Over the next few weeks, we will be discussing some of the top wrestlers in New York for the upcoming campaign. We begin with our #1 Junior High School grappler in the state, Penfield eighth grader Frankie Gissendanner. Stay tuned for more … the freshman class will be next.
Earlier this summer, Frankie Gissendanner opened the Flowrestling website and next to the main story about the top Junior High School wrestlers in the country was a photo of . . . Frankie Gissendanner.
“I was proud of myself when I saw my picture there,” he said. “I was excited to achieve one of my goals to be nationally ranked, but I was a little surprised too.”
The Penfield star may have been a bit surprised, but most of those who watched him in New York last year weren’t shocked at all. After an offseason in which he seemed to win a championship just about every weekend, Gissendanner had a stellar campaign in his first year on the varsity squad, racking up a 44-6 mark while capturing multiple tournament titles and placing at the toughest in-season event in the Empire State. And all of this happened as a seventh grader at 126 pounds.
Did Gissendanner expect so much success so quickly?
“I wanted to win a state championship or at least make the top three,” he said of his expectations for the 2012-13 season. “I thought it was possible as a seventh grader.”
He certainly started off with a bang. On the first weekend of December, Gissendanner went undefeated at the Mark Stephens Classic, earning the Most Outstanding Wrestler award for the lightweights. It wouldn’t be the last time he nabbed MOW honors. In fact, he did it again more than once, including later that month at the prestigious Top Hat tournament in Pennsylvania when he grabbed an individual title against tough Keystone State opposition.
“It motivated me when I was facing that kind of competition,” Gissendanner said.
He again faced top talent at the Eastern States Classic in January at SUNY Sullivan. In fact, the 126-pound bracket included more than 10 All-State wrestlers, including four state champions. Gissendanner was undaunted, going 5-2 and defeating a pair of New York state silver medalists on the way to the podium.
After dropping his quarterfinal bout to now two-time state champion William Koll, Gissendanner rebounded with an 8-4 victory over 2013 state runner up Keanu Thompson. And then, in the seventh place match, he defeated 2012 New York second placer Justin Cooksey 3-1 in sudden victory.
“When I took seventh at Eastern States, I thought I had a lot of opportunities to win or place at big tournaments,” he said. “I thought I would do well at the state championships.”
But first, he had to get there. And he got the job done, earning the right to represent Section 5 by winning the SuperSectional title in Division I. Among his wins at the event was a decision over James Arao of Fairport, who had topped Gissendanner early in the season. In the championship contest, Gissendanner bested Schroeder’s Rosario Venniro 3-1 in overtime to punch his ticket to the Times Union Center. He was again chosen as the MOW.
“I think my biggest win last year was my Supers match in the finals,” Gissendanner said. “It qualified me for states and I did it against a senior – I took his position.”
He was excited to make his debut in Albany. But he was less excited about the way things turned out in his first appearance in the state capital as he went 1-2, with his second setback coming at the hands of multiple-time state finalist Dylan Realbuto.
“I choked at states,” Gissendanner said. “I was really nervous. It was definitely a big change. It was so big with so many people, and it was like, ‘wow’. The atmosphere got to me. I wish I went to states in sixth grade just to see what it was like to know what I was walking into. But I hadn’t been there before and it was actually my first time being in an arena like that, ever. It got to me. But it will help me for the future.”
It may help this fall as he prepares for the upcoming campaign at high quality preseason events, where he said he plans to compete at 132 pounds.
“I’m going to Super 32 and the Journeymen Classic,” he said. “I’ll be ready. I’m really hyped.”
Gissendanner also gets hyped to talk about some of his favorites – Jordan Burroughs, Jon “Bones” Jones and the Iowa Hawkeyes.
“Iowa is my favorite college team,” he said. “Dan Gable was a great coach and I like the Brands brothers. I like their motto in wrestling and their attitude. I went to see Iowa wrestle Buffalo last year. That was a lot of fun.”
Gissendanner has fun on the mat, but also as a member of the Junior Varsity football and lacrosse teams. Even in the other seasons, however, he can’t stay away from the wrestling room, training with the G2 World Wrestling Academy and Titan Worldwide.
The Penfield standout had ambitious goals going into his first varsity season a year ago and he once again has set the bar high as eighth grade approaches.
“I learned last year from the state tournament that every match should be treated like you’re just going live with your partner in the wrestling room,” he said. “You should always be calm and not let the crowd get to you. This year, I want to win every tournament I step into. And win every match.”
If he’s able to do that, there’s a good chance Frankie Gissendanner will find his photo on the front page of the national rankings once again. And instead being slotted in the #14 spot nationally, he could be ranked even higher.