Fisheye Wrestling Wins State Championship – Interview with Coach Jeff Fernandas
As told to CriticalBench.com by Steve Konopka
I’m here with Jeff Fernandas the head coach of FISHEYE WRESTLING in SIMSBURY/GRANBY CT
Q: First off congratulations on one heck of a season! Let’s go over all the state and New England placers from top to bottom because it’s pretty impressive!
Thank you…the team put in a lot of work to earn their success.
We started with 19 wrestlers at the qualifiers in Southington. 14 qualified for the state championships (top 16 in each weight class). Out if those 14, 7 made the finals. 9 state place winners in all that qualify for New England’s.
Zach johns – Intermediate Divison – 80 lbs-State Champion...also voted by the coaches as the OW (outstanding wrestler) of the tournament of that division. Season record 49-4.
Alexis Adams aka Lulu – Intermediate Divison – 75 lbs- 4th place 1 of two females to place at the State Tournament Season record 44-15
Ryan Finn – Novice Divison – 60 lbs 5th place..Season record 27-25
Ty Finn – Novice Divison – 75 lbs Runner upSeason record 42-8
At 95 lbs we had an all FishEye Final between Liam burnette – Novice Divison – 95 lbs runner up
Season record 36-13
Logan Fleming – Novice Divison – 95 lbs 6th State Champion..Season record 37-10
Hunter Adams – Novice Divison – 100 lbs State Champion – also voted by the coaches as the OW
(outstanding wrestler) of the tournament of that division. Season record 57-5
Miguel Gonzalez – Middle School Divison – 136 lbs-runner up Season record 49-7
Cooper Fleming – Middle School Divison – 112 lbs-runner up Season record 42-14
New England’s – held in North Andover mass. Top 5 in each state qualify. 6 of our 9 that qualified, placed.
Zach johns – Intermediate Divison – 80 lbs-runner up ..
Ryan Finn – Novice Divison – 60 lbs 6th place..
Ty Finn – Novice Divison – 75 lbs 5th place
Hunter Adams – Novice Divison – 100 lbs – 4th place
Miguel Gonzalez – Middle School Divison – 136 lbs 5th place
Cooper Fleming – Middle School Divison – 112 lbs -4th place
We also entered two girls in to the girls state championships . Both were champions.
We entered 4 wrestlers into the mighty might state championships (5-7 years old) and had two place winners.
Max Konopka 2nd place
Gabby johns 3rd place
High school division these are kids that work with us thru out the year in their offseason and before end
of the season tournements.
Dylan Houle canton. – 174 4th place class s
37 -8 as a senior
2014 4th Class S State
Skylar lang – 220 class s state champ, 3rd at opens, 3x state place winner. With me 5 years
43-3 as a senior
109-41 career record
KJ Fernandes 138…2nd in class LL state championships as a sophomore
31-7 as sophomore
Undefeated in the CCC west 6-o
74-29 as a jr Captain
Academic all league my sophomore year
Stuart Adams – first year wrestler- 6 th place class m 132
KONO: That’s some serious hardware your team has taken in this year! I especially like the two for two in the ladies state championships. The two OUTSTANDING WRESTLER AWARDS in one state tournament is remarkable. Zach Johns in the intermediate division and Hunter Adams in the Novice division!
Q :Give us little history on yourself with your wrestling background.
I grew up in Derby CT and attended Derby high. I wrestled for buster Jadach. Buster pretty much learned to wrestle from books, never wrestling himself. He was a football star. He is currently a member of the wrestling hall of fame and holds the record for most wins all time in the state of ct.
I’m a 4 time state place winner, including a state title.
I think what’s makes derby a special place is that you grow up with one word drilled in to you from the time your 7…Pride. When I was that age I played football.
