The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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Eric Knopsnyder

March 16, 2011

ERIC KNOPSNYDER|New Florence wrestler has low-key approach to Dapper Dan Classic

JOHNSTOWN — Evan Henderson should be the favorite heading into his Dapper Dan Wrestling Classic match.

Just don’t tell him that.

Henderson, who is from New Florence and wrestled for United before transferring to The Kiski School three years ago, became the first local wrestler to compete in the main event of “The Rose Bowl of Wrestling” since Meyersdale’s Michael Warnick in 1989.

And Henderson likely will have his hands full with Cam Tessari, a four-time Ohio state champion with a career record of 189-3.

Thing is, one of those losses came to Henderson earlier this year. He beat Tessari for the 140-pound championship in the Ironman tournament.

But Henderson, who prefers to be the underdog, doesn’t like to remember that.

“I’m looking back and saying ‘I didn’t wrestle that well. He should have beat me,’ ” Henderson said.

Despite going 152-9 in his career and winning a pair of prep national championships, Henderson didn’t know how to handle being the favorite. He had a huge target on his back after the Ironman tournament, when he was ranked as the top 140-pounder in the country.

“It was just the pressure creeping up on you. I like to chase guys,” he said. “I don’t like guys chasing me. I like keeping the underdog deal kind of going on.”

Henderson, who has spent hours upon hours in the wrestling room for most of his young life, suddenly came to the conclusion that it wasn’t fun anymore. All of that pressure changed his outlook on the sport.

So he took a step back and decided that the biggest problem was the pressure he was putting on himself.

“I was trying to get back to having fun,” the North Carolina recruit said. “There was a time in the season where I didn’t like wrestling anymore. I kind of wanted to quit.”

He said he’s gotten back to having fun again. And he’ll look to keep that attitude heading into the Dapper Dan match, which pits Pennsylvania’s top wrestlers against those from the rest of the United States.

Henderson’s twin brother, Robert, struggled with a knee injury during the prep national championships and finished sixth at 145 pounds.

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