Family dynamic forced Aurora wrestler Dylan Fishback to mature on and off the mat

Brad Bournival
Correspondent
Highland's Dominic Konopka, right, is flipped by Aurora's Dylan Fishback during their 195 pound match, Thursday, Feb. 11, 2021, in Aurora, Ohio. [Jeff Lange/Beacon Journal]

One look at Dylan Fishback on the wrestling mat and you can see he’s very mature for his age.

One conversation with the Aurora junior will give insight to a wise-beyond-his-years 18-year old who has been forced to grow up quickly.

You’ll never hear him complain or wonder why his path has led him to where he is and that says more about him than anything else.

He and his twin sister Brooke don’t live normal teenage lives with their mother Jacki, 54, needing care in her constant battle with ulcerative colitis.

She’s dealt with the disease that causes inflammation and ulcers in her digestive track for 15 years, but in the past year has had two surgeries as a part of a three-part reconstructive process.

It leaves her drained physically and emotionally and puts a lot of responsibility on Dylan and his sister with their father Dan, who has been married to Jacki for 18 years, working in Wisconsin 70 hours a week.

“Over the past year, I’ve matured a good amount,” Dylan said. “Not just because of that, but because of my dad being gone five out of the seven days a week. Before, I didn’t carry as much weight in the house, but now I’m doing a lot more and so is my sister because I’m gone a lot more during season.”

His 23-year old sister, Sydney, has made the trek from California to Ohio twice and is in town now.

Dan, 49, has turned over a lot of responsibility to former Greenmen coach Johnny Papesh and club coach Adam Koballa, but for the most part lets his children carve their own path.

It’s not so much tough love as it is giving them the mindset to overcome anything.

“My goal is to have him be a better man than me and watch him do his thing,” Dan said. “The foundation is there and we’re pretty close. Seeing him taking himself through his journey has helped him for when he gets to college.

“People don’t realize everyone has something they’re dealing with. Being able to have that strong mind and manage what’s important is something my wife and I work on with our kids. Be selfish. Get yourself going. Own your path. I tell him all the time. Figure it out. If you watch him specifically, he’s a strong-minded kid. … He’s in a mindset right now that I didn’t have until I was 25.”

That mindset has helped deal with hardships when they arise.

A state runner-up finish as a freshman, where he lost in overtime, drove him to the top of his game as a sophomore before the pandemic wiped out the final week of the season.

That same pandemic pushed Dan, who is the director of field services at Everstream Solutions, to Wisconsin.

Add a back injury in the fall late in the football season and it’s been a whirlwind for Dylan.

Most would think sports is the outlet for the future North Carolina State wrestler, but it isn’t. Home is and that’s where things have made him stronger because of the fight he sees in his mother.

“It’s not really an escape,” Dylan said. “I still think about wrestling at home, but when I’m there I try to engage more. Usually my mom is lounging around, but I’ve tried to help her, especially mentally if I can. She’s more scared because she doesn’t know what is going to happen. I did that mindset training last year and I’ve helped with that. Sometimes she’ll come to me and ask how to deal with things.

"I always try to stay positive even when things are bad. When things are negative, I try to look at the positive in it and move forward and not have it drag me down.”

Moving from California, where he was born, to Illinois a decade ago, to Brecksville and now to Aurora has helped him adapt to new situations.

Having strong, supportive parents has helped him deal with things most don’t have to until much later in life.

Those family ethics are the backbone for who he is.

“I was over their house over the summer when this quarantine started to kick off and just the maturity level he has is amazing,” Aurora coach Mike Ryba said. “He’s got great leadership skills. He’s very focused on what he has in store.”

The 13-hour roundtrip drive Dan makes is never in question.

He came home Friday night. Watched Dylan win the Beachwood Division II sectional on Saturday at 195 pounds and was back on the road Sunday.

“The window shrinks and it’s things that we as adults take time for granted,” Dan said. “You look at this hourglass and it’s like, ‘Man. My sand is about empty. I’ve only got x amount of time.’ I’ll do whatever I can to be there and not to miss stuff.

“Attitude is a reflection of leadership and I see it in him. I get emotional. It’s 18 years of working and you see the development and it’s like, ‘You don’t need me.’ Just learning how to deal with life at an early age will help catapult him when it matters. That’s been our philosophy.”

HOW AURORA'S WRESTLERS FINISHED AT THE DIVISION II SECTIONAL TOURNAMENT AT BEACHWOOD HIGH SCHOOL:

106 pounds: Codie Cuerbo, 1st place

113: Robbie Sagaris, 3rd place

120: Antwan Sagaris, 2nd place

126: Shane Cheatham, 2nd place

132: Bo DiJulius, 3rd place

138: Kyle Bizjak, 3rd place

145: Nick Willingham, 1st place

152: Ashton Smith, 2nd place

160: Mitchell Copley, 2nd place

170: Carl Bartlett, 4th place

182: Justin Burick, 6th place

195: Dylan Fishback, 1st place

220: Quinn Gorman, 4th place

285: Killian Snitzer, competed in two matches but did not place