Fucci balancing the mat, MCATs

Colfax grad helps Grand Canyon claim league championship
By: Ray Hacke Journal Sports Correspondent
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Mike Fucci likes to challenge himself – and not just on the wrestling mat. A two-time All-American at Sierra College, the Colfax High graduate chose to transfer to Grand Canyon University in Arizona so he could have two top-notch wrestlers, Ryan Becerra and Victor Carazo, as training partners. Both became NCAA Division II All-Americans last season. Fucci likes to test himself academically, too. He’s taking a full load of classes in a demanding major – pre-medicine – and is also enrolled a review course for the Medical College Admission Test (better known as the “MCATs”), a prerequisite to attending medical school. The test isn’t until June, but Fucci has to keep up with his review course work in addition to staying on top of his regular studies. “I’m the busiest person in the world,” Fucci said. If numbers are any indication, Fucci is passing his self-imposed tests with flying colors. On the wrestling mat, the 165-pounder is 20-9 with three pins and eight major decisions. In the classroom, he’s holding down a 3.89 grade-point average. “He’s probably our best student-athlete,” Grand Canyon coach R.C. LaHaye said. “He’s very disciplined and manages his time well between studying for the MCATs and wrestling – especially being on the road.” Fucci will compete Saturday and Sunday at the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference Championships at San Francisco State University. He won’t be the only athlete representing the Sierra Foothills at the tournament — Del Oro High grad Corey Johnson, now a redshirt freshman at Adams State College of Colorado, will compete at 133 pounds. Johnson is 13-12 this season. Fucci said his performance this weekend, which will determine whether he advances to next month’s NCAA Division II nationals, will determine how he feels about his season. “I’m playing a catch-up game,” he said two weeks ago. “I can never seem to get ahead, no matter how much homework I do. “School is taking up a lot of my focus right now, and I don’t know how much extra work I’ll be able to put in for wrestling. Next year should be a lot lighter — I graduate after the fall semester.” The work he’s been able to put in despite his busy schedule has already benefited Grand Canyon. Ranked No. 7 in Division II, the Antelopes went 9-0 in RMAC dual meets due in part to Fucci’s efforts. “He’s been a big impact guy,” LaHaye said. “He’s beaten some solid guys, and the losses he’s had were all close.” Some of those close losses have come against the nation’s top-ranked wrestlers. In December Fucci took Wisconsin sophomore Andrew Howe, who won the 165-pound title in Division I last season, into overtime before being pinned. “He’s right there with the best guys in the country,” LaHaye said. “I think he can compete to be an All-American.” To do that, Fucci must make it to the nationals, where he must finish in the top eight. Fucci hasn’t decided what type of doctor he wants to be yet, though he’s leaning toward becoming a small-town family practitioner. For now, though, his focus is on accomplishing his short-term goal of becoming an All-American while enduring the rigors of preparing for the MCATs. “I’ve started to believe I can do it,” he said. “I’ve had to work really hard at both school and wrestling, but I jumped into it with both feet.”