HERMON – Before he arrives at school, 10-year-old Nick Bishop has already run 14 laps around his driveway – between 2 and 21/2 miles. After school, he might go to as many as three different practices – including practice with the high school varsity team. And before he goes to bed, he does some 50 sit-ups and push-ups – if he didn’t practice at all that day.
“I have everything planned out for me,” said Bishop. “I’m lucky I don’t have to go to the middle school yet.” Hermon Elementary School, which he attends, doesn’t start classes until 9 a.m.
Meet the 10-year-old wrestler from Hermon, who hasn’t lost a single match this season.
Since January, Bishop has compiled a 46-0 record with his most recent victories in the 88-pound weight class of the New England Classic Championship held April 1-2 in Portland.
With first-place finishes, he and Alex Urquhart, fellow fourth-grader and workout partner, qualified for the Gene Mills Eastern Nationals in Baldwinsville, N.Y. Eight of Hermon’s 22 wrestlers brought home awards, including Bishop and Urquhart’s first places, three seconds and three fourths.
“When he started, it was the first year we had the kindergarten-through-eighth-grade program,” said Hermon High School varsity wrestling coach Richard Stark. “He came out as a first-grader and fell in love with the sport.”
It has been four years since Bishop first brought home the flier Coach Stark distributed to elementary and middle schools.
“I played basketball growing up,” said Nick’s father, James Bishop. “His mother was dead set against [wrestling] and had already thrown the flier away. I found Richard’s phone number, called him up and he put him on the mat.”
Nick’s mother, Joy, said with a laugh, “I was just like, ‘Oh yeah, right, wrestling, whatever,’ and I figured he’d forget about the flier and not want to join.” Needless to say, she has come around.
“I would start cheering and the seasoned moms would say, ‘Oh no, don’t cheer for that, that’s an illegal hold,'” said Joy. “It took a while to get used to, but it’s a blast.”
While Bishop has dominated his matches this season, the first true test came two years ago when he lost six matches in an Ironman competition.
“He came back with an attitude like, this is never going to happen again,” said Joy. Bishop began working out, lifting weights, jumping rope and running.
“Now that I’ve gained more weight, I think I figured out that I wasn’t that strong back then,” said Bishop. “The working out has really helped.”
Bishop attends practice for third through fifth graders, helps with kindergarten through second-grade wrestlers, works with the Calvary Chapel program in Orrington, and finds time to wrestle at Hermon’s varsity practice.
“He has a great attitude. You don’t see many kids come with the effort he does,” said sophomore Garrick Robertson. “He comes to practice and runs with us and ‘smokes’ most of us.”
According to sophomore P.J. Richards, it’s not just Bishop’s quickness that helps him win.
“He doesn’t make any mistakes,” said Richards. “He’s not that strong, but when he does make a mistake he covers it up like that. Most high school wrestlers have to learn the basics – he already knows them. He knows the advanced moves and just dominates.”
Bishop has developed a quiet confidence on and off the mat. At this year’s state competition, he announced to Hermon junior Eric Cole that in five years, Cole would be back to watch him win four straight state titles.
“I hope he does, but only 11 kids have ever done it,” said Cole. “If he keeps working like this, he definitely will.”
Bishop’s favorite wrestler wears a different blue and gold.
“My favorite wrestler is Tony Gilmore,” said Bishop, who watched the Belfast High wrestler win his second state championship this year. “It’s amazing to watch him wrestle.”
Bishop has qualified for the 2006 Ohio Tournament of Champions in Columbus in addition to the Gene Mills tournament. With back-to-back gold-medal finishes in the Maine Games in Portland last June, he has qualified for the 2007 State Games of America in Colorado Springs, Colo., and the 2007 Tournament of Champions.
“I told him that he’d be wrestling the best of the best,” said James Bishop. “He said, ‘But they will be, too, Dad. They have to beat me just like I have to beat them.'”
Bishop’s elementary coach, Danny Petersen, credits the program’s success to the wrestling communities’ support.
“I have parents and high school wrestlers showing up to matches and practices,” said Petersen. “We’ve had several tournaments where we’ve had six to eight qualified coaches showing up.”
“The fun thing about this sport is the camaraderie between the wrestlers, all ages,” Joy Bishop said. “The varsity wrestlers are always there to help.”
As for her son’s success, everyone points to his work ethic and love of the sport.
“If you want something bad enough and you want to be good at it, you’ll work at it,” said Stark. “That’s what he does.”