FARGO, N.D. – Joey Fischer has been hungry for the past four months – and not just because of the weight he needed to cut to wrestle 100 pounds at the Junior National Freestyle Tournament.
Fischer, who will be a sophomore at South Park High School, said not medaling at the PIAA 2A tournament in March was difficult for him, and he channeled that energy into preparing for Fargo.
“It’s amazing, because after that loss in the blood round, I’ve been hungry ever since then to get out there and make something happen,” Fischer said on Tuesday. “I feel like this was a big shot, and I did it. It paid off.”
It certainly did, as Fischer scored a 10-0 technical fall over Ronan Schuelke of Illinois to capture the 100-pound title at the Fargodome – the only Pennsylvania wrestler to win a big stop sign in the Junior division.
“Having a champ is always important, so it was nice to get him on top,” said Team Pennsylvania coach Brad Dillon, who is an assistant at Lehigh.
“It’s a great feeling to be our only Junior finalist,” Fischer said. “To bring it home is amazing. Just doing it for my state, knowing they’re all behind me, along with my family, is a great feeling.”
Reeling Him In
Fischer made quick work of his finals opponent. He used a throw-by to get behind Schulke in the opening 10 seconds and, with the Illinois wrestler trying to avoid the takedown, dropped down to a leg lace, which he used for three turns and a 6-0 lead.
“I knew he was pretty long,” Fischer said. “We had watched some of his matches, me and my coaches. We knew he liked to go right to that tripod, so we figured dropping down to that lace was a great way to end it early.”
A left-handed high-crotch led to another takedown and a trap-arm gut wrench gave Fischer the tech fall in just 1:04.
“I wanted to get out there and end it fast,” he said. “I knew if I got him right off the bat, get in his head (I could) end it early.”
In a roster loaded with big names, it would have been easy to overlook Fischer, but Dillon wasn’t ready to call his championship run a surprise.
“I’ve been in this sport long enough to know that it’s not always the guys that everyone else is expecting to get on top (of the podium that do),” Dillon said. “That’s part of the sport.”
Another part of the sport is what might have been the toughest aspect of the week for Fischer: cutting weight.
“Making the weight wasn’t something that was easy for him,” Dillon said. “I don’t think you’re going to see him at 100 much longer.”
Something To Smile About
Fischer is young enough to have wrestled in the Cadet tournament, but opted to go in the older division.
“PA scooped me up at 100 pounds at Junior Duals, and I ended up going 16-0 down there,” he said. “So after talking to some of the college coaches down there and some of the coaches on my team, they decided it was best that it was what I do here as well.”
It turned out to be a great decision, as anyone who saw Fischer at the Fargodome could tell.
“He’s had the biggest smile on his face after all of these rounds,” Dillon said.
Best of the rest
There weren’t many other smiles around Team PA, as only seven other wrestlers placed, and just one – Wyoming Seminary’s Beau Bartlett – was in the top three.
Bartlett picked up a forfeit victory in the 132-pound consolation final over PA teammate Connor McGonagle, who injured his knee in his final match Monday night.
“Beau can flat-out wrestle,” Dillon said. “That’s for sure. Him placing high out here is always expected. I think he knows that he can wrestle with anybody in the country.”
So can Waynesburg Central’s Jackson Henson, who took fifth to give Team PA third-, fourth- and fifth-place finishes at 132.
“It’s always fun to get a whole bunch of guys on the podium at the same weight class,” Dillon said.
Henson, who is the son of former World Champion Sammie Henson and the older brother of Cadet All-American Wyatt, nearly knocked off eventual champion Jordan Decatur in Monday’s semifinals. He beat Ohio’s Dylan D’Emilio for fifth on Tuesday.
“He’s not going to back down from anybody,” Dillon said of Jackson Henson. “You don’t have a choice when you come from that family, I’m sure. He’s a tough kid. You have to like the way he wrestles.”
Cathedral Pre’s Carter Starocci, who was a double winner in the Cadet division last year, fell to fourth in his first Juniors appearance in a loaded 170-pound bracket. He lost 9-6 to Wisconsin’s Parker Keckeisen in the consolation final.
“Obviously, Carter can wrestle with anybody in the country,” Dillon said. “I know he’s super disappointed with where he ended up. That’s also a testament to him, that he feels like it wasn’t a great tournament and he still takes fourth at one of the best tournaments in the country.”
Ed Scott of DuBois placed fifth at 138 after receiving a forfeit on Tuesday, while Daniel Mancini of Owen J. Roberts needed to go to the final whistle and then some for seventh at 152. In a very confusing sequence, Mancini was given credit for match-tying takedown with 17 seconds left. After the restart, the scoring was changed to a 1-point stepout, meaning that Mancini was trailing Minnesota’s Tyler Eischens 8-7. That’s the way the match ended, at least until the officials conferred and decided that the match should restart with 17 seconds on the clock and Mancini trailing 8-7.
He made the most of the opportunity by scoring a late takedown for the 9-8 victory.
“He just kept wrestling,” Dillon said. “That’s the big thing. Kind of got second life there and found a way to make it happen. That’s a testament to him.”
Wyoming Seminary’s Jacob Stefanowicz finished eighth at 160 pounds after going 6-3 in the tournament.
Pennsylvania finished fourth as a team with 35 points, well behind champion Illinois (95) as well as Ohio (62) and Iowa (61).
“I think we were capable of more, but it’s a learning process,” Dillon said. “Keep these kids getting better. We know how much talent we have in the state. There’s more time, and the way the things are now, there are about a million competitions throughout the course of the year. Our guys will continue to get better.”