading into an activity,” Horvath said. “So maintaining energy for an activity, they need to make sure their carbohydrates stores a great leading into a work out. If not and you don’t eat after about six hours or so, you start using muscle protein for energy stores.”

Now at 308 pounds, O’Hagan says that he feels great and ready for spring practices. As he continues to learn about the eating the right way, eating before practices and understanding how to manage his meals with the correct foods, he can’t help but wish he knew this information sooner.

“I learned in college a lot of what you eat in college determines how you play on the field,” O’Hagan said. “So, if I wouldn’t be able to perform at a high level eating some of the things I used to eat. It made me go back and think, ‘Wow, if I knew what I knew now back in high school, I would’ve made the adjustment sooner, even though I was performing in two sports.”’

Quentin Haynes is the co-senior sports editor and can be reached at quentin.haynes@ubspectrum.com. Follow him @HaynesTheWriter