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Cold Fuson

Junior high Rebel overcomes injury; joins teammates McNelly, Evans on AAU All-American rolls

Sam McNelly, Logan Fusion, Sam Evans and Tim Fisher discus their trip to the AAU nationals at a recent practice. Photos by Jolanda Jansma

By Stefan Cooper
Blount Press Row

They keep it real when they play ultimate Frisbee at Mt. Lebanon Baptist Church.

Logan Fusion

Maryville Junior High eighth-grader Logan Fuson took a direct hit from the disc between the thumb and index finger of his right hand in late February. The resulting break came at the height of the AAU wrestling season for one of the nation’s top-ranked grapplers.

“I play to win,” Fuson said.

With the state duals fast approaching, a chance to join club teammates Sam Evans, Sam McNelly and Tim Fisher on Team Tennessee at the national meet in Iowa hanging in the balance, Fuson rallied.

AAU rules permit adjoining districts to pick up a maximum of three wrestlers as they make their way through the brackets. Fuson had the cast removed March 15, just short of a month from the break. He’d compiled a sterling, won/loss record before injuring the hand, so a nearby team took a chance.

Sam Evans

At the Lee Pamulak Middle School National Duals in Des Moines, Iowa, April 14-15, Evans, unbeaten at 8-0, McNelly (6-2) and Fuson (5-2) met the necessary wins requirement to be named AAU All-Americans.

The Pamulak meet is “intimidating, almost,” the home-schooled Fisher said.

Twenty-four mats covered the arena floor, the wrestling all but continuous.

“When you walk in, you see about 30 ripped kids (per weight class),” Fuson said.

“Big fun, lots of tough people,” McNelly, a Maryville Junior High eighth-grader said.

Wrestling’s appeal is its inherent accountability, the Fisher said.

“It’s the best way to prove you’re the best,” he said. “You can’t blame other people.”

It’s what kept him with the sport when it wasn’t what he’d thought it would be going in.

Sam McNelly

“When I started (five years ago), I thought it was going to be like WWE,” he said. “I’ve seen people become state champions. Now I want to be one.”

Evans, who wrestles at the 250-pound, heavyweight class, has been there, done that and then some. The lone representative of Blount County’s Team Tennessee contingent to emerge unbeaten in Iowa, he said the key is an old and familiar lesson.

“I didn’t expect to lose,” the Alcoa Middle eighth-grader said. “I didn’t go in overconfident, but I didn’t expect to lose.”














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