by Brian Mazurek
March 17, 1984
Success Arrives Quickly For Jim Beichner
Last Saturday at the Meadowlands Arena in East Rutherford, New Jersey, Beichner earned All-American honors by finishing fifth at 190 at the NCAA Wrestling Championships.
Beichner, a graduate of Cassadaga Valley Central School, completed his sophomore season with an outstanding 35-4 record. To add to his All-American honor, he was named the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference Wrestler of the Year, voted on by the coaches Wednesday.
"I just wanted to get to the Nationals first, then just wrestle and go as far as I could," Beichner said. "I guess I really didn't expect to place in my first trip there. I kind of surprised myself."
Beichner lost in the semifinals to Nebraska's Bill Scherr 20-4, but rebounded and finished fifth in the NCAA National Championships, a feat that is rarely done by a young collegiate wrestler.
Wrestling at the NCAA championships has been a life-long dream for Beichner, something he started to think about when he was in the seventh grade, Cassadaga Valley coach Cliff Blom said. "Jim had so much drive and was such a good kid, I believed he would go to the Nationals when he said that back in seventh grade. I thought he could place in the NCAA Tournament someday, but not as a sophomore. It's a great accomplishment to do that," Blom stated.
Beichner, who was named the Post-Journal's Wrestler of the Year two years in a row, dominated the 177-pound class in Section 6 in 1981 and 1982.
After his high school career, Clarion State was Beichner's choice as a college and he received a scholarship. "I liked the small school aspect, the people, and it was a good wrestling school," he said.
As a freshman, Beichner finished with a 19-10 record and won the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference championship. "The coaches told me if I had a .500 record as a freshman, they'd be happy," Beichner said. "When I first went to Clarion, I didn't know if I'd make the varsity. I wasn't going to be disappointed if I didn't - I didn't want to set unrealistic goals."
Beichner's talent was more than enough to land him a starting job on the varsity as a freshman. He recalled his first match as a freshman. "I was wrestling a kid from Pitt-Johnstown and we were tied at 2-2 going into the third period. In the last period, I pinned the kid. It was funny because I wasn't supposed to win."
The one big difference Beichner had to contend with on the college level compared to the high school level was the competition. "Wrestling in college is a real big change compared to high school. It's a lot more physical and there are no easy matches like in high school. You meet a tough guy every match. You have to wrestle hard for six minutes or you'll get nailed - it's that simple."
Blom said, "I thought Jim could adjust to college wrestling. College wrestling is all take-downs and wrestling on top."
To wrestle at the NCAA level, a matman must carry a 2.0 average. Beichner, who may major in education, is keeping his grades up despite the travel and three-hour practices.
At the start of this season, Beichner said, "I was thinking that I've improved and that I should have a better season." It turned out to be a fantastic season for Beichner. Besides winning the PSAC tile for the second year in a row, he won the West Virginia Open, Wilkes-Barre Open and the Eastern Wrestling Tournament that earned him a berth in the NCAA Championships.
Most of the season, Beichner was ranked second in the east and seventh in the nation. He had a 26-match winning streak and during that streak beat his opponents by an average score of 12-3. For the season, Beichner beat his opponents by an average score of 10-4.
Another outstanding accomplishment was brought up by Clarion State's Athletic Director Rich Herman. "Jim never gave up back points this season in any fashion. Against the competition he faced, that's not bad."
Going to the NCAA Championships was a dream come true for Beichner. "It was something else. I saw the guys I read about when I was little - guys like Dan Gable. It was something to watch and participate in."
During the summer months, Beichner may go on a tour to Yugoslavia or Romania. "All underclassmen will get a chance to go. I don't know if I will, but I will probably go."
Another thought that has crossed Beichner's mind is the 1984 Summer Olympics, but he has ruled it out. "I just don't think it's the right time. If I can't beat the guy from Nebraska (who he lost to in the NCAA semifinals) I don't think I could make the Olympic team."
As for the 1988 Olympics, Beichner said, "I'll just have to see how things go."
Looking to next season, Beichner said, "I've got to do better than fifth place. I'll have a tough time because I'll have guys gunning for me. I just can't get cocky."
According to Herman, Beichner needs only "to be quicker on his feet. His lack of quickness showed against the national champion."
With the drive, strength, knowledge and ability of Jim Beichner, Chautauqua County could be welcoming home a NCAA National Champion in the next two seasons.
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