Petersen makes dominant run to wrestling state championship

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Father Ryan High School senior Parker Petersen capped off his high school wrestling career in dominating fashion, pinning all three of his opponents in 30 seconds or less on his way to a state title in the heavyweight division at the Division II State Wrestling Championships.

“It was great,” Petersen said of his state title. “It was a super satisfying thing knowing all the hard work that was put in.”

Petersen was a state runner-up twice, at 170 pounds as a sophomore and at 195 as a junior. “It was kind of in my grasp the last two years,” Petersen said. “It was definitely my goal to get the title before my high school career was over.”

“The times he lost in the finals, he lost to kids who were All-Americans,” said Father Ryan Coach Pat Simpson. “He was always in a tough weight class.”

During his four years at Father Ryan, Petersen, who has signed a scholarship to play football at Tulane University, grew from 135 pounds to heavyweight. But as he grew, he held onto the techniques he learned as a smaller wrestler.

“Smaller kids tend to develop their skills better than the bigger kids,” said Simpson. “He grew into a bigger kid and had all the skills of a little guy. He never changed his style of wrestling.”

And that became a big advantage as a heavyweight. Petersen finished the season with a 26-0 record, pinning every opponent he wrestled but one. “That match he won 11-2,” Simpson said.

Going into the state tournament, Petersen was confident. “I know these kids. I know how they wrestle,” Petersen said. “I knew what I needed to do.”

Petersen’s speed as a heavyweight and his mental approach also were advantages. “I’m faster than most others,” he said. “My mindset and my match preparedness” were important, he added. “Be aggressive and leave it all out there on the mat.”

Petersen led the Irish to a third-place finish in the team standings behind state champion Baylor School and runner-up Christian Brothers High School.

Ten of the 11 Irish wrestlers who qualified for the state tournament placed in the top six in their weight class.

Junior Ben Stigamier placed second at 145 pounds. Placing third were: freshman Joe Calvin, 106 pounds; junior Calvin Eason, 126 pounds; and senior Thomas Wesnofske, 138 pounds. This was the third time Wesnofske placed, finishing second at 126 pounds in 2020 and third at 120 pounds in 2019, and Eason placed third at 113 pounds in 2019.

Other Irish wrestlers who placed included: sophomore Matt Oberlander, 120 pounds, finished fourth, after placing fifth at 113 pounds in 2020; sophomore Joe Jones, 113 pounds, senior Andy Laden, 152 pounds, junior Joey Terry, 160 pounds, junior Henry Rodgers, 170 pounds, all finished fifth.

Freshman Fuad Ahmed also qualified for the state tournament at 132 pounds.

Three Catholics also placed for Montgomery Bell Academy, including sophomore Gabe Fisher who won a state championship at 220 pounds.

Fisher’s brother, Max, finished third at heavyweight. The Fisher brothers are parishioners at the Church of the Assumption. Sophomore Henry Ribble, a parishioner at St. Ann Church, finished sixth in the 106-pound class.

Gabe Fisher, who placed third at 195 pounds in 2020, finished this season undefeated with a record of 14-0.

“He just had a really good year,” said MBA Coach Patrick Simpson,  a parishioner at St. Henry Church, the nephew of the Father Ryan coach and the brother of Father Mark Simpson, a priest of the Diocese of Nashville. “He’s a really good wrestler, but he’s also a really tough kid, a special kid,” he said of Gabe Fisher. “He’s wrestled for a long time. He’s got really good wrestling skills.”

Max Fisher was bouncing back from a knee injury he suffered the previous year. “About January, he started really wrestling well,” Patrick Simpson said.

“They’re athletic for their size. They can move really well. And they’re strong,” he said of the Fisher brothers, who are part of a wrestling family. Older brothers Ricky and Hal wrestled for Father Ryan, with Ricky winning a state championship, and Dominic was a two-time state runner-up wrestling for MBA.

Gregory Gomez, a parishioner at Christ the King Church in Nashville, finished third place at 113 pounds in the Division I-A-AA state tournament. 

Gomez, a sophomore at Martin Luther King Magnet School in Nashville, went 4-1 in the tournament, his only loss coming to eventual state champion Caleb Uhorchuk of Signal Mountain High School. Gomez secured third place with a 10-3 decision over Malik Wooten of Millington Central High School and finished the year with a 7-1 record.

It was the third time Gomez has placed, finishing second at 113 pounds in 2020 and sixth at 106 pounds in 2019.

Pope John Paul II High School freshman Sean Meffe, 126 pounds, was the only Knight to qualify for the state tournament.

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