We were allowed to use the varsity locker rooms for our home pop warmer games. As you walk in, there’s a poem at the top of the stairs in large red writing titled Pride. I, As well as all of my friends can still recite it today. That one concept had the 2nd smallest high school in ct winning housy title after housy title…state titles and even a couple over team rankings all the way up until moved away. Well, you can take the boy out of derby but you can’t take derby out of the boy.
Q: Let us know about the FISHEYE program and how it started.
The program started in 2009. I had been an assistant at another program and then was asked to run Simsbury youth wrestling. I did for one year. We were based in shs and could not practice if it snowed or if there was a play etc. the wrestlers were just not getting everything they needed. It was also based through parks and recs as a club team and that’s not who I am. I wanted serious commitment..I wanted to make champions and a park and rec club wasn’t the right fit for that goal.
We left the school in April of 2009 and ran our first session in southwick mass. It started with 8 wrestlers. In typical FISHEYE fashion we went to work. The practices are grueling at times but that’s what it takes to be great. There were complaints that it was too hard and three people quit. I was questioned as to why I just wouldn’t lighten up to grow the program. It’s my goal is to make champions,
if your quitting, you weren’t a wrestler to begin with. The wrestlers that stuck it out had nothing but success. We finished that session with 5 wrestlers. The original 5- My son KJ (finished at 32-7 and took second in LL this year as a sophomore) Dan Calzerette (he finished his junior year at 22-18 never placing.
His senior year after 6 mos at FEW he finished 41-7, 3rd in LL and a MAWA National all American, wrestled Division 1 at millersville university in pa) Ben Kibby (now in 7th grade and a 2x state champ), his brother Owen Kibby (sophomore, Granby high) and Ben Todd (who earned the most improved wrestler
award at shs that year).
Q: For being such a young club FISHEYE has had some very impressive success. What do you attribute this success to especially compared to some of the other clubs that have been running for 10-15 years?
Sacrifice, hard work and details. It’s an expectation that if you are at FEW that you will attend all practices and all tournaments. You are expected to miss the school dance, ski club, etc if they contrast with our schedule. The wrestlers show up on their birthdays because they know that’s what it takes to
Our wrestlers work very hard at practice to become talented. They are pushed past their limits to realize that they can go much further than they ever thought possible. They also realize that talent gets beat when talent doesn’t work hard. At FISHEYE we believe that details wins championships and I provide those details daily.
Q: FISHEYE has such a wide range of talent and age differences. How do you push kids like Hunter Adams and the other New England placers while not got getting the 5 and 6 year olds lost?
Work ethic- that’s the common theme. Put the work in and you will get to your goals. Whether your 55-5 or 0-50, 6 years old or 17, put in the work…there’s room to improve. Our more established wrestlers set an example of what takes to be a champion. They do this by doing the right things at practice and in the outside world. The 5 year olds up to the beginning middle school wrestlers see the work ethic and discipline and they follow suit. If you train like a madman, improvement is inevitable.
Q: I personally think wrestling builds some of the strongest character traits you would want to instill in a young person today. What are some of the traits you see developing in the wrestlers on your team year in and year out?
Words like sacrifice, pride, heart, work ethic, integrity, and self respect are not just tossed around lightly in our room. They are the concepts that we build our wrestlers on. As they grow you can watch it spread out in to their lives…school, family, etc.
In this day and age of “daddy ball” and the “everyone gets a trophy” crowd, our kids know that they deserve what they earn. They battle through losses and huge disappointments to grow and become stronger. They learn to battle through heartbreak and tough times to reach their goals…like in the real world. There’s no boss out there in the real world handing out participation salaries and in the long run they will be prepared for a tough world out there when they grow up. They learn that if they want to be great they have to work for it…not because daddies the head coach.
ONE WORD ANSWERS:
Favorite takedown move?
Whatever’s being given
Favorite pinning move?
Greatest wrestler of all time?
Dan gable/john smith
Favorite head gear?
Knee sleeves or no sleeves?
You can only do one exercise in the gym to train for next season what is it?
Anything that trains that explosion needed to attack. Kono’s opinion HANG CLEANS!
