On my way out after he lost in the Sierra Nevada Classic, I glanced back down at the mats and noticed he and his father were still there, talking.
Tommy McCormick was going through a rough patch to open his sophomore season. He didn’t advance to the Reno Tournament of Champions’ second day. He fell in the semifinals of the Douglas Lion’s Club tournament and settled for third. Then at the Sierra Nevada Classic, he had as good a chance as his more experienced teammates to go for a medal.
He was wrestling sick and advancing in the tournament didn’t happen.
McCormick was out in the first day, losing two matches, including a tough decision to Lowry in late December. He and his father, Tom, sat outside the mat after the Lowry loss and talked about fighting through the sickness and keeping his head up. While these words were meant for the Reno-based tournament, it also became a turning point in the season for Tommy McCormick.
He went undefeated in the 3A league duals, won the regional title and then avenged last year’s state finals loss to become a state champion.
“Tommy is a stud but early in the season, he struggled and wasn’t quite wrestling to his potential,” Fallon coach Trevor de Braga recalled. “His work ethic is top class but it wasn’t quite where he needed to be.”
McCormick kicked off Fallon’s run of four state titles on Friday at the Orleans Arena as the Greenwave finished fifth and seven points out of second with only five wrestlers. McCormick’s relentlessness could be seen with the rest of the team.
For senior Marcel Poracky, you wouldn’t believe the journey he went through this season. The potential was always there. The coaches knew it.
A late switch to bumping up a weight class, Poracky rebounded from the regional tournament when he survived in a winner-take-all battle for third, and was the underdog in all matches at state. Yet, he won all three and is now a state champ.
“He finally got over that hump and it couldn’t have come at a better time,” de Braga said of Poracky, who transferred to Fallon before his senior season.
Poracky defeated the north’s top seed in the semifinals and nothing could get in his way in the final round as he won the title after Sean McCormick captured his third. With three state titles in hand, Fallon looked to junior Ben Dooley to end the tournament on the highest pedestal.
If Dooley had not been injured during his state final last year, there was no doubt he would have been the champ. But he came back this year on a mission, solidifying his place among the best heavyweight wrestlers.
“Seeing ben bounce back was exactly what I imagined,” de Braga said. “It was what he expected and us coaches expected. Last year, you could see the disappointment in his eyes and he was on a mission this year to take the title.”
The fact that Fallon converted four of its five wrestlers into state champions speaks volume for the program. The quality has always been there but not the numbers. De Braga started out with almost 30 wrestlers and the number dwindled considerably. Image what Fallon could do with a few more wrestlers. State team titles would become the norm, and expected.
“We have been up at the top but I can’t seem to get the numbers up in the room,” de Braga said. “I hope this influences kids to come out and contribute to our program. Fallon has a lot of athletes out there that could really help my program.”
And while de Braga and his staff are confident in developing state-calibur wrestlers, more importantly, he wants them to grow into outstanding men.
“What we do is not easy. That’s why it shapes these boys into men, and that’s what keeps me wanting to coach,” de Braga said. “Seeing a kid progress and become a state champion is something words can’t explain. I hope we can fill weight classes fully next year and the years to come because Greenware wrestling is getting back on track to a state championship if we can get the kids out.”
It’s only a matter of time that with the right group of dedicated student-athletes until Fallon is on top of the state.
Thomas Ranson can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.