On paper, Bald Eagle Area’s Josh Fye is an average 18-year-old. He plays Xbox with his friends, has a healthy appetite and is looking forward to college.
But on the mat, there’s little that’s average about the 285-pound Fye.
“He’s not too different from most of the kids on our wrestling team,” BEA coach Steve Millward said. “But he’s been having a really good year in terms of wrestling and he doesn’t seem like he’s putting a lot of pressure on himself. Maybe he is, but he doesn’t show that he is. I think that’s the difference.”
The heavyweight captured the Class AAA Northwest Regional title last Saturday, pinning another accolade to his growing resume. Fye and eight other Centre County wrestlers are set to compete in the PIAA Championships, which run Thursday through Saturday at the Giant Center.
Bellefonte’s Brock Port (145), also a regional champion, is looking to improve upon last year’s sixth-place finish at the state championships. Port’s teammate Chase Gardner (152) will join him in Hershey, while Fye’s teammate Seth Koleno (132) will make his second trip to states.
State College’s Adam Stover (113) and Philipsburg-Osceola’s Bryce Bennett (126) and Dakota Weitoish (145) are also set to compete in Class AAA. Penns Valley’s Darren Yearick and Jared Hurd will represent the county in Class AA.
For Fye, who is making his third trip to states, this year’s tournament isn’t weighing as heavily on his mind. Even though it’s his last, he’s taking the experience in stride.
“This time I’m more relaxed,” Fye said. “The third time you know what’s going to happen. I know what to expect for the tournament.”
In last year’s tournament, Fye didn’t place, falling short of his expectations. Millward noticed as Fye’s profile grew, so too did the pressure he put on himself. But he also noticed that with another year of growth, Fye is shouldering the weight of expectations, besides the heft of the competition, with greater ease.
“Last year I think he put some pressure on himself,” Millward said. “I think he has a different approach this year.”
After Wednesday’s workouts in the Giant Center, Millward took Fye aside and saw the “big kid” had grown up.
“Keep a calmness about you,” Millward said. “We talked about that today after his workout. ‘The state tournament — it’s a big deal, there’s going to be a lot of excitement here, I’m sure there’s going to be a lot of excitement in your matches. But you just got to find calmness in all that mix up.’
“He understands that,” Millward added. “That’s where I think some of the mature part of Josh comes out. He understands that now we just got to put it into action to make it work.”
Fye, who has a first-round bye, will face either Avon Grove’s Vincent Walls or Warwick’s Ryan Stewart in his initial match. He said he isn’t focused on who his opponent may be. He’s focused on himself.
Over dinner at The Manor Restaurant and Lounge, a team tradition, Fye and teammates Garrett Rigg and Koleno talked about their shared love of hunting and fishing with their coach. When the conversation turned back to wrestling, Fye wasn’t thinking ahead.
He was focused on the first six minutes of his upcoming match.
“Coach asked me about how many matches I went over today in my head and I said ‘one’ because it doesn’t matter if you don’t win that first match,” Fye said. “You’re not going to go on to that second match or a third or the finals.”