Campus Canvass

Fucci molded into a mat star

Colfax grad pondering his next move after capping a stellar wrestling career at Sierra College
By: Ray Hacke Journal Sports Writer
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Mike Fucci was hardly one of California’s most dominant wrestlers during his days at Colfax High. His two seasons at Sierra College have been a much different story. Fucci became a two-time junior college All-American in December when he finished second in the 174-pound weight class at the California State Championships in Victorville. He placed fourth at the state community college tournament in 2007 as he helped Sierra win the team title. Not bad for someone who never posted a top-eight finish — the minimum required to earn a medal — at California’s state high school tournament. “I got way better at Sierra than I was in high school,” Fucci said. Fucci credited Wolverines head coach Ken Wharry and head assistant coach Don Martinez with his speedy development at the college level. “Kenny made me attack more,” Fucci said. “When I got there I was more of a defensive wrestler, which I still kind of am, but I score a lot more points than I did back in high school. Don showed me a lot as far as my technique — I didn’t know a lot of moves before I got to Sierra. “Don taught me a lot of new things. Kenny helped fix the old things.” Wharry said it helped that Fucci was “like a sponge” when he joined the Wolverines and began practicing against higher-level competition. “He was very strong, very explosive and willing to work hard,” Wharry said. “That was the basis (for his success). You can’t teach a person heart and dedication — those are some things that a person has to have, and he had those qualities. We just had to make him realize it.” Fucci estimated his 2008 record to be 30-7. Five of his losses came against the wrestler who defeated him in the state finals — Sacramento City’s Cody Vasconcellos, who finished the season undefeated. “I was disappointed (with second place),” Fucci said. “I really wanted to win — I’d set that goal earlier in the year.” All of Fucci’s losses to Vasconcellos were close. “Me and him work out now,” Fucci said. “I’m totally cool with him.” Fucci is to wrestling what Greg Maddux was to pitching in baseball. The recently retired Maddux didn’t put up big numbers in the statistical category most frequently associated with pitching dominance — strikeouts — but did win 355 games in his major-league career. Fucci, likewise, has won consistently despite not recording a lot of pins, the stat most commonly associated with wrestling supremacy. “He wears guys down in a lot of his matches,” Wharry said. “Mike’s usually good for a lot of technical fall points.” A 4.0 student and Academic All-American at Sierra, Fucci is in the process of weighing where he’d like to wrestle next. While Fucci would like to compete at the NCAA Division I level — he defeated several D-I wrestlers at tournaments in Iowa and Oregon back in November, according to Wharry — lower-level schools have been offering more scholarship money. “Wrestling’s not a big sport like football (at the Division I level),” Fucci said. “Schools usually only have a couple of scholarships that they like to break into little pieces. I’m trying to decide whether to go D-I and pay a little bit or go to a little bit lower level where they’re offering a full ride.” In the meantime, Fucci is helping coach at Placer High, whose head coach, Jess Stiff, is an assistant at Sierra. Fucci definitely sees coaching wrestling as one of his long-term goals. “Ultimately I don’t want to be just a coach because there’s not a lot of money in it,” Fucci said. “Physical therapy’s probably the goal right now, but coaching at a high school or college somewhere, I can see that in my future. “As long as there are kids who want to learn, it’s great.”