Fischer becomes force after 50-50 flip

Rachel Mummey/The Herald
Southridge’s Andy Fischer cradled Jasper’s Ian Songer on his way to the 182-pound title in Saturday’s sectional at Huntingburg. Unsure of whether he’d finish his high school career swimming or wrestling, the choice came down to a coin flip for Fischer in the fall of his junior year. Wrestling won out, and Fischer’s abbreviated career has taken off in a hurry. He’s 44-0 entering Saturday’s regional at Bloomington.

By JOSEPH FANELLI
Herald Sports Writer

It sounds like something out of the book of Southridge wrestling lore.

Friends and classmates Jacob Mundy and Andy Fischer, sitting in the back of math class in the fall of 2012, flipping a coin to decide the fate of Fischer and his future prep wrestling career.

As chance would have it, Mundy won the best-of-five series — or seven depending on which one you ask — and a year and a half later, it seems strange that there was even a debate. Fischer, this year’s Pocket Athletic Conference and sectional champion at the 182-pound weight class, enters Saturday’s regional at Bloomington South as a No. 1 seed and with 44 wins and zero losses. He’s downed 24 opponents by pin and did it with one of the most basic maneuvers in wrestling — and with the same combination of surprise and excitement as everyone else around him. It’s been a rapid rise from newcomer to state contender, but it all started back in Ms. Hasenour’s first-period math class.

“(Mundy and I) were sitting in the back of math class and I was kind of thinking about (wrestling and swimming), and was pretty torn between the two,” Fischer said.

Fischer wrestled in middle school, but had become burnt out and joined the swim team his freshman year, following the path of his older siblings Pam and Nick.

“I was just joking around, making fun of (Fischer) and told him he should play a real sport like wrestling,” Mundy explained. “And he said, ”˜You know, I’m kind of torn on what I want to do.’ And I said, ”˜All right, let’s a flip a coin.’”

“I always knew he was good, but he’s 44-0 right now and PAC and sectional champ,” Mundy added. “I didn’t know he was that good.”

Mundy of course won the bet, but it is Fischer and the Southridge wrestling program that have benefited. His junior season, Fischer racked up a 31-9 record, but surprised even himself with a run to semistate. He registered a pin in his first matchup but lost in a 12-0 major decision in his second bout. But the seed for this season’s success had been planted.

One of the first moves any wrestler learns when he starts the sport is the cradle  — a hold by which the wrestler wraps an opponent’s leg and neck into a kind of a bear-hug. It’s a relatively simple move, but extremely effective. And Fischer has mastered it.

What started as the only trick he knew has become the senior’s calling card, so much so that when he stalked onto the mat against Jasper this January, the costume-clad Southridge student section began chanting, “Cradle! Cradle!”

“It’s just one of the few moves I know,” Fischer said. “It’s the one I remembered and I did it and it worked, so I just kept doing it and haven’t really tried anything else.”

That would probably be a problem if it weren’t so dominant.

“He’s got the best cradle in the state of Indiana, in my mind,” said Mundy, who is Fischer’s wrestling partner during practice. “You can’t stop it. It’s crazy. His cradle is ridiculous.”

At 6-foot-2 with long arms, Fischer has a size advantage over most 182-pounders. He’s able to wrap others easily and once he does, a vise-like grip ensures no one is escaping. He uses the cradle so often it’s become a running joke between himself and Raider coach Dave Schank. Fischer will cradle an opponent for a pin, and Schank will be waiting there when he exits the mat with an inquisitive look on his face.

“I’d always pretend like I didn’t know what it was,” Schank explained. “”˜What was that move? That was weird. … How’d you pin him again?’”

Fischer was an offensive lineman on this fall’s sectional champion football team, and he credits the weightlifting program installed by first-year coach Scott Buening as the biggest reason for his wrestling success this year. He’s added newfound strength and speed into his repertoire, and even if he won’t admit it, Schank said a year-plus of experience has greatly expanded his skill set.

That was on display at the recent PAC meet. In the title bout, Fischer faced Heritage Hills stud Gabe Konerding in a rematch from the beginning of the season. In the first matchup, Fischer was able to cradle the three-time sectional champ three separate times and won 8-7. That first result could be explained as a surprise, but when Fischer defeated Konerding again? Even Schank was caught off-guard.

“The second time … to be perfectly honest, I don’t know how many of us thought he would beat (Konerding),” Schank said. “We knew this time (Heritage Hills) would not put themselves in a situation to get cradled again.

“You’ve got to be a good wrestler to beat a kid the caliber of Konerding and do it without your No. 1 tool. (That’s like) if you’re Spiderman and you’ve got to beat somebody without your web. So it was tougher for him, but he went out and did it.”

But if any of that success has gone to Fischer’s head, it hasn’t shown. He still exhibits the same wide-eyed disbelief as everybody else. If last year somebody told him he’d be undefeated this far into the season, “I would have said you’re crazy,” Fischer said. “Never would have believed you.”

The competition will only continue to rise, and Fischer’s likely not going to surprise anyone with his cradle anymore. To win the regional, Fischer will likely have to beat Edgewood’s Damien Chambers, the fourth-ranked wrestler in the state and a state qualifier from a year ago. But there is a strange confidence in the unknown. Nobody, including Fischer, really knows how high his ceiling stretches.

“How (Fischer) made it to the ticket round (at last year’s semistate) was a surprise, this year was a surprise, how he beat Konerding, going undefeated; all of it,” Schank said. “That’s why we’re so excited. Who’s going to stop him? What’s he going to do?

“With Fischer, we’re not sure what he’s capable of, but it’s a lot.”

Contact Joseph Fanelli at jfanelli@dcherald.com.




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