Taylor Massa putting final touches on storybook prep career
By Jeff Chaney
Michigan Grappler Staff Writer
Note - This story originally ran in the Michigan Sports Scene Magazine and was written in early January
2/1 - Taylor Massa is methodical on the mat.
Sometimes he is so methodical that he may appear
disinterested as he dismantles another opponent.
Heading into the third week of the high school
wrestling season, 26 opposing wrestlers had walked
to the center of the mat to take on Massa, and only
two of those opponents made it into the second
All 26 went down to defeat by either pin or technical
So the question is, is it getting a little boring?
“ I try not to think of it like that,” Massa said. “I try
to take it one match at a time, but sometimes it
does get boring not having full matches and stuff.
But the way I see it, I've worked this hard, so I
deserve to be able to coast through it.”
In fact, the three-time state champion has whipped all 213 of his opponents.
The only time Massa does get pushed is during the off-season.
This past off-season, he took part in the Fila Junior Nationals, and even though he won the 165-pound weight class, he acknowledged that he did break a sweat. That was understandable, though, considering that he was competing against wrestlers who are already competing in college.
“I had a loaded weight class,” Massa said. “I won my weight class; I pinned the kid from [Edinboro University], who was an [NCAA Division I All American] last year.”
By winning his weight class, Massa qualified to compete for the Fila World Team that wrestled in Romania over the summer. There he did suffer a loss, losing to a decorated wrestler from Azerbaijan.
What is the secret that has allowed this high school senior from St. Johns, Michigan, to make a name for himself at the national and international level already?
“I'm definitely not more talented; I work hard,” Massa said. "If I had to pick one thing about me, it's that I work harder. We work really hard in our practice room, and I feel that is why I have gotten to where I am right now.”
Massa also has great support at home.
His father, Rodger Massa, who wrestled at Hemlock High School and at Ferris State University, has been Taylor's biggest fan since the younger Massa started wrestling at the age of five.
It's been a labor of love for dad that includes getting his son to the over 1,500 matches he has wrestled since the first time he laced up little wrestling shoes.
When asked who is the best wrestler in the Massa family, Rodger Massa didn't hesitate.
“He's a lot better than I was,” Rodger said. “He has had a lot more opportunities to wrestle, and those opportunities have been incredible. These kids that wrestle today, they wrestle all over the country, so they get a lot of mat time.”
Taylor Massa says he owes a lot to his father.
“He's been everything for me,” Massa said. “You can only push yourself so far before you need someone else to help push you. That's what my father has done for me.”
With all that mat time, wrestling is the only sport in which Massa competes. But he does have an active life away from the mat – a life that includes wakeboarding, tubing, and water skiing during the summer on his family boat.
But for that competitive fix that Massa says he needs, he turns to wrestling.
“I like competition, especially in wrestling because it's you and the other guy and you can see who works harder,” Massa said. “But I don't like losing in anything, I'm just that competitive. If I'm on a team, like in gym, that team is going to win. I will try my best to make sure of that.”
That has been evident in the four years he has wrestled at St. Johns. But even though he is unbeaten in his high school career, he still gets butterflies.
“I get nervous every match,” Massa said. “That's the thing about wrestling, you can be up 14-0 and get caught in a headlock and get pinned, and there is nothing you can do about that. So you have to be cautious.”
Massa still has goals for the final month and a half of his high school wrestling career.
A big date on his and his team's calendar is a January 28 date with St. Edward High School in Ohio. It will be a match between the No. 2 (St. Edward) and No. 3 (St. Johns) teams in the country.
“Right now, I'm ranked No. 1 in the country [in my weight class], and you can't get much better that that,” Massa
said. “I feel I have succeeded enough in high school, but now I want my team to get to that national title. If we can beat St. Eds, we may have a chance to be the top team in the country.”
After that will come the MHSAA team state finals and a chance to defend St. Johns' back-to-back state championships, and the individual finals at The Palace of Auburn Hills will give Massa a chance to go out as a four-time undefeated state champion.
Then it's off to the University of Michigan to become a Wolverine and start looking at his collegiate and international careers.
“I felt Michigan was the best fit for me, especially with their new Olympic Training Center,” Massa said. “I feel like I can succeed the best there and shoot for winning four national titles and the Olympics.”
Don't bet against him!
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