(Photo by Bill Allen/NJ SportAction)
During the early years of his wrestling career, Tom Frantzen didn't seem to be on track to become a champion.
In his eighth grade season in 2001-02 for the John Witherspoon Middle school team, Frantzen captained the squad but contributed no victories as he went winless. A year later, Frantzen's slump continued as he went 0-5 in his freshman season at Princeton High.
The steady diet of losing took its toll on Frantzen. "Early in high school I just wanted to go out and pin the kids," recalled Frantzen. "When I lost I got really angry. I punched a wall and broke my hand after a loss freshman year. I was a real hothead."
But overcoming that frustration and sharpening his skills by taking up Greco-Roman wrestling, Frantzen emerged as a star for the Little Tigers.
Last season, he won the Mercer County Tournament title at 160 pounds. Moving up to the 171-pound classification this winter, Frantzen has continued his winning ways, posting an 8-1 mark to help lead PHS to a 4-5 start.
In Frantzen's view, plunging into Greco-Roman wrestling was a major turning point in his fortunes. Unlike the "freestyle" brand of wrestling practiced in high school competition, Greco-Roman wrestling doesn't allow competitors to use their legs. As a result, it takes a lot of strength and upper body training to excel at that discipline.
"The Greco-Roman really helped my high school wrestling," asserted Frantzen. "I won matches and gained some confidence. I also got a lot of mat sense and learned to roll around. I got to wrestle better competition and gain experience." During that off-season, Frantzen made the national tournament and began sophomore year with a new confidence.
Frantzen's new-found confidence took a hit, though, when he suffered a key loss during his sophomore campaign.
"I lost a dual meet for my team and I felt a lot of guilt on my shoulders," recalled Frantzen. "I got pinned in a match I was winning with three seconds left and it cost us the meet."
To make matters worse, several local papers ran a picture of his face being slammed into the canvas, "A lot of people laughed at it," lamented Frantzen. "That just added to the pressure and it really hurt my confidence."
Sensing that Frantzen needed a lift, PHS head coach Rashone Johnson tweaked his normal practice routine to get his developing star back on track.
"At the end of practice guys would sub in against me," said Frantzen. "I would start wrestling one guy with the whole team around me then coach would stop, and bring in another guy till I had wrestled several different people one by one. It made me mentally tougher, I built from the loss and became a stronger individual."
Frantzen's mental toughness was recognized by Johnson as he was named as a team co-captain during his junior season instead of several seniors.
"As a captain it put me more into a leadership situation," asserted Frantzen, who is serving as co-captain of the Little Tigers this winter along with classmates Andre Cutler and Mark Jeevaratnam. "It wasn't all about me wrestling but it was about the team. It was more about helping my teammates."
Showing his leadership on the mat, Frantzen took that county title and compiled an overall 20-6 record. His breakthrough campaign ended with frustration, however, as a late-season dislocated shoulder prevented him from qualifying for the state tournament.
This season, Frantzen is determined to add some more lines to his already distinguished resume. "My goals this year are to repeat as Mercer County champion, win districts, and qualify for states" said Frantzen.
With the perseverance Frantzen has shown in overcoming his early setbacks, he is on track to fulfill those goals.
Return to Previous Sports Story | Return to Top | Go to Next Sports Story