26th Annual Mark Fuller Invitational Wrestling

Tournament a jewel in high school sports
-A +A
The 26th Annual Mark Fuller Invitational wrestling tournament held at Lincoln High School last Saturday was a mix of hard work, determination, planning, efficiency and excellence, as well as an outstanding sporting event. The tournament was a reflection of the namesake’s philosophy on success. Mark Fuller was a four-time member of the USA Olympic Team and a former wrestler for the Fighting Zebras. Fuller said success comes through hard work and resilience and the tournament couldn’t have been better proof of that. Lincoln High head wrestling coach Mike Maul said he begins sending out his invitations for the tournament in September. Then as the registrations and fees start to come in he starts taking care of the details like procuring seven wrestling mats, making sure there are no scheduling conflicts, securing referees, and that the trophies, plaques and medals have been ordered. “I start getting checks and reservations coming back in September up to November,” said Maul. “There are a lot of little things taken care of during that time. Our booster club is really good; I don’t have to touch the snack bar or the coaches’ lunch. They take care of that.” Perhaps it’s the reputation of the event that has volunteers circling the date on their calendars, or just the lure of sport, but the coordination and cooperation that takes place is remarkable. Among the volunteers was Kris Knutson, the Sheridan Elementary School principal, who shows up to do the announcing. Knutson said he not only enjoys the event but uses it as an example for his students. He tells them about Fuller and how he came from a small school to become a world champion. And one of his favorites is KCRA Channel 3 news anchor Adrienne Bankert, who was a student at Sheridan Elementary. A varsity event, Maul also gets a lot of volunteer help from his junior varsity wrestlers, and those wrestlers with injuries too severe to compete, like Drew Suchomel. Suchomel suffered a neck injury and bruised his spinal cord in an earlier match this season. Unfortunately, the injury was severe enough to end his wrestling career at Lincoln High. “I’m not too disappointed, but this is what I like to do,” said Suchomel, who was well on his way to a great senior year of wrestling. Although Suchomel is up and around, and due for a re-evaluation soon, he plans to forgo any further athletic activity to get ready for graduation. Although the Zebras didn’t come away with any gold medals, they still performed well. Both senior Marcus Gillett and junior Ero Wainio earned silver with both missing the gold by just one point. “It’s a lot of work,” said Gillett, who added that fatigue caught up with him in the match. “Everybody does the same amount in (practice) so it’s going to be what you do outside to be able to do good in these tournaments. I’ve got bumps and bruises but you’ve got to fight through those.” Although Gillett has been wrestling since he was a freshman, this is his first year on varsity. He said he really has to dedicate himself to wrestling for the rest of the season in hopes of advancing into the postseason. Wainio is perhaps the Zebras best candidate for postseason wrestling. Before coming into the Mark Fuller Invite he went 9-0 to take first place in his weight division at the El Camino tournament. That increased his confidence, but perhaps a little too much. “I definitely came into this one thinking I would do the same,” said Wainio, who has been wrestling since seventh grade. “I really needed to work harder than I did. I really need to keep my head on my shoulders instead of in the clouds.” Wainio said his error in the championship match was listening to the timer instead of waiting for the referee’s whistle to end the period. He said he let up too soon anticipating the count and that cost him the point that took the match into overtime. Lincoln was also down to just seven, healthy varsity wrestlers for the tournament and Maul had to bring up one of his JV grapplers to fill in for a couple of injured athletes. “I feel with the bodies we had today we wrestled about as good as we’re capable of wrestling,” said Maul, who didn’t have wrestlers for half of the 14 events. “We had two matches we lost by a point, and when you lose by a point those are winnable matches.” Maul said with the quality of total wrestlers in the tournament he was not disappointed by the performance of his squad. He said what does bother him is when his athletes lose a match they should have won. He said his JV wrestler made an excellent showing by winning two of his matches. Fuller was an inspiration for many of the wrestlers who did lose matches because he was quick to point out that failure has to be expected when traveling