When a major college sports program has recruiting success, the credit generally goes to the head coach. But for freshman George Fisher of St. Charles, a key factor in his decision to enroll at Michigan was a bond with assistant wrestling coach Sean Bormet.
“He coached me from when I was very little up until high school,” Fisher said. “I just wanted to be back with him.”
Bormet, a native of Frankfort, was a three-time IHSA state placewinner for Providence Catholic, including a Class AA state title at 145 pounds in 1989. After a strong college wrestling career at Michigan that included a second-place finish at 158 pounds in the 1994 NCAA Championships, Bormet returned to his home state to found the Overtime School of Wrestling in Naperville.
“That’s when I first met Sean in fifth or sixth grade,” Fisher said. “The thing that most stands out about Sean … is he’s always putting time and effort into wanting to make you better.”
Bormet remembers that even at age 11 or 12, Fisher displayed a good work ethic and a strong desire to learn.
“From day one, I saw he had what I would say is an appropriate chip on his shoulder that he brought to the wrestling mat,” Bormet said.
Even after returning to Michigan to become an assistant coach in 2011, Bormet kept tabs on Fisher’s progress at Marmion, where he won a pair of IHSA state titles in 2011 (Class 2A, 119) and 2013 (Class 3A, 132).
“From watching George, I knew he wanted to challenge himself academically and he wanted to challenge himself on the wrestling mat,” Bormet said. “He’s competitive. He’s got a great work ethic and a positive attitude. That’s the type of kid we’re recruiting at Michigan.”
Of course, that’s the type of kid a number of other schools were recruiting, as well, including the likes of Maryland, Stanford and Northern Illinois. But Fisher said Michigan was always his first choice.
“I ended up coming here because, number one, it’s a great school,” he said. “I know I’m going to be getting a great education.”
Fisher said he was looking for a wrestling program that would “push me to be the best and a school that’s going to push me to be the best.”
It also helped having some of his wrestling buddies join him at Michigan, including former Hinsdale Central standout Ernest Battaglia and Richmond-Burton grad Cameron Kennedy.
Fisher is redshirting this season, but he’s still had the opportunity to measure himself against collegiate competition by participating in open tournaments.
“I love it,” he said. “It’s just a place to show how much better you’re getting and what you need work on. … That’s a great thing about this sport. We get to practice with the team and when the team gets to compete, we get to compete.”
Technically, Fisher is not representing Michigan at open tournaments and he’s not allowed to travel to with the team.
So he and some of his friends on the team will pack into a car and drive to wherever the tournament is being held, which so far has included Eastern Michigan and Wisconsin. This Sunday, Fisher’s destination will be Alliance, Ohio, for the Purple Raider Open hosted by the University of Mount Union.
Fisher said all the travel is worth it because of the value of the competition. It’s something he said is missing for athletes redshirting in other sports, who only get to compete against their teammates in practice.
“In wrestling, you do that for two weeks and then you get to wrestle five to 10 different people and you get to see where you’re at,” Fisher said.
Fisher placed third at 133 pounds in his first collegiate tournament, the MSU Open at Michigan State University. So far, he’s split 14 matches in open competition.
“I feel great,” he said. “I feel like every day, I’ve just been getting better and better. …
“Every day I have the mindset that I want to push myself to be better.”
Fisher said he needs to work on escaping from the bottom position because with riding-time points awarded in college, “Everyone is tough on top.”
That’s just one of the transitions wrestlers have to make in going from the prep to the collegiate level.
“Some transitions happen faster than others,” Bormet said. “The few matches he’s lost, he’s lost a little bit when he needs to execute and take control of people in the neutral position.”
Bormet said Fisher is on the right track, though.
“He’s got a real positive attitude and he’s working hard to improve,” Bormet said. “He’s a great addition to the program. … I’m looking forward to him having a lot of success.”
• Dennis D. Jacobs has covered sports for newspapers in five different decades. To suggest local college athletes deserving recognition in the On Campus column, email him at email@example.com.