Robinson senior wrestlers Adam Fassnacht and Mike Vachon are aiming for the same spot this winter: the top step of the awards podium at the Virginia AAA wrestling championships. They're approaching the goal from two very different places.
Vachon, the Rams' 171-pounder, is a wrestling die-hard who picked up the sport at age 5 and gave up football two years ago to concentrate on the mat. Fassnacht, Robinson's 215-pounder, is a three-sport athlete who moves easily from football to wrestling to lacrosse each year, and wasn't really sold on wrestling until high school.
Both lost in the championship round of the state meet last winter, and both think they can return to the finals and win -- giving Robinson its first individual state title since 1991.
"They are two completely different kids, but they are both incredible athletes," said Robinson Coach Brian Hazard, a '91 Robinson graduate and state qualifier. "Adam is probably the best athlete I've ever seen. . . . Mike has been wrestling since he came out of the womb."
Vachon started the season with a jolt -- after adding roughly 25 pounds with a vigorous offseason weightlifting regimen, he weighed himself at 185 pounds three weeks before the start of the season. That meant he had to drop 14 pounds before the season-opening Northern Region Classic, not a monumental task.
A few days later, however, Vachon found out his trusty scale was off by 10 pounds. He weighed 195 pounds, and still had to drop to 171. Vachon shed the pounds and won the 171-pound title at the Dec. 8-9 tournament.
"That was tough," Vachon said. "I really decided to focus on weightlifting this summer and get a whole lot bigger."
Vachon has a wrestling mat in his house and often hosts teammates for extra training sessions.
As a sophomore, Vachon broke his hip during his third match of the season. Expected to be out until the spring, Vachon sped through rehab and returned a week before the Patriot District tournament. Vachon won that tournament, placed second in the Northern Region and finished fourth in the state.
"He's put in a lot of hard work and extra work during the summers," Hazard said. "Mike has also had to overcome some adversity."
Last year, both Vachon and Fassnacht lost in the state finals to a wrestler from 14-time state champion Great Bridge. Fassnacht was defeated, 5-2, by two-time champion David Dashiell. Vachon's match was a bit closer -- and controversial. Vachon lost to Ajay Foreman, 4-3, after apparently earning a takedown point just before the buzzer that was not awarded by the official.
"That showed me a lot about myself," Vachon said. "There are a lot of things that can't stop me. I can push through adversity. There are going to be big hurdles in my career and that was one of them."
Said Fassnacht: "Mike is on a mission. I think he is going to do pretty well. The [171-] pound class has a lot of bigger guys and I think Mike is a bit quicker than them. . . . We haven't had a state champion at Robinson in a while, so even if it is not me, I hope Mike wins one."
Fassnacht, a two-time All-Met at defensive tackle for Robinson's football team, had little time to prepare for wrestling this fall, and he played lacrosse in the spring -- and he'll play for Virginia's lacrosse team in college.
In fact, Fassnacht had only two days of practice following Robinson's loss to Oakton in the football regional final before competing in the Northern Region Classic.
"I only had one day off," said Fassnacht, who hardly seemed worse for wear, recording the tournament's fastest pin in just five seconds. "I felt fine after my first match. I just needed to get one under my belly."
Fassnacht's didn't choose wrestling so much as he inherited it. Before high school, Fassnacht had tried wrestling at age 7 -- "I came home mad that I couldn't do [professional wrestling] moves, so I didn't wrestle again until the ninth grade."
In ninth grade, Fassnacht joined the team at the urging of his two older brothers, Matt (Robinson class of 2000) and Ryan (2001), both of whom won Northern Region titles. Adam was a reserve as a 189-pound freshman, wrestling behind Ryan, but he moved up to varsity as a sophomore and placed fourth in the state.
"I was never sure if I wanted to wrestle," Fassnacht said. "It has kind of grown on me."
Fassnacht "can watch what is going on and pick things up quickly," Hazard said. "I call kids like him a dry sponge -- they soak things up. You don't have to teach them; they can learn by watching."
Fassnacht and Vachon also hope to prove they have learned from experience as they shoot for state titles.
"I'm as competitive as they come," Fassnacht said. "I love to win and hate to lose. But you can't win them all, so you have to keep that in perspective. . . . The guy I wrestled is a [two]-time state champ. I probably could've given him a better match, but I was happy getting there. I just hope I have another chance to, I guess, redeem myself."
Said Vachon: "I thought about [losing the state final] every day. I worked so hard last offseason. I did everything possible. I worked out two or three times a day and really thought that nothing could get in my way. . . . I think that loss may end up helping me this season. If I had won, I may have been complacent and not worked as hard."