In what amounts to a stop-the-presses event, Zurich Storm skipped a wrestling practice on Monday.
In fact, he’s missing today’s practice at North Carolina State as well.
Before an investigation is launched or Wolfpack fans fall into a panic-stricken state, it should be noted that Storm is skipping wrestling practice to. . . go to wrestling practice.
The N.C. State sophomore and former New Oxford High School star got the green light from Wolfpack head coach Pat Popolizio to return home in order to serve as a guest clinician at the South Central PA Wrestling Club’s summer camp, which is being held this week at Spring Grove H.S. Storm is a prized pupil of the club and was happy to help when his former coaches reached out with an invitation. Storm’s appreciation of the guidance he’s received from mentors such as former Biglerville head coach Bob Gano and Spring Grove head coach Tyke Conover – both integral members of the South Central PA club staff – is readily apparent.
“Gano and Tyke have helped me get to where I am now in college,” said Storm, when reached by telephone Sunday evening. “It’s only right when Gano asked me to come home that I would, as long as Coach Pat was alright with it. Those guys gave me many lessons over the years, it’s my time to give back.”
Storm’s ascension from scholastic stud to NCAA Division I starter wasn’t as easy as some may assume. From training to technique tweaks, getting into tournaments that increased exposure to college coaches, and invaluable assistance as the recruiting process unfolded, the South Central club has been in Storm’s corner from start to finish.
In turn, Storm has become a poster boy for what can happen when a wrestler with limitless potential adheres to coaching and advice from mentors who can provide that last push that helps him make it to collegiate wrestling’s highest level.
“Zurich is so coachable, he’s doing well academically and he understands how to carry himself,” said Gano. “He wants to give back and pay it forward, and we need those guys in this sport. Zurich always had sick athleticism, he just needed someone to point him in the right direction, and hope that he took it.”
Storm’s dazzling career at New Oxford included 127 career wins, four Class 3A sectional titles, a District 3 crown and a sixth-place finish at the PIAA Championships in the spring of 2017. Despite being unable to attach ‘state champion’ to his resume, Storm drew interest from major programs. He signed on with N.C. State, where he went 16-6 during a freshman season in which he was redshirted.
Competing at 125 pounds, Storm recorded nine bonus-point victories and earned runner-up honors at the Hokie Open, Pembroke Classic and Wilkes Open.
He worked his way into the starting lineup for parts of last season, going 16-5 while sharing time with then-senior Sean Fausz at 125. Storm won the Wolfpack Open, outscoring his three opponents 38-11. Always electric from neutral, Storm compiled eight bonus-point victories including four major decisions and a pair of technical falls.
Reflecting on his development at the collegiate level, Storm points to belief in those around him as the driving influence.
“It seems like it has happened really quickly, and my redshirt season was a big growth year for me,” he said. “I was able to take in all the technique and moves that I knew of, but never implemented in my style. I trusted the process that Pat and the other coaches put me through. It’s easy to stay on the right path when you see the end result.”
Storm admitted that his initial year with the Wolfpack included periods of inconsistency, which are to be expected as wrestlers adjust to heightened levels of intensity, training and competition. He acknowledged that success lies in being consistent, be it practice or during a match.
Through ups and downs his desire to improved never wavered.
“I just loved it all,” he said, when asked to recall a favorite memory of last season. “There are times where you don’t want to practice but I live for it, I love it. If we get two or three days off, physically and mentally I need to go back in. I’m not used to laying around the house all day.”
Part of Storm’s relentless internal drive derives from what he perceives to be failure. He openly talks of looking up to former New Oxford star Jordan Conaway, who won a state title with the Colonials before becoming a two-time NCAA All-American at Penn State University. Storm hoped to equal Conaway’s exploits as a Colonial but came up shy in his quest.
For some, falling short can have devastating effects. For Storm, it only stokes the competitive fires that burn within.
“If you don’t have the mindset to get better you’re just a body, a practice partner,” he said. “You have to set goals. If I don’t reach goals I feel like I failed, but I get right back up. I laugh it off, get back up and do it again.”
Storm plans on moving up to 133 pounds for the upcoming season, a move initiated by his head coach.
“It was a little tough to make the last two pounds at 125 last year,” Storm admitted. “My coach thinks it’s the best move for myself and the team, and I’m trusting in him.”
Nothing will be handed to him, but Storm is considered the frontrunner for the starting spot. With returning two-time All-American Hayden Hidlay, one of seven Pennsylvania wrestlers on the roster, N.C. State is a program on the rise. Storm said togetherness is the secret ingredient to the Pack’s increasing success.
“The biggest thing is that we are a family,” he said. “We’ll fight to the death in the practice room but be friends again right after. We spend a lot of time together with cookouts, games or at the swimming pool. I know what I’d do for my family and that’s the same thing I’d do for my teammates.”
Storm plans to share his mental approach and on-the-mat techniques with youth and scholastic wrestlers at the South Central camp today, when he joins former Rocket Dalton Rohrbaugh as a guest clinician. Rohrbaugh was a two-time state medalist at Spring Grove before going on to Lock Haven, where he went 20-14 at 133 pounds last season.
“Bringing back Zurich and Dalton was essential,” said Gano, who is currently serving as the South Central club president. “We can tell (the campers) these guys trained just like you did and now they’re at the Division I level and having success. I was hoping they would both give back and they did, very willingly.”
Monday’s guest was 2018 Lehigh University graduate Darian Cruz, the 2017 NCAA champion at 125 pounds. Cruz was one of the most highly decorated Pennsylvania wrestlers in recent memory, winning three PIAA titles at Bethlehem Catholic before going to Lehigh, where he compiled a career record of 144-24 in becoming a three-time All-American.
According to Gano, Wednesday’s clinician will be George Mason assistant coach Mason Beckman, who also starred at Lehigh. Beckman was a two-time All-American for the Mountain Hawks after leaving Reynolds High School, where he won 196 matches and a pair of PIAA championships.
On Thursday, Young Guns coach John Strittmatter will be at Spring Grove to work with the 90 grapplers who have registered for camp.
“We wanted to bring elite people in here and let them coach,” said Gano. “We want to learn as much as the kids learn. Hopefully it’s a good experience.”
Josh Martin can be reached at email@example.com. Follow on Twitter at @JoshMartin33