Welcome Nick Fanthorpe and Jake Varner!!

Published April 16th, 2010 by Cael Sanderson

The U.S. nationals and Jr. FILA Nationals are a less than a week away.  We have several wrestlers that will be participating in both tournaments.  We are building up the Nittany Lion Wrestling Club with world-class wrestlers.  Next week post-graduates, Aaron Anspach, Les Sigman, and Teyon Ware, will be wrestling for the NLWC.  Building a strong freestyle club is a priority for us and is a key to building a NCAA championship program.

We are really excited that Jake Varner and Nick Fanthorpe will be joining the NLWC.  Jake Varner is the returning world team member at 211 lbs and will be the top seed going in to the nationals next week.  Jake will be wrestling for the NLWC.  Nick Fanthorpe won’t be competing until next season because he needs to take some time to let his body heal, but he’ll also be training and competing in State College.

I want to talk a little bit about both of these guys.  I had the pleasure to coach Nick Fanthorpe for four years at Iowa State.  He is the hardest working, most committed student-athlete I’ve been around.  He’s the kind of athlete that you have to convince to rest before competitions.  You not only have to convince him to rest, but you have to enforce that he does because he always wants to keep working.  That’s a pleasant change from what you usually do in coaching of trying to get kids to work harder.  When he competes, he wrestles every second.  There is no time to adjust your sock or your headgear, or he’ll be on your leg.  After he escapes from you, you better be ready because he will be turning and attacking right away.  That hustle and mentality in my mind is the most important trait in college wrestling.  Nick earned the “total commitment” award at Iowa State every year.

Nick is a “go’er.”  If the match was close, Nick was going to win because of his supreme conditioning and mental toughness.   In my younger days as a coach I’d like to grab wrestlers after practice and just wrestle them to see how long they would go before they asked to be done.  When wrestling Nick, I had to ask him to be done.  I usually said my wife was making dinner or something like that because he would not stop.  We would have been there all night if I didn’t.

 Nick was the kind of guy that you had to encourage to eat a burger, a steak, or some kind of unhealthy food every once in awhile because he was so disciplined in how he ate.  I remember after the season either his freshman or sophomore year we pressured him into eating a chocolate Cadbury egg.  It was really funny when he put the chocolate in his mouth; it was like he had a flavor overload.  His eyes were watering, he started sweating and the whole works.  Haha. 

Nick is a great kid and will be a tremendous asset to the Penn State program.   Nick was a match away from being an all-American as a freshman and then went on to be an all-American as a sophomore. Nick’s junior year in a January dual he injured his hamstring badly.  We didn’t know how bad it was until later that Summer, but did know that Nick had a very high pain tolerance, so if it was hurting him, it was bad.  Nick came back for the Big 12 tournament and won the individual title.  Without him doing what he did we would not have won the team title.  He won injured and he helped the team win our 3rd Big 12 title.  At Nationals he was able to win a few matches but was hurting and really trying to wrestle on one leg.  After the season when Nick got a MRI it was discovered that his hamstring was completely detached from the bone.  He had surgery, and tried to rush recovery in order to accomplish his goal of being a NCAA champion.  But the truth was that an injury like that takes a lot longer to heal and Nick competed injured.  He only had a fraction of the power in his dominant leg, and couldn’t penetrate or scrammble well.  He still made it to the round of twelve and fought valiantly.

We preach that winning is fighting, not necessarily whose hand gets raised after the match.  I believe that 100%.  Of course we want to win and we fight to win, but the winning is not what it’s all about.  God wants us to be happy and so how we do is important to Him, because it’s important to us.  But God judges on effort and when it comes to effort, Nick Fanthorpe can stand tall, and stand proud.  He was totally committed. 

If you can tell I have a lot of admiration and respect for Nick Fanthorpe and can’t wait until he gets to State College to train and coach full time.  Oh yeah, and Nick was my partner in 2-on-2 basketball and we have never lost.  I’m excited to get my partner back.  My job is to get the ball to Nick.  Look out Teyon!

Jake Varner is also totally committed to success.  Jake is one the best college wrestlers of all time.  He is a competitor.  He competes every day.  He gets the very best workout partner he can find every day.  Not many kids actually call the coach out every day to go.  Jake does.  I usually pester guys to go with me but Jake actually got upset when I went with someone else.  He competes hard consistently.  He’s mean and he absolutely hates to lose.  You can see all of those things when you watch him compete.

Jake is one of the most mentally tough competitors I’ve seen.  He is a rock.  He is very consistent.  He was probably the toughest guy to score on in college wrestling the last three years.  That’s because he refuses to give his opponents anything. 

I was always really annoyed with the media that said Jake wasn’t aggressive.  That is garbage.  Jake moves forward every second of the match.  He hand fights every second of the match.  If aggressive means that you enforce the pace, constantly work to create scoring opportunities, and move forward, well, I’d say if you know what you are looking at, Jake is very aggressive.  I think Jake got overlooked for some of the post season awards because of that false reputation that a few media outlets created.  Jake has developed a style that fits his body, and his strengths.  If Jake’s opponents didn’t back up and stall against him, he usually crushed them.  You would see that a lot.  His opponents would come out the first time and try to open up on him and he would beat them badly.  After that, they tried to slow him down, play the edge and keep the score close.  That’s fine; everyone is just trying to give themselves the best chance they can to be successful.  The frustrating part is hearing that Jake isn’t an aggressive wrestler.  He spent 80% of his career chasing opponents around the mat. Jake Varner is one of the best college wrestlers of all time, period. 

Jake is a great role model for our youth as well.  I don’t think he went to the bar one time while he was in college.  He doesn’t drink alcohol.  What he does is prepare to reach his goals.  He is a hard working, committed athlete that has gotten the most out of his abilities because he refuses not to. 

Jake will be a great asset to Penn State as he trains to be a world and Olympic Champion.

Welcome Nick and Jake!