Favorite food after cutting weight all season?
Win Olympic gold in wrestling or a million dollars?
Q: 30 seconds left , state title on the line! Tied score your on top you have been taking this guy down all match but he has reversed you every time! What do you do? Fight the reversal and try to ride him out for overtime or let him up and go down by one and try for the take down.
This actually happened to me. Senior year I was down 4-0 with a minute left. I reversed the kid. He gets banged for stalling. At about 15 secs he gets hit again making the score 4-3..I throw in double legs and turn him. The ref counts 1..2 and the buzzer goes off to win my first state title
Kono: Wrestlers never forget big wins or loses! I remember every single almost in wrestling!
Q: Your son ( a fisheye product) Keith is a pretty accomplished wrestler in his own right. Keith placed second at the class LL championships and made it to the quarter finals at the Ct State Opens as just a sophomore at Simsbury high school. How different is it watching your son from the stands to your fisheye wrestlers from the corner of the mat.
It’s tough. I spent all weekend at new englands. Watching say zach johns in the finals and it is nerve racking. It’s the same feeling I get watching my son idk..wrestle off at practice. Haha. He’s my blood, the person I love most in this world. It’s just different when it comes to him.
KONO : I completely understand! I think I almost passed out three times a tournament watching!
Q: One thing I have noticed at the weekly tournaments is how close the wrestlers and their families are on the teams. I mean the first week of the season my son had 20 kids cheering for him in his first match ever and I was screaming at the top of my lungs for one of the Finn boys and honestly, I didn’t even know his name at the time. Why do you think wrestlers form such a close family type of team?
Respect- they spend their days competing against each other. They know what they go through individually and I think it brings them together. As a wrestling parent, you see firsthand what they go through and how hard they work. It’s tough to not root for kids like that.
Q: At the tournaments you can see such a huge bond with parents and there kids. I have seen parents shed some tears from being so proud of their child taking the mat, getting their first take down, fighting off their back or even winning their match. It must be so rewarding watching all these kids you have coached go out there and compete with everything you have taught them.
It is great to see them succeed. We have all been through a lot in 5 years. Watching the hard work pay off is unbelievable. To see the smiles as a kid walks off that mat as heor she just completed his goal…I mean..nothing compares to it.
Q: Let’s give a few details about how the USA-WRESTLING TOURNAMENTS are run. A lot of parents may not know how the wrestlers are paired up, how long matches are or how tourneys are lined up. I think parents would be surprised how hard the coaches work to pair up kids fairly so every age and skill level gets great matches to grow and develop?
Matches are 6 minutes long broken down to 3 2 minute periods. That doesn’t seem like a lot of time but the energy expended it tremendous. Everything is run by age and weight so it’s as fair as it can get.
There times a first year wrestler may be matched up to a wrestler who has been wrestling for 5 years but they are the same age and weight. Those are the tough matches that make you better! USA CT is doing a great job providing opportunities for our youth to wrestle.
Q: What are some of the goals for the future of FISHEYE WRESTLING?
To grow a bit, to get better, to continue to dominate opponents and give our Fisheye family what they need to succeed on and off the mat.
Q: Because of the hard work and discipline, wrestling isn’t for everyone compared to a game like t-ball. So what do you say to the parents that might be going back and forth on letting their child who is interested join the team.
In this day and age of everyone gets a trophy, wrestling is providing a safe and challenging environment to learn real world skills. Goal setting, work ethic, sacrifice and learning how to get back up and continue to battle when life knocks you down. My question would be, who wouldn’t want their child involved in
that kind of program.
KONO: I agree completely. Seeing kids work hard for something and achieve goals because of their hard work is rare these days! As for the future of FISHEYE, after personally seeing practices and the team wrestling in tournaments I don’t see anything else but a growing dominance by the FEW! Well this was awesome Jeff thanks for your time and all the best in the future for FISHEYE WRESTLING.