Josef Hissom takes Lakers to state

Duncan MacLean • Mar 1, 2017 at 11:45 AM

SPRING LAKE — After a roller coaster season for the Spring Lake wrestling program, featuring low numbers, a coaching change and a roster resurgence, Josef Hissom looks to rectify it all with an All-State finish at the Palace of Auburn Hills.

The three-sport athlete values wrestling for the work and intrinsic motivation. For Hissom, this year has served as a wire-to-wire proving ground for himself and his program.

“It means a lot to go to state for Spring Lake,” Hissom said. “People don’t know how much wrestlers put into this sport. I’m a three-sport athlete; I can guarantee you that in the wrestling room, it’s unlike anything else.

“In football it’s a team sport, lacrosse it’s a team sport, here, it is gladiator one on one. It is a totally different mindset, and you have to be prepared to come in and do that, otherwise, you are going to get beat up.”

Hissom’s cutthroat attitude developed over a season of fighting for Spring Lake victories virtually on his own. With large gaps in their rotation, the Lakers could not be competitive in team contests, leaving Hissom to get his wins on the weekends.

“Having a small team is never good,” he said. “The more guys you can get in here the more competition will arise. You see that with the best teams in the state, they have full rooms and are going at it with the best people in the room.

He does not dismiss his teammates, however, far from it.

“Having a small team, we were really close knit and very good at encouraging each other at tournaments and being there for each other. They helped me in the mental role, kept me focused on my goals. If I’m not doing enough, there are ten guys in the room who can see who is slacking.”

Even the tightest teams have their weaknesses, for Spring Lake, it was top-end skill to challenge Hissom, making the climb to state especially challenging.

It started with the conference championships, which Hissom was able to win over tough competition.

“I wrestled a really talented kid from Allendale, winning that match was really tough, you are going to have to win matches like that to get through,” Hissom said. “Winning that was really encouraging I knew I just had to keep building on that success.”

Being the only wrestler to advance past districts, Hissom took on the regional championships solo, where he went 1-1 to open his run — putting himself in a tough spot, the blood round.

“The first match you are thinking, ‘Well I can’t get out now’ so it isn’t as nerve wracking. It was a kid I knew I could beat and I felt pretty in control.

“The second match was against the No.2 kid in the state, so you just have to go out there and do your best.”

Hissom lost, 18-6, but put up a valiant fight, avoiding the pin. The loss put him one win away from the state tournament and one loss away from the end of his season.

“I was so nervous,” he said. “You win you are in, you lose and you are done. I don’t know how to describe it, it is pins and needles.

“Going out there knowing, this is what you’ve been training for, you just trust in what your coaches have taught you and go out and compete.”

Hissom got the win, advancing him to the state finals. Now that he is there, his focus turns to his last name and finally besting his older brother.

“He has always been living my dream,” Hissom said. “He was a varsity football player on a good team. They made it to the playoffs and won conference while I was a waterboy for the team, then he went to a D1 school.

“I’ve been looking up to him my whole career, the only thing I really have over him is he won two conference championships and I won three. I could see it got under his skin.

“It’s not like we are in each other shadows, we are always pushing each other to try and outdo the other. This summer, he was a huge reason for my success. We would go out ad run the sled, do stairs in Ferrysburg, we push each other to new places.”

As a senior, Hissom was always conscious of the impending end of his career.

“This year my entire mindset was it is my last chance to make it to state and to place and do everything I wanted to do in wrestling.

“I want to be a state placer, it takes a lot of hard work. Running, making sure you put in the time. You know the other people in the state are putting in the time, so you have to make sure you are, too.

“It is time to prove that I deserve to be here, not that I just got here by chance.”

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