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Going to the Dome
Photos and story by Troy Wayrynen
Morning Drill: Evergreen High School wrestler Michael Fisher begins each day with a set of pushups as part of his rigorous training schedule.
Reminders: After an early morning workout Michael Fisher shaves his face with reminders of being a state wrestling champion.
Playful practice: Eric Dodge, top, turns Fisher over as coach Ralph Bever, left, rubs his chin across Fisher’s chest in a drill called shark attack.
Making weight: Referee Ray Woodside checks Fisher’s weight before the start of the Clark County wrestling tournament. Fisher often skips meals to make his wrestling weight. His meals usually consist of cream of wheat for breakfast with bagels for lunch.
Road work: Fisher runs up to 10 miles a day to build stamina.
Takedown: Fisher, right, lifts Columbia River’s Richard Day for a takedown. Fisher defeated Day at districts and regional tournaments to advance to state in Tacoma this weekend.
Doctor visit: Michael Fisher has broken blood vessels in his nose cauterized.
The goal: Fisher wears a hat that reminds him of his quest to be a state wrestling champion.
Bleacher as bed: Fisher, right, rests with his teammates conserving his energy before the start of the Clark County tournament at Battle Ground High School.
Victory: Evergreen High School wrestler Michael Fisher celebrates winning his first state title.
Going to the Dome
It is hot and humid inside the Evergreen High School wrestling room, like an old Finnish sauna. Some would describe the breathable air as thick and stinky but inhabitants hardly notice it.
A banner above the doorway read “E.H.S. Wrestling, Training to be State Champs.” The room is their avenue to get there.
On the mat, Michael Fisher laces up his wrestling shoes, fastens his headgear and goes to work. Practicing takedown after takedown brings sweat to his face, mixing with blood from his cut lip. Fisher pushes on, though, realizing his day as state champion will soon be here. A chant comes to Fisher’s mind. Something he learned long ago from club coach Roy Pittman: “I am the best. I will be better because I am better, because I am the best all day, all night, all week, all month, all year…always! I am the best.”
Eighth last year, Fisher enters the Class AAA state championships this weekend at the Tacoma Dome as one of the favorites at 158 pounds, a culmination of month of hard work and too many weeks of being one of the hopefuls.
“It never really hit me until my sophomore year,” Fisher said. “Somebody came up to me and said, ‘You’ll never be varsity.’” By the end of the year, upon placing at the Clark County tournament, a varsity member predicted Fisher would win the state championship his senior year. “It just caught me off guard and ti was like, ‘Wow, you know, I can do that.’”
Fisher’s story is not unlike any other uncrowned champion’s, the athlete with pride and determination in his heart but nothing around his neck or hanging on his wall to honor him. Most athletes claim to work hard – champions earn the right to say it.
Fisher’s quest begins at 6 a.m. every day. With his eyes barely open, he rolls out of bed, drops to the floor and counts off 25 push-ups. He runs as many as 10 miles per day, never afraid to extend himself, knowing his championship match could go into overtime, too. Between Evergreen practices and extra sessions under coach Pittman at Peninsula Park in Portland, Fisher can stay six hours on the mat.
To be a wrestler, it takes such mental toughness. Wrestling is 90 percent mental and 10 percent physical, he remembers. Teammate Ben Vombaur knows it. He has accomplished what Fisher wants to accomplish, having wont the state championship last year at 101 pounds. “If you go out there doubting yourself at,” he said, “you’re going to be timid. When I go out there I just know I’m going to pummel the guy because I’ve worked harder, I know it. I’m afraid of losing on a fluke.”
With a 34-1 record this season, championships from the Clark County Wrestling Tournament, district, regional tournaments and victories over rival Richard Day of Columbia River already behind him, Fisher sets out to finish the job this weekend. If he loses, coach Ralph Bever says, “it won’t be because he doesn’t deserve it. It will be because someone is better and he can handle it.”
Each day, Fisher pushes his body to the limits, barely able to get off the mat from the intensity of his workouts. They will pay off, he thinks, when they raise his hand in the middle of the mat. “It was a wish at first, then a dream, now a goal,” he said. “Now it’s more of a reality.”