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Massey's long, winding road

April 12, 2001

Massey's long, winding road



Williamsport alum grapples with NCAA success

By AL DITZEL

alfredd@herald-mail.com

Jimi Massey has faced many forks in the road of his athletic career.

While wrestling within himself about which way to turn, the 1997 graduate of Williamsport High School appears to have made the right decision each time.

For example, his senior year at Williamsport, Massey was a team captain of the wrestling team but his coach, Chuck Martin, questioned Massey's attitude.

"He thought I was goofing around and not doing the things a captain should do,'' Massey said. "He took away the captaincy.

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"It was very much (tough love). It helped me focus on what I really wanted to do. Everything I've ever done in wrestling I have to credit coach Martin.''

His new-found focus paid off in his 1997 189-pound 2A/1A Maryland title match against an opponent who had injured Massey the year before in the state quarterfinals. In '97, with the match tied at 8-8 and four seconds remaining, Massey scored a reversal and won the state crown.

Then, when it came time to choose what school to attend, Massey leaned toward Wagner College (N.Y.).

"They were going to let me play football and wrestle,'' Massey said. "Wrestling was really my second sport. I wanted to play football.''

Massey didn't commit to Wagner, instead visiting another school - the University of Virginia.

"I fell in love with the school right away,'' he said. "I didn't realize the academics Virginia offered (No. 1 public university in the country). My parents kept asking me If I was sure and I told them that they will fall in love with the schools as soon as they visited it.''

The Cavaliers do not have a fully funded wrestling programs like some in the NCAA.

"We have about half,'' Massey said.

So, Massey had to work his way in - literally. He went 5-7 as a freshman at 197 pounds and then tore some muscles in his back his sophomore year, forcing him to red shirt. His junior year, Massey reached the semifinals of the ACC tournament, losing by one point to the eventual champ. Massey placed fourth.

This year, Massey, competing at 184, won his first ACC title, defeating Jake Stewart from the University of Maryland, 9-6. Earlier this season, Massey lost to Stewart.

"That (loss) was really the low point of the season for me,'' Massey said. "I had some friends and family there, but it made me focus on what I wanted to do.''

Again, Massey re-focused and this time earned an NCAA berth.

"To guarantee yourself a place at the NCAAs, you have to win,'' Massey said. "The ACC also has eight wild cards. Two other guys in my weight class went.''

And so did Massey, to Iowa for the NCAA tournament. He didn't feel out of place there either.

"I spoke with Mark Janus (former Williamsport teammate and an NCAA qualifier from Penn State),'' Massey said. "We e-mail a lot. He told me that he had a lot of confidence in me and that I was going to be the first All-American from Williamsport.''

After attending the NCAAs as a spectator last year, this was his year to wrestle. And he wrestled well, but lost his first two bouts two weeks ago, including a first-round double-overtime decision to a wrestler who placed sixth - All-America status.

"I was happy about the ACC title, but I wasn't happy because I don't think I did as well as I could have,'' Massey said. "I stayed watched the Parade of Champions. My coach told me to watch this, remember this and use this to help focus on next year.''

Again Massey faces a life-altering decision, but he says this one is easy.

"Virginia forces you to graduate after four years, but they offer a one-year masters program,'' said Massey, who double majors in economics and history. "I'll stay one more year and wrestle.''

Massey, 18-10 this season, again refocused, begins his quest for his ultimate title.

"Every year I want to win an NCAA championship,'' Massey said. "Being so close and seeing what I could've had this year, I'll put in the extra work like I always have. Every All-American puts in that extra work. I will too.''

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