Prep wrestling | Manatee's Jesse Fulk confident he's headed to state

Stopped short last season, sophomore determined to get to state

jlembo@bradenton.comDecember 13, 2012 

BRADENTON -- Jesse Fulk's first year in a Manatee singlet boiled down to two numbers.

Fifty-four.

And 1.

Fulk won 54 matches as a freshman last year, the second-highest single-season mark in program history.

His season, however, ended one match short of the state tournament.

"I was very disappointed," Fulk said. "At that point, I decided I'm going to work harder this year to make it happen."

Meet the new and improved Jesse Fulk.

The old one didn't need much tinkering. Fulk was a district and county champion and recorded his program-best 35th pin during last year's district tournament.

Yet Fulk's biggest adjustment is the one happening between his ears.

"The maturity level has gone up," Hurricanes coach Andy Gugliemini said. "I think maybe he doubted himself a little bit, but I don't see that happening with the Jesse we have now."

Gugliemini witnessed such a change earlier this season, when Fulk suffered a first-period pin during a preseason match.

"We said, 'You have to learn how to battle -- you can't go out there and get pinned in the first period,'" Gugliemini said. "He has stepped it up since then, and he hasn't had that issue anymore."

Fulk is off to a good start: Wrestling at 152 and 160 pounds, he takes a 12-0 record into Saturday's Combs 6-Way Duals hosted by Spring Hill Springstead, last year's Class

2A state team champion.

Heading into last year's region tournament, Fulk acknowledged something didn't feel right and wasn't flowing during warm-ups.

But something else was going on, too, which harkens back to Gugliemini's earlier appraisal.

"I was very confident about it, but I still had that second thought in my head," Fulk said, "and I think that was part of the reason (I lost). This year, I'm going in there, planning on winning it and trying to go as far as I can.

"I got over it pretty quick. The next week, I was out running."

Fulk and his family aren't strangers to Manatee wrestling. Jesse was a successful youth wrestler, and his two older brothers, Andrew and Travis, had sterling runs on the mat as Hurricanes before taking their game to college.

Jesse Fulk considers his freshman season a giant learning experience.

"Confidence, and the way you act when you go out on the mat," he said. "If you go out there planning to win, you're generally going to win. If you go out having a second thought you might lose the match, you might end up losing the match."

Make no mistake, Fulk has made some technical changes, too. He is drilling harder in practice, and, considering a wrestler's won-loss record doesn't really matter until the postseason starts, Fulk said he is treating some of his bouts like practices, too.

"It's like a drill match," he said. "If I know I can beat him, I'll take him down and let him up a couple of times."

All of it is being done to ensure Fulk reaches the state tournament in Lakeland.

And he said he won't be happy unless he comes back from The Lakeland Center with one of the medals awarded to the top six finishers in each weight class.

The sophomore sounds confident.

"Of all the guys we have, he's the guy we're looking at to start the new streak," said Gugliemini, whose Hurricanes didn't have a wrestler place at state for the first time in 15 years last season. "He's very capable of that. And as we've seen before, once you get to Lakeland, all you have to do is have two good days."

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