By Gary Abbott USA Wrestling
Jake Fisher of the NYAC battles Jure Kuhar of Slovenia in the first round of the Dave Schultz Memorial International
One of the top young wrestlers in the nation over the past few years has been Jake Fisher (Boise, Idaho/New York AC), who learned his craft as at the U.S. Olympic Education Center at Northern Michigan Univ.
Like many of his peers, Fisher dominated at the age-group levels, then climbed the rankings on the Senior level. He was tutored by USOEC head coach Ivan Ivanov during his development, and trained alongside stars such as two-time World medalist Harry Lester and Olympian Spenser Mango. He has worked his way up in the national rankings at 74 kg/163 lbs.
This year, Fisher is among the athletes who have decided to move to Boise, Idaho to train full-time under Ivanov, who has started the new Suples Training Center for elite athletes. Fisher considered taking out a loan and remaining at Northern Michigan, or coming out to the U.S. Olympic Training Center, but staying with his coach made the most sense.
"This is my eighth year with Ivan. He knows how I wrestle. He works well with the top guys. It is more individual for us out there in Boise. He helps you to prepare and wrestle your style," said Fisher. "It's also good that we can make some money, too."
In addition to training, Fisher works along with some of the other elite athletes for wrestling supporter Russell Brunson's marketing company. Most days, they work out at 6:30 a.m., have breakfast, work on their job from 9:30 a.m. - 3:15 p.m., and then get their second workout at 3:30 p.m.
"We edit videos and put them on the internet. We are trying to get hits to send people to our client's websites. It is a nice sitdown job, easy to do and not too demanding," said Fisher.
Ivanov feels that Fisher has the training partners and workout facilities to continue to improve.
"Jake's best training partner is Cheney Haight. He is also working with Justin Ruiz. I am sparring with him as well. He had Jacob Curby to train with before we lost him. I'm hoping to get a few talented local kids in Idaho to commit and serve as partners," said Ivanov.
The unexpected death of Jake Curby two weeks ago was very difficult for Fisher and the others training in Boise. Jake and his girlfriend were among the first to get to the house after medical officials were unsuccessful in reviving Curby, and they were available to help his fiancée Amy any way they could.
Fisher was not going to attend the funeral because of flight costs, but made a last minute decision to drive from Idaho to Illinois for the services.
"On Tuesday night, we decided to go," said Fisher. "We drove 24 hours and got there about 8 p.m. for the wake. The next morning, after the funeral, we drive again to Kansas City, and then the next day to Colorado Springs for the Kit Carson Cup. It was four days of driving, 2,000 miles. We got here, and the next morning, it was go time."
Fisher had a strong performance at the Kit Carson Cup, and is looking to follow it up with a victory at the Dave Schultz Memorial, where he was third last year. Fisher has won both the New York AC International Open and the Sunkist Kids International Open, showing the ability to win against international opponents and top Americans.
"He has been looking real good lately. He is training hard. He is very consistent," said Ivan Ivanov. "He is pretty focused. His performance was good at the Kit Carson Cup."
Fisher won his first match at this year's Dave Schultz Memorial, defeating Jure Kuhar of Slovenia in three periods, 0-1, 1-0, 4-0. In the quarterfinals, he edged Jin-Sung Park of Korea in three periods, scoring a gut-wrench with just eight seconds left. He will face Jakhongir Muminov of Uzbekistan in the semifinals.
"I have just got to score more on my feet. It is tough against these foreigners. I'm well prepared. I have to work on my par terre defense. I know I am in pretty good shape. They are getting way more tired than we are," said Fisher.
Getting to the top position in the United States at 74 kg is Fisher's biggest mission this year. Last year, one of his best friends and longtime training partner Harry Lester was the top man in the division. It is unclear if Lester will be returning to competition. Fisher and Lester have talked about it.
"He's not wrestling right now," said Fisher. "Everything is up in the air. He says he's not coming back this year. You don't know if he's done. He is going to take it year by year. He told me that if I don't win the nationals that he is coming back for the World Team Trials. It's time for me to step up."
Fisher will go to Cuba next week, and then will be focusing on the U.S. Open in Cleveland and the U.S. World Team Trials in Council Bluffs, Iowa. Is this the year that Jake Fisher becomes the top dog?
"He has the capability from what I see so far," said Ivanov. "He is ranked No. 3, has placed second at the nationals last year. He has travelled with Harry to the World Championships. He has a psychological edge with those trips to the Worlds. He is a real candidate, but we have to prove it."
National Greco-Roman Coach Steve Fraser also believes that Fisher has the ability to step it up another level.
"I like his tenacity and fight. I am hoping he will get the international experience he needs, to be prepared to compete at a World level. He has the potential to be a World Team member and even have great success at the World Championships, if he continues to improve and gets more international matches," said Fraser.
Fisher would certainly like to reach his goals this year and earn a spot on the U.S. World Team which will compete in Moscow, Russia next fall.
"It is time. I'm 25. I've got to stop wasting time. That is what coach Momir (Petkovic) told me. It's time to just do it," said Fisher.