SCARSDALE, N.Y.— North Salem senior Jesse Fleming was going all out. After all, he was just one move, one takedown away from winning a Section 1 wrestling championship.
Fleming advanced to the finals at the Section 1 Division 2 wrestling championships Saturday, Feb. 11, at Edgemont High School. And then he was faced with overtime as he battled Croton Harmon’s Chris Columbo right to the limit.
Throughout the match Fleming was the aggressor, trying to get in for a takedown, but Columbo was a strong defensive wrestler and he countered each time Fleming made his move.
In overtime, Fleming went for it once again, but this time Columbo was able to counter and get the takedown to pull out a 3-1 victory and claim the title.
“I pretty much gave everything I had,” Fleming said. “I was just trying to get shots off and take him down. I really wanted to win senior year. Last year I had a shot, but this year I really wanted to win a title.”
Fleming had competed at 195 pounds all season long, but for the Section 1 tournament he bumped up to 220 thinking that would be his best shot at a title since three-time Section 1 champ Connor Breit of Nanuet was scheduled to compete at 195.
The Nanuet champ, however, was injured and did not compete. It was too late for Fleming to change, and Columbo also had moved up to compete at 220 for the same reason.
Earlier in the season, Fleming had met Columbo and suffered a similar fate, pushing him to the limit before falling on a last second move. This time around in the final, Fleming was determined to take his best shot.
He continued to apply the pressure, getting in on Columbo’s leg trying for a single leg takedown, but he was unable to finish the move as Columbo stopped him.
It was 0-0 at the end of the first period as neither wrestler could take the other down. Columbo took a 1-0 lead in the second period as he was able to escape for a point.
Fleming had to answer in the third and he did as he also scored an escape to even it up at 1-1.
That sent it into overtime, and Columbo was once again able to counter a Fleming takedown attempt. Columbo was able to grab his leg and take him down right at the edge of the mat for the winning takedown to claim the title.
To get to the championship bout, Fleming made it look easy as he pinned Roman Gibson of Woodlands in just 29 seconds in the first round. He then pinned Pawling’s James Bellucci in the semifinals to set up his showdown with Columbo.
Despite the loss, Fleming was able to walk away knowing he had turned in a great career on the mats for North Salem as he finished the year with a 25-7 record. Even though wrestling is not his main sport and he only competes during the winter season, Fleming made the most of the opportunity to wrestle without a team at North Salem. He would travel to John Jay or Fox Lane each day for a chance to practice on the mat with other wrestlers. What made it special for Fleming was that wrestling allowed him a chance to compete with his father, Ted Fleming, as his coach.
“I wouldn’t change anything and it was great to be out there with my dad,” the senior said. “I started in eighth grade and I just liked having my dad as a coach, so I went into wrestling.”
With the wrestling season completed, Fleming now moves on to what he says is his main sport as he gets ready to help the Tigers defend their New York State title in baseball. Fleming is a left-handed hitting designated hitter and first baseman for the Tigers.
“Now I can move on to baseball,” Fleming said. “Especially this year, I just wrestled during the season, but I’m really focused on baseball all year round.”