the road to success. Fuller said his path to a world championship and seven national titles were littered with matches lost. “If you look at my career, my career is about failure,” Fuller said with a smile. “I failed every time I went to the (Olympic) Games, but through my failures I became successful.” Fuller said his life was about consistency, and his career about the consistent application of truths. He advises young men and women to learn the truth about something and by applying those truths amazing things will happen. Fuller said the first match he ever wrestled in he was pinned in just seven seconds. Fuller said he wasn’t particularly good at any one thing but through hard work and perseverance he became a success. And although he set goals for himself, he said sometimes the rewards were not what he was expecting. “Success does not come without failure. If you’re willing to fail and get back up again you’re going to be stronger,” Fuller said. “I never won a state championship, but I became the youngest guy to make the Olympics in wrestling. I got to compete all over the world, and I never expected to have a tournament named after me.” Naming the tournament after Fuller gave further credence as to the sound decision making and dedication that went into this event, now a quarter-century old. Twenty-five teams and perhaps more than 250 grapplers took to the mats in 392 separate events. The wrestling began at 9 a.m. and the tournament concluded before 5 p.m. – including clean up. One former wrestler who participated in the Mark Fuller Invitational several years ago was California State University-Sacramento wrestling coach August Wesley. He knew there would be a lot of talent all in one place, but it wasn’t the only reason he came. “I came to the Mark Fuller tournament first to pay tribute to Mark Fuller who was an outstanding wrestler and All American with all the years he’s put into it,” said Wesley. Wesley attended Center High School and remembered Maul wrestling for the Zebras; “secondly, to recruit some talent” Wesley added. Wrestling in the invitational was Center’s Khymbo Johnson, one of the top wrestlers in the state in the 195-pound weight class. Although Wesley anticipates Johnson will eventually wrestle at a Division I college, he’s pleased that his former high school is getting the recognition that Johnson brings to that school. Still, Wesley was able to entice a number of the wrestlers at the event to consider CSUS, now that wrestling has been reinstated. The Hornets’ program was dropped in 1983 but a club was organized for the school, and Wesley said the Fuller tournament was a great place to recruit. “I talked to some kids. I talked to some of the local guys, five kids who are seniors and also some juniors to keep in mind that Sacramento State is a viable option for them to go to for a university,” Wesley said. “This is a quality event and I would like to help keep it going. It gives a lot of people an opportunity to wrestle people from another state and from other sections.” Maul, now in his 14th year of coordinating the event, extended his appreciation to all who helped make the 26th Mark Fuller Invitational such a big success. Maul was pleased Fuller made it to the tournament and he is looking forward to 2013. “It was kind of special last year because it was the first time that Mark had been here, so that was kind of special for the 25th,” said Maul. “If you didn’t make it this year, next year will be our 27th Mark Fuller Invitational. If you haven’t seen it before, come out and support the Lincoln wrestling team.” The Zebras’ final dual league meet will be at home against Placer, 6 p.m., Feb. 2, both varsity and junior varsity. 26th Mark Fuller Invitational Wrestling Tournament Lincoln High School, Jan. 14 Team Champions Total Points 1. Del Oro 140.5 2. Pershing County 137.5 3. Nevada Union 122.5 CHAMPIONSHIP INDIVIDUAL RESULTS 106 – Gilbert Martinez (Jesuit) def Anthony Wesley (Jesuit) 113 – Aaron Asbury (Christian Brothers) def Sawyer Mosel (Nevada Union) 120 – Brice Gorsline (Pershing County) def Daniel Lacabal (Las Plumas) 126 – Cody Craspay (Pershing County) def Will Sumner (Nevada Union) 132 – Julian Purdy (Nevada Union) def Miguel Acevos (Florin) 138 – Johnny Callos (Nevada Union) def Ward Beecher (Upper Lake) 145 – Joey Lavallee (Reno) def Alex Luttrell (Wheatland) 152 – Bruce Tucker (Upper Lake) def Ero Wainio (Lincoln) 160 – Bradley Brockett (Upper Lake) def Marcus Gillett (Lincoln) 170 – Rafael Pantoja (Natomas) def Julian Saavedra (Victory Christian) 182 – Jariah Booker (Las Plumas) def Jared Jensen (Pershing County) 195 – Khymbo Johnson (Center) def Dillon Wanner (Pershing County) 220 – Reggie Johnson (Florin) def Joe Valdez (Upper Lake) 285 – Lucas Dieto (Pershing County) def Joe Karlsson (Upper Lake)