- Brian Bennett, ESPN Staff Writer
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Ryan Bartholomew isn't Syracuse's top performer in the weight room just because of natural ability. He works at it.
As an example, Orange head strength coach William Hicks said Bartholomew practiced running the team's typical 100-yard sprints at home during the players' post-semester break so he could win the drills. Hicks knew Bartholomew would do that, so he changed the distances when the players returned to start summer conditioning.
He had to do something to keep Bartholomew from winning everything.
Syracuse's 6-foot-2, 298-pound senior center topped the team during testing with a 402-pound hand clean and a 525-pound bench press. He also did 30 repetitions on the 225-pound bench press, one of the best on the team, while jumping 31 inches and running a 4.93 40-yard dash on pro day. His body fat is under 17 percent, which Hicks said is far more typical of a defensive lineman than the big guys on the O-line.
"He's a little bit of a freak," Hicks said. "We joke around and call him a big ball of muscle. Everything looks easy to him in the weight room. The only reason he ever misses something is if I put the wrong weights on, because he lifts everything."
Bartholomew, who grew up in Maryland and whose family is from Grenada, said he was an avid and accomplished weightlifter in high school. It's something he takes very seriously, especially since second-year coach Doug Marrone reinstated periodic testing and listing the top achievements on display for all to see.
"Playing on the offensive line, you have to be a little stronger than most other positions," Bartholomew said. "It takes a lot for the finished product on the field to be great. If people knew what we did in the weight room, they'd be shocked.
"Part of my motivation is to try and stay on top. I like the competition in the weight room."
Hicks said Bartholomew is always asking questions and wants to know why they're doing each drill a certain way. Bartholomew, who's majoring in health and exercise science, has expressed an interest in becoming a strength coach some day.
"That's the reason he's a very good student, too," Hicks sad. "He has the same kind of work ethic and competitive nature, whether that's to get a 90 on a test or lift 400 pounds on a clean. It's the same drive to be successful."
Bartholomew was a second-team All-Big East selection last year at guard, while also filling at center for three games. This year, he'll move to center full time.
"It's a little bit of an adjustment," he said. "I have to be more vocal than I was at guard. But I've always liked to focus on learning everything on the offensive line and what everybody's goal is on each play. So it's very fun. I have all the power."
No one who's seen Bartholomew in the weight room would doubt his power.
11hSam Khan Jr. and Derek Tyson