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|Joe Feemorlu ended his junior wrestling season at Mooseheart by being the school's first state meet qualifier.
Champaign, IL, Feb. 21 – Looking at the wrestling mats arrayed on the floor of the State Farm Center – it's easy to notice that the dimensions are identical to others, although there are six mats in-use during early rounds, which is more than at most meets.
But to Mooseheart junior Joe Feemorlu, nothing seemed "the same" as competed as the first representative of his school in the IHSA Class 1A State Meet.
"The mat, it doesn't feel the same," Feemorlu said. "I'm telling you, it feels better. You feel like you've got power when you're out there."
Feemorlu only got to wrestle once in this year's state meet. On Thursday, Shelbyville's Lucas Duckett defeated him 7-5 in the 170-pound weight class preliminary round. Duckett lost 6-5 in his quarterfinal to LeRoy's Caleb Wilson. By losing to a wrestler who lost his next match, Feemorlu was eliminated.
"I like the setting down here," Feemorlu said. "Everybody has that single-minded focus that they want to be the best. That's where I want to be. I want to be at the top. Unfortunately I only got to wrestle once this year. But I've got next year."
In preliminary round match, Feemorlu proved he belonged as one of the 16 qualifiers in his weight class. He was on his feet trying to make moves to tie the match and force overtime when the third period ended.
"I knew I wasn't going to get pinned, because that was my goal," Feemorlu said. "I did not know it was going to be that close. At the end, I did try to get him, but he was a smart wrestler."
In a way, Feemorlu is always making up for lost time when he steps onto a wrestling mat. At the same time – look at what he's accomplished in his brief Mooseheart career.
Feemorlu came to Mooseheart three years ago and only joined the wrestling team two years ago. Growing up in Columbus, OH, he never thought much about being a wrestler.
"To be honest, I didn't have any idea that I was going to playing any sports," Feemorlu said. "I did play a little football, but it was just playing around."
After a freshman year where he played basketball, Feemorlu was brought to the wrestling team by 2013 grad Junior Smith, whose solid career ended one victory from state meet qualification his senior year.
"He sort of forced me to do wrestling," Feemorlu said. "Then midway through the season, I was getting there before he was because I really wanted to be there."
At the state meet, the vast majority of wrestlers are the product of their city's youth program, often with eight or more years gaining knowledge in the sport. By contrast, Feemorlu has only two years experience.
"Our wrestlers, when they come to us, don't have any experience, so we take baby steps teaching them the basic moves," Mooseheart coach Mark Johnson said. "It's gotten us a long way. If we continue to use the basics and the strength that our wrestlers have, we're going to get a couple of guys down here in the future."
Asking Feemorlu what he enjoys most about the sport gets an instant response.
"When you come back from a wrestling workout, your whole body is sore," he said. "You feel like you actually put in hard work for something. It's definitely different from every other sport. When you're out there for six minutes, it's like your whole body is shutting down, but you see guys pushing through it because they've worked so hard for it."
This year, Mooseheart had five sectional qualifiers, the most in nearly a decade. With a state qualifier returning to the team next year, Johnson sees the potential for even greater success.
"This is just one of those steps, now that (Feemorlu's) been to state," Johnson said. "He should be really proud of himself and I know he'll bring it with him in November, when wrestling season begins again."
Of those who reached out to Feemorlu via social media was Smith.
"He told me 'good job' and he gave me a lot of advice that I took very seriously," Feemorlu said.
Like many Mooseheart athletes, Feemorlu competes in multiple sports. He is a running back on the football team and runs hurdles and sprints for the track team.
"I concentrate on one sport at a time, but I can tell you wrestling's one sport I cannot wait to come back to again," Feemorlu said. "I'm willing to put in the work. (Johnson) is willing to work with me. Other coaches are willing to work with me."
There are already discussions into finding programs in which Feemorlu can participate to give him more knowledge in the sport before his senior year begins.
"You get a lot of different coaches working with you, and I think you learn more," Johnson said. "That's what (Feemorlu) needs this year, to get some coaching from some other experienced coaches. Then when he comes back to us in November, we'll pick up right where we left off and try to get him back (to state) again."