Natural Selection: Nick Fuschino, Mercury Wrestler of the Year
by Don Seeley, Pottstown Mercury Sports Editor
Posted on April 3, 2009
BUCKTOWN -- Steve Fuschino wasn't exactly overjoyed when his youngest son began showing an interest in wrestling, not at all ready to get out on the mat and show him all the moves he had learned himself as a pretty darn good athlete years earlier at North Star High School.
"My dad didn't plan on exposing me to wrestling because back in his day he had some bad experiences with his coaches, mainly about losing weight," Nick Fuschino explained. "I don't think he expected me (to wrestle), but he never once said not to do it."
Twelve years after winning his very first match, and his weight class during a youth tournament as a first-grader, Nick Fuschino won his last high school match, and a medal during the PIAA-Class AAA Championships.
To say Steve Fuschino went from precautious parent to proud papa would be an understatement.
The once pint-sized Nick Fuschino grew up, and by the time he put together yet another one of his blue-collar bouts to decision Hopewell's Matt Hundenski in the 152-pound bracket's fifth-place final last month in Hershey, he became one of the most accomplished competitors in the history of Owen J. Roberts' storied program.
Beating Hundenski earned Fuschino his second state medal, one more than anyone before him was able to pin down, and enabled him to close with 130 career wins, just one shy of former teammate Robert Hoffman and four short of the OJR mark set by 2000 graduate Aaron Brown, who happened to be one of Fuschino's biggest fans the past four seasons.
"I'm leaving with some good feelings knowing that a lot of people weren't able to do what I did (at OJR)," said Fuschino, The Mercury's 2008-09 All-Area Wrestler of the Year. "It's been great to get the wins, the medals, the records ... to get my name up there on the wall at school."
It was great recalling how his father didn't encourage him to try another sport, too.
"I remember when I first got into it that he actually wasn't too worried about it," Fuschino remembered. "Then, when I started to show some potential, his attitude changed a little bit."
Fuschino's unwavering, year-round work ethic helped him become one of the area's and District 1's premier middleweights the last three seasons. That was never more evident than this past winter, when he swept his second Section Four and District 1-Central titles, finished second at the Southeast Regional and, of course, fifth in the state for a 38-4 run.
Those four losses? His first - which ended a 17-match winning streak - was in the 160-pound final of the Escape The Rock Tournament, a 3-0 setback to Council Rock South's Ed Shupe, who would finish fourth in the state at 160. His second - which, ironically, ended another 17-match winning streak - was in the 152-pound regional final, a disheartening 2-1 overtime loss to Council Rock South's Jim Vollrath, who would finish seventh in the state.
The third came in the second round of states, a 5-3 brawl with Central Dauphin's Marshall Peppelman, the tightest bout of the entire season for the state champion who finished 47-0 and ranked No. 1 in the country. Fuschino's fourth and final loss came a day later, in the consolation semifinals, a 3-2 thriller to Albert Gallatin's Dan Karpency, who would finish fourth in the state.
The last two took a wee bit of time to digest.
"Initially I was disappointed, especially knowing how close the match with Peppelman was," Fuschino said. "Now I look back and know I put out everything I had. I worked as hard as I could all season. I feel I was as good as I could be."
And Fuschino admitted his drive to be as good as he could be - every time he stepped onto a mat - began while attending the popular Jay Robinson Intensive Wrestling Camp in Edinboro back in the summer before his sophomore season.
Few would argue. As a freshman, Fuschino labored through a 15-10 season at 130 and 135 pounds. The following year, he moved up to 145, came oh so close to earning a berth in the state tournament, and opened more than a few eyes with his 35-9 record.
"The camp was the roughest two weeks of my entire life," Fuschino explained. "I had never gone through anything that tough. But it made me mentally tough, and I took that with me into the practice room every day. The camp helped me realize how good I could be."
And if there were days he may have thought otherwise, he got a boost from older brother Anthony, a state medalist himself four years ago.
"He was the guy who pushed me," Fuschino said. "He was my motivator."
Anthony Fuschino's college career ended last month at American University. Nick Fuschino's will begin in seven months at Rochester Institute of Technology up in New York.
Even though there were other options, including a scholarship offer from Division I Drexel University, Fuschino chose RIT and its Division III program.
"I'm going to major in electrical engineering, and I'm going to need all my energy for that," Fuschino said. "Looking ahead, my career is more important than wrestling. Don't get me wrong, though, I still want to wrestle, and be as good as I can in wrestling."