When you ‘Fish’ upon a star: Senior wins heavyweight title, becomes first Rochester wrestling state
BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
INDIANAPOLIS — If one wanted to boil it down, it can be said that Marshall Fishback’s life came down to a couple of choices.
The first one led to the second, and the second led to the ultimate moment of glory in an ultimate tiebreaker.
The Rochester senior’s choices, work ethic and fate all collaborated in him to defeat Westfield’s Mihail Platonov 3-2 and win the 285-pound title at the IHSAA state wrestling finals at Gainbridge Fieldhouse Saturday night.
Fishback is the first wrestling individual state champion in Rochester school history. Damon Hummel was a state runner-up in 1992 and 1993, and Cory Fornal was state runner-up in 2006, but nobody had reached the top of the podium prior to Fishback.
As a team, Rochester scored 30 points and finished in a tie for 14th place. The Zebras had won their first ever team regional and semistate titles in the previous two weeks.
“This team has come so far, and without them, this wouldn’t happen,” Fishback said. “So I really can’t take it all for myself. I have to give credit to my coaches, Brady Beck, of course, the best drill partner by far, bar none.”
The match was decided in what is a third overtime period or what is called in wrestling terms an “ultimate tiebreaker.”
In other words, next score wins. And given that both Platonov and Fishback are seniors and wrestling in the state title match, calling this the “ultimate” was more accurate than overstated.
With the match tied 2-2, Fishback started from the bottom position underneath and wriggled free from Platonov, who tried to hang on before Fishback spun free for an escape and the victory.
He took off his headgear and exclaimed “Oh my God!” twice before hugging coach Clint Gard before raising his arms in the center of the mat.
“There’s a saying,” Gard said. “You only deserve what you earn. And he earned it.”
A luxury box filled with Rochester fans, wrestlers, benefactors and parents that had been chanting “Let’s go, Marshall!” throughout the match erupted in celebration.
IHSAA Champions Network broadcaster Greg Rakestraw interviewed Fishback on the mat afterwards and asked him if he could believe he was a state champion.
“No, not yet at least,” Fishback told the thousands at Gainbridge Fieldhouse and thousands more watching on television.
After the podium ceremony, Fishback received congratulations from well wishers, wrestlers from other schools, from Rochester students, from assistant coaches and, finally, to a waiting cadre of teammates that bounced up and down as soon as he got off an elevator to the main floor at the fieldhouse.
It still hadn’t connected with him yet.
“I’m trying to process the fact that I just won state,” Fishback said.
The celebration continued Sunday morning. Fishback and the team received a police and fire truck escort through town before the bus arrived at the school for a pep rally in celebration at the gym.
The first choice
Fishback went 11-17 and finished in fifth place at the Peru sectional in his first year as a high school wrestler in 2020.
Then the coronavirus pandemic arrived, and high school sports were canceled in the spring of 2020. Fishback said he made up his mind that he was going to work out relentlessly to improve his body, and he was also going to work on improving his grades too.
Weighing 325 pounds at one point, he dropped down to 255 pounds. He also improved his grades and made the honor roll.
The sleeker Fishback went 30-2 and won Three Rivers Conference and sectional titles in 2021. In perpetual motion, he got within one victory of the state finals before eventually losing by fall to eventual state champion Reeve Muncie from Carroll (Fort Wayne) at the semistate.
This year, following a protein-heavy diet and more workouts, he gained weight and now weighed between 278 and 283 pounds. He also worked on improving his technique while becoming difficult to contain from the bottom position.
“It takes a lot of balance,” Fishback said. “We work on it all the time in practice. We work defense all the time. Having Brady Beck as your partner, I mean you get some really good shots and some really good looks. I know if I can finish off Brady Beck, I feel pretty confident against anyone in the state. I don’t care what weight class.”
And that led to the second choice.
The second choice
Fishback’s second choice was seemingly more innocent, and it came after a scoreless first period against Platonov.
After referee Tim Welch flipped his coin, it came up red. Fishback, wearing the red anklets, had his choice whether to go top or bottom for the second period.
Fishback, whom Welch had hit with a stalling warning in the first period, chose bottom. If he could get an escape, he would have the first point of the match. And whoever scored first would get to choose position in case the match went to an ultimate tiebreaker.
Fishback got an escape to lead 1-0.
“I knew if I got the first point, if it comes down to that triple overtime, the first point gets the decision,” Fishback said. “I knew I wanted bottom. I knew I could get up. So it all starts in that second period.”
Platonov got an escape to start the third period to tie the match.
The match became a fight for position with each wrestler hanging on the other’s neck – “collar ties,” in wrestling parlance.
“Just go,” Gard yelled from the sidelines.
The wrestlers started on their feet in the neutral position to start the overtime, but neither wrestler could get a takedown in what is called “sudden victory.”
“We knew he wasn’t going to shoot on us,” Gard said later.
In the second overtime, which lasted 30 seconds, Platonov won the coin toss and chose bottom and got an escape.
Then came another 30-second round in which Fishback was on bottom and got an escape, seemingly doing the splits before getting on his feet and breaking the hold that Platonov had around his waist.
That led to the ultimate tiebreaker. Because Fishback had scored first back in the second period, he got to choose positions.
He chose bottom. The rest was Rochester wrestling history.
“Somebody felt Marshall deserved to win the coin toss,” Gard said. “We get it, we go down, we score first, and that’s huge. … And that’s how close it is. If the other kid gets the choice, he’s probably the state champ.”
Rochester wrestling notes
Fishback did not yield a takedown in four matches at the state finals. Fishback defeated Frankton’s Hunter Branham 8-2 on Friday to become a state placer, defeated Columbus East’s Ashton Hartwell 7-3 in the quarterfinals in his first match on Saturday and edged Franklin’s Jacob Johnson 3-2 in an ultimate tiebreaker in the semifinals in his second match Saturday. All the points he allowed were on escapes.
Fishback came into the state finals ranked No. 10 in the state, according to IndianaMat.com. Branham was ranked No. 17, Hartwell was ranked No. 7, Johnson was ranked No. 5, and Platonov was ranked No. 6.
Brownsburg’s Leighton Jones and New Prairie’s Hunter Whitenack came into the state finals ranked Nos. 1 and 2, respectively. Platonov upset both on Saturday to reach the final. Platonov’s Friday victory came over Columbia City’s Ian Clifford, who lost to overtime to Fishback in the semistate final.
Among Rochester’s other wrestlers, Brady Beck placed sixth at 220 while Wyatt Davis (113) and Alex Deming (195) both lost on Friday and did not place. There will be more on Beck, Davis and Deming on this website in coming days.
Rochester’s Marshall Fishback receives his medal and the winning bracket after winning the IHSAA state title in the heavyweight weight class at Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis Saturday. Fishback defeated Westfield’s Mihail Platonov 3-2 in an ultimate tiebreaker for the title. He is Rochester’s first wrestling state champion and Rochester’s first state champion in any individual event since Alusha Ewing won the state high jump title in 2000.
Rochester’s, from left, Brady Beck, coach Clint Gard, Marshall Fishback and assistant coach Damic Beck acknowledge the Rochester fans in the stands after the IHSAA state finals at Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis Saturday. Beck finished sixth at 220 while Fishback won the state title at heavyweight.
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