Different approaches yield the same results

Haddonfield's Rob Schlitt (left) and Carson Stack flank coach Bill Heverly. The two seniors are the first teammates to win Region 7 wrestling titles for the program in the same season.
Haddonfield's Rob Schlitt (left) and Carson Stack flank coach Bill Heverly. The two seniors are the first teammates to win Region 7 wrestling titles for the program in the same season.

Haddonfield's Schlitt, Stack are Region 7 champs.

Posted: March 02, 2012

After his freshman wrestling season, Carson Stack visited a doctor for a routine physical. Be ready, the doctor said, it's coming.

On cue, Stack turned from a 125-pound freshman into a 171-pound sophomore, eventually becoming a 195-pound senior.

Rob Schlitt came from the other end of the spectrum.

"He was heavy as a freshman," Haddonfield coach Bill Heverly said. "He had to wrestle older kids all the time, and that made him tough."

Schlitt is emotional. He hates to lose. "It's something you can't teach," Heverly said.

Stack is more cerebral. "He rationalizes every aspect of a match," Heverly said. "He's very good at calculating things and thinking matches out."

Opposite approaches. Opposite paths. Same desire. Same destination.

Schlitt and Stack, two Haddonfield seniors, two first-time Region 7 champions, two close friends since they started wrestling together when they were in the third grade, will represent the Bulldogs in this weekend's state tournament in Atlantic City.

Both have legitimate aspirations, not just to reach the podium, but also to stand atop it.

They are coming to the end of a four-year climb in which they have established themselves among the state's top wrestlers. It's a journey both said they helped each other through.

"We're great friends, but at the same time, we push each other," said Stack (36-0), who lost in the first round of last year's state tournament. "We've spent our entire high school careers staying after practice, getting extra workouts, lifting, and it's been great to have someone like Rob be on the same page as me and going through this with me."

"That work has definitely gotten us to a level where we both have a shot to do well this weekend," said Schlitt, a 160-pounder who is 30-1 and lost in the state semifinals last year.

Schlitt is coming off a 4-3 win over Northern Burlington's Wayne Stinson, another highly touted South Jersey wrestler, in the Region 7 championships. Schlitt said the win gives him confidence entering this weekend.

"Knowing that I'm on that level right now, there's not a kid that I see that I don't think I can beat," said Schlitt, who will wrestle for Bucknell next season. "There's always going to be pressure, but once you get into states, you just have to be confident in what you have."

In two years, Schlitt has skyrocketed as a wrestler. He lost 15 matches as a sophomore but lost only six entering states last season. He said his early struggles helped him get to where he is now.

"Losing all those times, you learn from your mistakes," Schlitt said. "It makes you more disciplined. It keeps you on edge. It gives you a certain attitude that you need when you wrestle."

Stack said one of his greatest advantages is derived from wrestling at a lighter weight as a freshman.

"I think it helped me develop a little more of a finesse style. And I think that plays to my advantage," said Stack, who will wrestle for Davidson next year. "You don't see a lot of bigger guys who are able to do that."

Regardless of what happens this weekend, Heverly sees the two as leaving a lasting impact on the Bulldogs program.

"Both of them are really the role models of Haddonfield wrestling at this point," Heverly said. "This is the first time Haddonfield has had two Region 7 champions in the same season - that, alone, is big for our program.

"But they have an opportunity to do something really special this weekend. And I think it's going to help them to be able to go through this weekend together."

Schlitt and Stack maintain that it has been business as usual in the days leading to the tournament. But like most of the participants this weekend, both can't help but let their minds wander, occasionally, to the top of the podium.

"It would be a dream come true," Schlitt said.

Added Stack: "This is my last weekend as a high school wrestler. I worked my whole career for a chance like this. I just have to try to make the most of it."

Contact Chris Melchiorre

at rallysports@phillynews.com.

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