Rock Bridge's Chase Rome woke up with small yellow pieces of an eight-egg omelet stuck to his face.
He never thought eating would become such a chore, but he knew It was a necessary part of his move from the wrestling mat to the football field.
Between Rome’s freshman and sophomore year, he decided to make the transition from part-time wrestler and part-time wide receiver to full-time defensive end. That meant packing on 40 pounds to his tall 210-pound frame.
“It was funny because I was so excited like ‘Now I can eat to gain weight I don’t have to cut anymore,’ but after about three weeks in I was so tired of eating,” Rome said. “I would wake up and have an eight-egg omelet, a bowl of oatmeal, milk, a protein shake, another protein shake 2 hours after, then a big lunch and a huge dinner. I remember waking up in my food sometimes.”
That wasn’t the original path Rome had planned for himself. Wrestling was his first choice. However, a move from Florida to Missouri and a little guidance from his father, Wade Rome, pointed him toward football.
“I was telling my dad I wanted to wrestle in college. I was supposed to be going to the off-season workouts for football, but I was wrestling over at the gym, and he kind of sat me down one day after losing a match,” Chase Rome said. “It was kind of a tough love thing. He was like ‘You are not a great wrestler. You are an okay wrestler who uses your athletic ability to win matches. You are different in football and I think you could maybe get a scholarship one day.’”
Though Chase Rome had proven himself a competitive wrestler by winning two state titles in Florida and placing third in his one year in Columbia, the wrestling team at Rock Bridge never felt right.
“The program here was different,” he said. “It wasn’t bad, I just didn’t think I fit into it.”
It is not surprising that Rome wanted to be a wrestler. His father Wade Rome was a professional mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter and owned his own gym, Chase Rome had been surrounded by fighting his entire life.
What started as college wrestling and the occasional tough guy fight at a bar turned into a career for Wade Rome. In addition to fighting professionally for seven years, he and some of his friends started American Top Team, a gym specifically aimed to train fighters.
“Just having a background in wrestling myself and being involved in mixed martial arts, he has always been around it,” Wade Rome said. Guys were always grappling and rolling, so he saw it that way.”
“I would always go over and punch my dad and we would start fighting just because that’s what he did,” Chase Rome said. “He’d kind of play with me like that when I was probably five or six. It was always a blast just anytime when you are little and you think you are doing what your dad does.”
Since moving to defensive end his sophomore year, Rome has continued to train at his father’s gym in Columbia.
Wade Rome took this opportunity to formulate a workout plan that mixed MMA and wrestling training with the usual strength and conditioning Chase Rome needed to improve his skills as a lineman.
“Wrestling and MMA and football are all very similar in that essentially its all about body positioning. It’s all about hips and its about beating your opponent,” Wade Rome said. “I think that there is a lot of crossover with hand work, foot work, hip work, hip explosion, all of those things crossover.”
Chase Rome also believes the skills he has picked up as a wrestler have made him the linemen he is today.
“A lot of the training that the fighters do carries over to football, just from being explosive,” Chase Rome said. “Especially on the defensive line, it’s about having a strategy before you do anything, before you explode or before you use your hands. Just knowing what you are going to do or anticipating what they are going to do is a lot like fighting.”
In addition to the wrestling-based training, Chase Rome does more specialized training.
“I do a lot more functional strength exercises in the off-season, rather than just cleans, bench press and squats,” Chase Rome said. “I do a lot more tire pulls, tire flips, jumps, lunges, stuff like that. I feel like I am almost ahead of the game going into the season, just because I have been working my hips and I have been working my feet when everybody else hasn’t.”
Bruins Head Coach A.J. Ofodile has taken notice to Chase Rome’s development over his high school career.
“I think over the years he really helped his hip flexibility and body control. They are kind of unstable when you first get them,” Ofodile said. “It made him a very stable athlete to be able to balance and explode with the variance of movements he had.”
After talking with his stand-out defensive end, Ofodile took a trip to American Top Team to check out Rome’s workouts.
“My dad actually brought him over to the gym and showed him some of the workouts that they were doing and he loved it,” Chase Rome said. “He’s really open-minded about it. If I come to him and say I think we should try this or that, he will listen to me and talk to me.”
“I am somebody always open to new methods. Athletic development is a big part of our training,” Ofodile said. “We messed around a little bit, and I found some interesting things that I am going to integrate into the program this upcoming season.”
Today, Chase Rome weighs 285 pounds. After collecting 74 tackles and seven sacks for the Bruins in his senior season, he was heavily recruited by many Big 12 and Big 10 schools. After weighing his options, Chase Rome committed to play for the Nebraska Cornhuskers on a full scholarship in the Fall.
Chase Rome is scheduled to begin his training in Lincoln, NE in January following the holiday season. For him, this means sticking to the training plan he is instructed to do.
“I might still train with my dad a little, but I don’t want to hurt myself doing anything else,” Chase Rome said. “That could put you in the doghouse really quick with the coaches.”