Like his signature move, the blast-double, Nick Fiegener of Folsom High School roared onto the wrestling scene this season with the force of a locomotive.
The blast-double is an aggressive two-handed takedown, light on subtlety and heavy on impact. A wrestler charges low at his opponent, grabbing behind the thigh of one leg and then the other. If perfected, the the opponent is lifted off his feet and slammed to the mat.
“This is like a straight-ahead freight train,” Folsom coach Mike Collier said. “It’s coming right at you, and you try and stop it. And that’s Nick’s mentality.”
Fiegener mastered the move while compiling a 59-1 record this season, punctuated by winning the CIF State Wrestling Championship at 182 pounds in Bakersfield earlier this month. The senior was the area’s only state champion, and for his season-long accomplishments, Fiegener is The Bee’s 2014 Wrestler of the Year.
After getting out-muscled and dominated by three-time state champion Isaiah Martinez of Lemoore in the 160-pound final at the 2013 state championships, Fiegener vowed never to be thrown around again, adding muscle and pounds – without losing agility – through months of offseason conditioning and workouts.
“That (2013 loss) just put the mindset in me that I never wanted to be overpowered again,” Fiegener said.
Fiegener is an engaging 17-year-old who enjoys the opportunity to show off the results of his hard work in the weight room. Calling Martinez “a freak of nature,” Fiegener now gets the same respect. His peers and other coaches marvel at his physique, which features sculpted biceps and powerful legs.
Heads turned every time he peeled off his warmups at matches.
“People just can’t believe he could put on 20 pounds of muscle,” Collier said. “To be honest, most high school kids don’t want to work that hard. It takes a rare kid and a rare athlete to put in that much time.”
The top-ranked wrestler at 182 since the preseason, Fiegener was unbeaten against state competition. He embraced the role of being the wrestler to beat in every match, but he said it wasn’t easy being the top dog.
“It’s empowering, yet at the same time, it’s scary being the top guy,” Fiegener said, “because there is more pressure on you than if you’re an underdog.”
The first state champion in Folsom history, Fiegener hopes to continue the momentum this summer at national meets and in college, where he’ll attend Cal Poly. In 1969, Steve Erdmann won the NorCal championship at Folsom before a state tournament was adopted.
“When you have one of your hardest workers setting the example, that makes your job easier as a coach,” said Collier, The Bee’s Coach of the Year. “I can say, ‘Hey, look, this guy is successful because he works hard.’ Nick’s a good athlete and he listens well and is coachable. But what it comes down to is who has the work ethic. You don’t become a state champion by just going through the motions.”
Collier said Fiegener even taught him a few things in the weight room.
“I’ve learned a lot from Nick,” Collier said. “I want to learn some (new) things. He’s shown me some new workouts that I can use for future teams. He makes his own workouts and they are unique.”
Fiegener worked out last summer with his brother, Ross, a linebacker at Occidental College in Los Angeles. Ross was in the stands in Bakersfield for the state finals, watching anxiously.
“I was probably more nervous than he was before the match,” Ross said. “I was dying.”
Fiegener’s spoils include becoming a four-time All-American, a two-time Masters champion and a state champion. He spent more than 200 days with Collier, who joked, “Nick is probably sick of me.
“All the experience came to this final point and it made it all worth it,” Collier said.