Fitzgerald leaving his mark at Academy Park

SHARON HILL >> John Basile came up with a unique way to dress up Academy Park’s new wrestling room when the facility opened four years ago.
Instead of putting up a list of just the wrestlers with 100 career wins like every other program, the veteran coach decided to put up a board with the name of every wrestler who had ever won 20 matches in a season, complete with the wrestler’s career win total.
“Back when I started, kids only wrestled 15 to 20 matches or so a year so winning 20 matches was a big deal,” Basile said.
Senior Max Fitzgerald can’t wait to see his name on that Wall of Honor.
“It would mean a lot,” Fitzgerald said. I’ve dreamed of it since my freshman year.”
He would like to do so as a member of the 100-win club at Academy Park, which consists of 2004 grad Mustafa Flemming (113 wins) and 2008 grad Rayon Campbell (103), but that will take some doing. Fitzgerald has 92 career wins going into Saturday’s District 1 Class 3A East championships at Council Rock North High School so he would have to make a deep run in the state tournament to join the 100-win club.
“It would mean the world to me to get to 100 wins,” Fitzgerald said. “I’m going to work for it, but if I don’t get it, I’m going to be happy with what I did.”
Fitzgerald has had quite the career in his four years at Academy Park. He is 31-3 this season and 92-34 in his career. He is the two-time Del Val League champion at 170 pounds and is the top seed at 170 pounds and the only No. 1 seed from Delco in the East portion of the District 1 Tournament. He admits there is pressure, but he does not mind it.
“I feel like I’m being noticed,” Fitzgerald said. “It feels good and it’s also something that’s pushing me to excel and get first.”
Fitzgerald was a late comer to wrestling. He dabbled in the sport as an eighth-grader, mostly as a way to stay in shape after football season. Fitzgerald was a defensive end and sometimes offensive lineman in football, and played both sports in the ninth and 10th grades before giving up football to concentrate on wrestling.
“I just really took a liking to wrestling,” the Folcroft resident said. “I’d rather go to off-season practice for wrestling than go to football. It’s just something I see myself doing a lot better in than football and being looked at as something in this sport.”
Fitzgerald has been successful away from the mat, too. He’s a good student and he is determined to complete the Eagle Scout board of review, the final step in the process to reach the highest rank in scouting.
Wrestling, though, is his passion.
“I love how you shake your opponent’s hand and it’s a full-on brawl until the end and then you shake his hand again, like you’re best friends. I also loved the brotherhood we have on this team and how it feels like a real family.”
He has progressed with each passing year. Fitzgerald went 12-10 as a freshman, 23-13 as a sophomore and 26-8 as a junior, where he finished fourth in the district tournament at 170 pounds before being eliminated in the Class 3A Southeast Regional.
“He took his lumps,” Basile said. “When he was a freshman he was dealing with Nick D’Agostino and Kevin Thomas. He had to deal with some really good wrestlers and that sharpened him. He’s paid his dues. He really has.”
“You get better wrestling with the best,” Fitzgerald said. “It molds you. You can see what you did wrong and it has helped me to become the wrestler I am today.”
One who’s name is worthy of a spot on the Wall of Honor in Academy Park’s wrestling room.

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