By Matthew Peaslee
Two former Austintown Fitch athletes have started new legacies at two different schools.
Derek Fletcher, a 1989 graduate, is a youth wrestling coach at Canfield and Dave Markulin, a 1985 grad, leads the program at South Range. They share the same energy, passion and pride for the sport.
And they each have sons that demonstrate the same.
Ethan Fletcher, a 71-pound fourth grader, and Michael Markulin, a 60-pound third grader, were qualifiers in this weekend’s Grade School Ohio Athletic Conference State Tournament at the Covelli Centre.
The boys, who also play football and baseball, each won one bout in Saturday’s preliminary rounds.
“This is a very tough individual and personal sport,” Fletcher said. “Not just for the kids, for the parents too. You talk to a youth football parent and ask them how the game went, they can say, ‘We lost, but Johnny scored four touchdowns.’
“You talk to a youth wrestling parent and ask, ‘How’d the match go?’ They say, ‘we lost,’ and then the story’s over. It’s not this or that, or whatever.”
Fletcher, a former quarterback, led the Falcons to an 8-2 record in his senior season. He wrestled collegiately at Slippery Rock. Ethan, 10, showed his potential with a pin in just 19 seconds during his first bout against Blake Akers.
“He’s had a few this year,” Fletcher said. “He’s a pinner.”
In his second match, however, he fell in a 7-0 decision to Elijah Pack, last year’s third-place finisher.
“That still came down to the last 30 seconds,” Fletcher said. “We tried to throw him for the win and came up short. It’s a tough situation trying to get focused one match after the other.”
After falling in a 5-2 decision to Jacob McHood, Michael responded with a 5-4 win over Anthony White. But it wasn’t easy.
The bout was stopped three times because each of the boys got the wind knocked out of them. Michael took a hard blow in the second period when Anthony’s head flew into in throat and his back hit the mat hard. Already down 2-0, he executed two takedowns for the win.
“The way he sucked it up was fantastic,” Markulin said. “That’s exactly what you have to do.”
Pain is nothing new to 9-year old Michael.
“I broke my arm catching a football three days before the season started two years ago,” he said.
His father added, “There’s going to be little boo-boos all the time. You have to keep your pride and go after the kid.”
For both proud dads, and all parents involved in wrestling, seeing their offspring spring into action is a dream come true.
“We would just roll and tackle around on the carpet when he was little,” Markulin said. “Then he wanted to try it and it’s one of his passions, just like his dad. He loves the competition.”
Michael faces Salem’s Caiden Hart in today’s consolation preliminary.
“It goes back and forth with them two because they’ve wrestled each other a lot this year,” Markulin said. It’s going to be a brawl. Whoever makes the mistake is going to lose.”
Despite its small enrollment, South Range boasts 35 grade school wrestlers.
“They have passion,” Markulin said. “There were 30 kids were still practicing after the season. We’re on the upcoming.”
Canfield’s Landon Beidelschies, Alexander George, Santino Marucci, Nick Crawford, Michael O’Horo and Tyler Stein also earned a win on Saturday. From Austintown Wrestling Club, Brock Kimble earned two wins and Colin Roberts had one.
Daniel Parker from Boardman and Columbiana’s Cyle Burt and Roclen Bettura had one win, while Andrew Stallsmith had two. Dylan Sinkovich earned a win for Salem.