Jake Fisher (87 kg, Curby 3-Style) is not coming out of retirement. Why?
Because he never retired in the first place.
Once regarded as one of the most complete and hardest-working Greco athletes in the US, Fisher enjoyed a career filled with highlights, including an appearance at the 2010 World Championships in Moscow. A year later, Fisher set himself up for another chance at a World medal when he won the 2011 Trials, but an injury ultimately forced him into withdrawing. The NMU alum kept chugging along throughout the next quad and a half, picking up medals at various stops like the Pan Ams, Granma Cup, and Dave Schultz Memorial. But as the Rio Olympic year cascaded into view, it just didn’t feel the same anymore.
He was burnt.
Fisher’s most recent official match, a criteria loss to Mason Manville (Army/WCAP) in the quarterfinals of the Olympic Trials Challenge Tournament, appeared to bring with it the end of his career. He wouldn’t have been alone. Former teammates Andy Bisek, Harry Lester, and Spenser Mango also hung ’em up at the close of the preceding quad. When Fisher didn’t show up to the Bill Farrell Memorial in November of ’16 — or anything else for that matter over the past 24 months — yeah, you figured retirement. He never said so, exactly. But that’s what you thought, and his absence didn’t offer a very convincing argument to the contrary.
Alas, Fisher wasn’t retired. He just needed a respite, to step away from the trade he had devoted his athletic life to. So he entered chiropractic school. He got married. More than anything, Fisher caught some space, and with school taking such a high priority nowadays, his days have been more than filled. So it took a little bit. He helped out at local wrestling programs here and there. A college coach in the area urged him to come in. Eventually, fellow Northern grad (and brother-in-law) Joe Uccellini prodded Fisher enough for him to consider ending his hiatus.
And that’s why we are where we are. Fisher’s presence at the 2018 US Open (beginning tomorrow morning at 9:00am PT on FLO) instantly boosts the depth in his weight class, if not the entire tournament altogether. However, that’s not Fisher’s concern at the moment. He’s taking this step-by-step for now. Maybe Las Vegas leads to Tulsa. Maybe it doesn’t. All Fisher wants this week is an opportunity for him to go back to doing what he loves without making a long-term commitment just yet. We’ll take what we can get.
Jake Fisher — 87 kg, Curby 3-Style
5PM: Was this a more of a recent decision, or over the past two years had you already thought you were coming back?
Jake Fisher: Well, after the ’16 Olympic Trials I was so burnt out that I was done with it. I never said or retired or anything like that. But I remember I couldn’t even get on the mat or watch wrestling. I didn’t even care, I was just…done. But after about a year and let’s say a quarter, I started to get a little itch for it. I mean, I was pretty neck-deep in chiropractic school mid-semester and stuff, and I think I got on the mat twice with Joe (Uccellini) just moving around. Fortunately, this spring semester, I had a little extra time and the Sacred Heart University coach (John Clark) contacted me and asked if I wanted to come in or help out by wrestling with some of the guys. I made some time for that, and then anywhere from two or three times a week since February, I started going in. And about two or three weeks ago, Joe Uccellini kept asking me, Are you going to wrestle at Nationals? Are you going to wrestle at Nationals? I was just like, Alright, I guess, and then I pulled the trigger. I’m in good shape and still decently young, so why not? I’m feeling good. I don’t know if it’s a complete comeback, I am just taking it day-by-day because I just got back on the mat in February.
5PM: Physically, has the time off been fruitful? Do you feel re-energized, refreshed?
Fisher: I’d say more mentally. I had one major injury, but nothing crazy, and not a lot of minor injuries throughout my career. I still stayed in shape lifting, Olympic lifting, and maybe a little Crossfit here and there. My body is functioning great, so it has been more mental. I got that hunger for the mat again, so instead of throwing more weights around, I want to start throwing some people around. That’s pretty much it (laughs).
5PM: But you make a pretty important point there, you never said you were retired and I was careful not to word it that way. That aside, with the mental break, have you noticed what has gone on in your absence? The rule changes, which you’ve dealt with a lot in your career. There has also been an influx of youth. Do these things I just mentioned look different or matter to you? Or is it just the same old story you’re used to?
Fisher: I mean, I don’t even know how many rule changes there have been since I started in what, 2002, 2003? The rules have changed so much (in my career), probably seven or eight times they changed. The fact that the rules are different now, even compared to last year? That’s definitely normal for me. But nothing has changed. Wrestling is wrestling to me. You score points in par terre, on the feet, and there are just slight modifications on how you can do that. But I like these new ones. They put par terre back in and that’s definitely a good thing, it’s more of a strength for me. And I do love that there are the same-day weigh-ins. That was another reason. It was like, So you’re saying I don’t have to cut weight and I just sign up? It’s a lot better. You know, I’m 34, I’m not going to cut 15 pounds and expect to bounce back like younger guys and recover enough to compete the next day at the same level.
5PM: That was my next question sort of. You’re listed at 87. Are you so far above 82 kilos to where that wasn’t an option?
Fisher: This past month I’ve weighed anywhere between 87 to 89 kilos. So when I started thinking about competing at the Nationals I was like, There’s no way I’m cutting weight, that takes the fun out of it. And I’ve always wrestled bigger guys training-wise. Even if guys were still cutting down to 87 and are bigger, that doesn’t really bother me. I’m strong, my legs are strong. As long as I’m in shape, I have 14 or 15 years of experience, so I think I should be able to hold my own.
5PM: You said you’re taking it day-by-day. When someone like yourself returns from hiatus, I think it is automatically assumed that they are back for good, at least for the time being. You’re just talking about this one tournament, but are you potentially already thinking about Tulsa and the Trials?
Fisher: I haven’t even thought about that yet (laughs). If I do well, I do well. It all depends on external factors, such as if I’m getting training in. School comes first and I’m in school a lot. I just try to find as much time as I can to work out in between that and work — I also work — and that is probably the biggest key. Obviously, I’d want to get on the mat a little more. Honestly right now, it’s definitely like, Hey, I am going all the way to 2020. I just got on the mat two months ago, I wanted to do a tournament, I’m in decent shape, and I want to throw some guys on their heads.
5PM: You haven’t had this kind of break before from competing. That switch, that competitive switch, is that something you’re worried at all about being able to turn on when you need to come Thursday?
Jake Fisher: Oh no, I’m not worried at all. I can make that competitive switch, get that little drive — that anger — right before a match. I’m just having more fun doing it now.