Fittery discusses season, upcoming NCAAs
Cocalico High School graduate and American University senior wrestler Steve Fittery enters this weekend s NCAA Division One Wrestling Championships in Philadelphia as one of the favorites to win gold at 157 pounds. The number one ranked wrestler at 157 for the last 15 weeks, Fittery enters nationals as the number two seed behind Boise State’s Adam Hall, who grabbed top seed honors based on the fact that he is the highest returning medalist (Hall was third, Fittery was fifth) competing at that weight. Fittery, an All-American from a year ago, is a perfect 28-0 on the season, having earned bonus points in 22 of his wins. Both Fittery and Hall, as well as highly-touted Penn State freshman David Taylor (34-0), are the pre-tournament favorites to win gold. Reached this past Friday by phone, Fittery talked with Review Sports Editor Todd Ruth about the season and what lies ahead at the NCAA Tourney. The following is a transcript from their conversation: Todd Ruth: You just wrapped up the EIWA title. What was that experience like, winning gold there for the first time? Steve Fittery: Winning the title was great but really the team atmosphere that we had going on with three (American wrestlers) in the finals and our team in the top five… It was just really fun for everyone. I definitely feel like I m hitting my peak individually, but it s fun to see the rest of the guys beating guys who they had lost to previously. And seeing those guys get on top of the podium… It s been just a real exciting year. TR: It has to have been real exciting for you personally. You are 28-0 and ranked number one in the nation. Putting together a season like that has to be beyond your wildest dreams? SF: You know it s been pretty unreal. It s exciting what s happening it s a lot of hard work paying off. It s a lot of belief in yourself and a lot of good coaching throughout that s all coming into play right now. TR: How is your training going? What have you done during the season, and what are you doing to get ready for this week, training-wise? SF: The training now is a lot different. We have different stages of training throughout the year. Pre-season is definitely the toughest. We did a lot of sprints and a lot of lifting in the pre-season. The summer is a lot of lifting and a lot of wrestling, and during the season it s just a variety of different things. We keep changing things up at practice. Now at this point in the season it s a lot of resting. We are trying to rest and recoup and work on our technique and finesse. TR: The NCAA brackets are out and they have you as the second seed. Do you view that as a snub since you ve been ranked number one for so long? SF: I never have been one who really paid much attention to any of the rankings. Number two is fine, and if I went into the tournament seeded 33rd I d still want to win it. You know you are going to have to beat the best to get on top of the podium anyway. I m pretty excited about where I am in the bracket actually. TR: Yeah, but I know a lot of people were looking forward to you possibly meeting David Taylor in the finals. If both of you advance, you would now see him in the semifinals. Do you , like the rest of us, have your eye on meeting him or is your main focus on the first guy you face? SF: I m going to start with the first match. I really approach every match the same, whether I m wrestling David Taylor or somebody who is not so great. I go out and approach every match the same. I ll look to go out and push the pace and wrestle hard, be smart, not make mistakes and hopefully come out with my hand raised. TR: What do you think is the biggest reason for your success this year? It just seems like you took it to another level last year and then this year you ve taken it a step farther. What has been the key to that? SF: I don’t know. I guess the big difference this year is just the mentality. I work a lot harder not to give up points and I work a lot harder to score points. It s all an attitude, and I think I m getting that attitude down that I m the best and no one is going to score on me and I m going to work hard to score my points too. TR: You ve obviously been through the Pennsylvania State High School Championships. How does the NCAA Tournament compare to that? SF: As a senior in high school, the PIAAs are a pretty big deal. Now as a senior in college the NCAAs are a pretty big deal. It s the biggest stage in wrestling for a senior in high school, and now the biggest stage for me is Division One nationals. It s exciting for the fans, it s exciting for me. Last year s experience at the NCAAs will really pay off for me. I ll be ready for the atmosphere. I m really excited. TR: That was going to be my next question. How much has your experience from last year at NCAAs helped you for this year? SF: It really helped me. When you get to those later rounds everybody s body is beat up, you are exhausted…It s really all just a mental game. I think I ll be able to deal with it a lot better this year. There won’t be any stage fright or whatever. TR: Let s talk about the emotions leading up to all of this. Obviously it s your senior year, it s kind of like a storybook finish for you with a chance to close out your college career with a championship in Philly. It just seems like it was meant to be for you. I m sure there is going to be a big contingent following you, so what are your emotions leading up to this weekend? SF: It is fixing up to be a storybook finish. I just have to make the finish turn out the way I want it to. It s great that it s in Philly. Philly is like an hour from here. It will be a lot of fun. Hopefully there will be a lot of people cheering for me. I think I have a style that s fun to cheer for and hopefully it will be exciting for the fans too. TR: What would you be satisfied with as far as the finish is concerned? I mean, would you be disappointed if you don’t win it? SF: I ve never been big on the wins and losses. Of course it is everyone’s dream to win the NCAA Tournament but if I don’t…I m going to go out there and give it my best shot and see what happens. What else can you do? More FITTERY, page B-2
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