A high school sophomore doesn't usually have this much to reflect on.
Warren's D.J. Fehlman already has a District 10 Class AAA championship.
But he's not one to rest on his laurels.
Times Observer photos by Brian Ferry
Winter Sports 2012-13
There is a 24-page special section entitled “Winter Sports” in Friday’s Times Observer. The section includes coaches’ looks at the county’s high school sports teams, with schedules and rosters, including the cover boy, Warren Area High School sophomore wrestler D.J. Fehlman, who is ready to move on from talk of freshman school records, to bigger sophomore goals. There is also a feature story on some newly recruited Warren Area High School swim “athletes.” Varsity programs this fall include boys and girls basketball teams at Warren, Eisenhower, Youngsville, Sheffield, Warren County Christian and Tidioute Charter, wrestling teams at Warren, Youngsville, Eisenhower and Sheffield, and the swim team at Warren.
"Coming off of last season, it does seem like I have some pretty high expectations," said Fehlman, on the cover of the Winter Sports special section featuring Warren County's high school sports teams - in the coaches' words - for 2012-13. "When you win districts, there is some pressure on me a little bit. I'm trying to control that a little bit."
The way D.J. looks at it, he still has an enormous amount to prove.
Remember, last season D.J. was new to Warren Area High School, not just high school wrestling. He had experienced a tremendous amount of success in lower levels, and his teammates knew of him, but it's a big difference between a high school senior and a freshman.
"This year I have a little more confidence," he said. "I come in feeling like I'm more of a leader than I was last year."
He gained the respect of his teammates as the season progressed; a season in which Fehlman won more matches (33) than any freshman in school history, and he won a District 10 Class AAA championship at 120 pounds.
"I think last year going into a lot of tournaments he was maybe not given enough credit," said Warren coach Glenn Baldensperger. "I think he proved himself last year with everything he accomplished."
Baldensperger said what Fehlman has already done on the mat isn't what is most special about him; it's his competitiveness, and desire to be better every time out.
Fehlman admits he might be more motivated by his losses last year than his wins.
"I hold myself to a higher standard; I have this inner will to always want to do better," said Fehlman, whose parents and sister, Mandy, help keep him grounded. "Most of the pressure I put on myself.
"My goal last year was just to be competitive and have a decent record and get out of districts, maybe," he said. "This year, by far, my major goal is to make it out of regions and get to states."
The feeling out process went pretty quickly for Fehlman, who only lost six matches all season, but one was against the top-ranked 120-pounder in the nation. Fehlman lost by a 20-3 technical fall to St. Ignatius, Ohio senior George DiCamillo, who is now at Division I Virginia.
"You definitely get to see where you need to be to get to that top level," he said. "It motivated me; I want to be the guy that's faster and quicker than everybody..."
Fehlman nearly qualified for the PIAA Class AAA Wrestling Tournament last year, as a freshman. He was down four points in the 120-pound final of the District 10 Class AAA championship match before beating McDowell's Paul Dietz in overtime.
He was knocked to the consolation bracket of the Northwest Region Class AAA Tournament by state-ranked and defending champion Godwin Nyama from Brashear - a 21-5 technical fall - before battling back into the third-place match. The top three at regions advanced to states in Hershey.
In regulation, Fehlman reversed District 9 champion Christian Stone, a junior from Clearfield, to go ahead 4-2 with under a minute to go in the third period. From there, Baldensperger said they could have opted to cut Stone loose for an escape point. It was a tough call, given "how strong Stone is underneath," said Baldensperger. Stone reversed Fehlman with 15 or 20 seconds left in the match, Baldensperger said, to tie the score at 4-4. Fehlman fought for the winning point until the final buzzer, including a close call right at the end.
"It's a bittersweet finish," Baldensperger said, then. "If someone had told me we would lose in overtime for third and fourth, I dont know if I'd have believed them. We didn't even know we'd be in the game with this kid. Give us another foot and we get the reversal; it was out of bounds and two seconds left and that put us into overtime."
Fehlman reversed Stone with only seconds remaining in regulation time, but was ruled out of bounds. That would have given him a 6-4 decision. Instead Fehlman lost by a 6-4 decision in overtime.
Baldensperger said matches like that are exactly what makes D.J. Fehlman, D.J. Fehlman. It will serve as motivation for a kid who's always looking for the perfect match.
"I feel like there's never the perfect match," said Fehlman. "You always do something sloppy."
"He's just very competitive," said Baldensperger. "I don't think it's in an arrogant way. To put it best: Last year, in the finals at districts, he got taken down. In a matter of seconds he'd escaped and taken him down. Instead of being shaken, he just rose to the occasion. He's got all the tools."
Baldensperger said that he's coached a lot of talented wrestlers, but D.J. has those intangibles - intelligence, work ethic, competitiveness - that make him a special wrestler.
Trust us, he's not resting on his laurels.
"He's one of the top workers in the room," said Baldensperger.
While somebody, somewhere is thinking about the District 10 championship, D.J. is thinking about his footwork.
Baldensperger preaches year-in and year-out, "one match at a time."
D.J.'s probably not thinking past his match on Tuesday at Meadville.
No looking back - D.J. has too much to prove.