For the past three months, Chenango Forks senior Isaiah Zimmer carried the memory of a season-ending knee injury that denied him not only a probable second Section 4 wrestling title, but the chance of winning an elusive state title.
So it was with tempered expectations that Zimmer decided to don the singlet for what he — and most — figured would be his final wrestling competition at this past weekend’s New York-USA Wrestling Kids, Cadet & Junior State Championships at the SUNY-Broome Ice Rink.
What unfolded was a surprise to many, including Zimmer.
Zimmer not only competed in, but won the Greco-Roman title in the Junior (ages 17-18) Division’s 195-pound weight class, defeating Nathan Rose of the Bronx by a convincing 6-0 decision in the title match to earn a berth at the Asics/Vaughan Cadet & Junior Nationals to be held July 18-26 in Fargo, N.D.
“I like to be confident when I wrestle, but I wasn’t sure I was going to do well,” said Zimmer, who also placed fourth in the freestyle competition. “I wrestled mainly because my dad (Jamie) likes to see me wrestle. He was bummed when I got injured, he wanted to see me wrestle one last time.”
Also qualifying in Junior competition was Lansing’s William Koll, a double-champion winning both freestyle and Greco-Roman titles at 138 pounds, Union-Endicott’s Zach Bendick at 145 pounds (Greco-Roman), and Oxford’s Cordell Huntley at 285 (freestyle).
Cadet (ages 15-16) qualifiers included a pair of a double-champions from Deposit — Dean Raymond (113 pounds) and Zach Gifford (220 pounds) — and one from Oxford, Garyn Huntley (285 pounds).
Raymond won Most Outstanding Wrestler honors in freestyle competition. The other qualifier was Chenango Valley’s Caleb Wiggins at 106 pounds (Greco-Roman).
Zimmer’s senior season with the Blue Devils came to an end when he suffered a knee injury against Johnson City’s Nick Bidwell in the finals of the Southern Tier Athletic Conference Championships on February 1 at Union-Endicott High School. He had missed the first month of wrestling season due to an ankle injury sustained in Forks’ 28-27 victory over Rye Neck in the Class C state football final on Dec. 1 at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse.
Sunday, however, provided the type of conclusion Zimmer had in mind for his wrestling career.
Rose, a senior at PSAL’s Eagle Academy, had won the state Division II 195-pound title back in March. He was no match for Zimmer, though, in the finals at SUNY-Broome.
An underarm spin on Rose set up a four-point move early in the second of the two three-minute periods, giving Zimmer a 6-0 lead on his way to the dominant victory. Zimmer earned Most Outstanding Wrestler honors in the Junior Greco-Roman competition, a first for him.
“I knew I could have accomplished great things at Sectionals and states,” Zimmer said. “Winning this helps me not think about those injuries I had too much.”
Forks coach Rick Gumble, also Zimmer’s coach at Team Worldwide Club, said his young charge had only trained for about two weeks leading up to the weekend’s competition.
“I went into this competition thinking this would be the first time I’d go to Fargo without a high school athlete (from Chenango Forks),” Gumble said. “He had a limited window, but he said he wanted to give it a go, that it was his senior year. I was extremely impressed with how well he wrestled on Sunday. I thought he’d be too sore to wrestle in the Greco-Roman competition.”
This fall Zimmer will enroll at SUNY-Broome, with an eye towards transferring to a school where he can play football once he his fully healthy. But for now, his mind is on Fargo. His goal is to earn All-American honors, which go to the top eight in each weight class.
“I’m going, and my dad will be there,” Zimmer said. “He wants to fly out and watch me.”