Male Athlete of the Week: Sisk filling role on the mat for Rams

Kyle Sisk

STRASBURG – It’s a frame of mind that exists throughout Strasburg High School’s wrestling room, the focus on each wrestler taking care of his own individual job each time he steps out onto the mat against an opponent. And it’s a philosophy junior Kyle Sisk follows.

So when Sisk stepped into the circle for each of his 113-pound matches during Saturday’s Strasburg Duals, his job was to earn some bonus points for the Rams. He did. Sisk went 5-0 with four pins and a win by forfeit, earning 30 points for his team over five dual matches, helping the Rams to a 5-0 record in defense of their tournament title.

“That’s been basically everyone’s motto in here on this team, is to just go out there and do your job,” Sisk said during practice Monday evening. “Sometimes you can’t get it done but when you do it feels great because you’re doing what the team needs. And sometimes your job is getting pins, or sometimes your job is not getting pinned, which also helps the team out. But it’s just doing your job, that’s what helps.”

Sisk’s performance on Saturday, which included his 100th career victory in his fourth match of the day, came on the heels of a flawless performance during Strasburg’s home quad match last Wednesday. Sisk, The Northern Virginia Daily’s Male Athlete of the Week for Jan. 3-9, ended his week with a 9-0 record and six pins.

All four of Sisk’s pins on Saturday came in the first period, and none were bigger than his final two victories of the day. In matches against Wilson Memorial and George Marshall – a 5A school – it was Sisk who got the Rams rolling after they fell behind due to some experience in the heavier weight classes. Both times, Sisk’s pin was followed by consecutive victories by experienced grapplers Brandon Swink (120), Austin Cooper (126), Eric Reynolds (132), Dylan Campbell (138) and Ben Rodriguez (145).

“That’s the meat of our points scoring, and those guys know they’ve gotta get bonus points,” Rams head coach Mike Wood said of that group, which consists of a Group 2A state champion (Cooper), a state runner-up (Campbell), a state third-place finisher (Sisk), another state qualifier (Swink) and two seniors. “Once one gets the ball rolling the next guy kind of wants to keep that going. Nobody in that group wants to be the guy that stops the rolling, you know, the progression. … They do, to a certain extent, try to outdo the next one too because let’s face it, all those guys do have a real strong case to make the state finals this year.”

An appearance – and victory – in the Group 2A state tournament finals sits right at the top of Sisk’s list of goals in 2016. A wrestler since age 7 when he joined a youth wrestling club in Strasburg started by former Ram standout Troy Dean, Sisk qualified for the state competition his first two high school seasons.

Competing then at 106 pounds, Sisk placed seventh as a freshman in 2014 before jumping to a third-place finish in Salem last winter. Sisk said it was the end result of his freshman season that changed the way he approached the sport.

“I think my mindset has improved a lot because my freshman year I went in there thinking that I had it and all this and that. Got seventh at states, lost a wrestle off, so I needed to change my mindset,” Sisk said. “I’ve changed my mindset from then. I mean, I’ve had some slipups this year but I’m trying to fix that.”

In preparation for his junior season, Sisk stayed busy in the summer months. In addition to some offseason camps at Strasburg, Sisk said he attended camps featuring former Virginia Tech wrestler Devin Carter and current Hokie Joey Dance and competed in national tournaments in Virginia Beach and Pennsylvania to seek out some of the best competition available.

“He’s been working hard,” Wood said. “He does do the extra stuff in the offseason. He’s done a better job at keeping his weight in check. I mean he’s probably one of the ones that’s making the biggest drop (in weight) because where we’re at from (113 pounds) to (145), if somebody doesn’t make a little sacrifice in there you have a potential state finalist sitting the whole year. … He does well in school. He, for the most part, works hard in the room and he improves every year. That’s the biggest thing. You always wanna see guys get better and he’s done that.”

Something new that Sisk has had to cope with this season is his extra length. He estimated he’s grown 4 inches since last season – he now stands about 5-foot-8 – and Wood said Sisk’s added height can be both beneficial and a problem.

The potential problem arises when Sisk is on his feet, as his longer legs produce a bigger target for his opponents, an issue Wood has tried to help Sisk alleviate by having him wrestle off one knee to cover up his legs. But Wood and Sisk both said there are advantages to that length, as well, especially when the fight goes to the mat.

“Some benefit is like cradles, you’re long enough for that. I mean I hit a lot of cradles,” Sisk said. “Others are like in sprawl situations so you have longer to work with. Some defaults are like a kid puts legs in, you’re gonna have to work harder to get it out because you have longer legs. But it’s a challenge that I’m willing to accept.”

Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or bfauber@nvdaily.com