Conor Youtsey, a 2011 Mason graduate, reached the pinnacle of success for a high school competitor when he was named Michigan’s “Mr. Wrestler,” which recognizes the state’s top prep wrestler for all combined divisions.
Youtsey, who finished his high school wrestling career with a 203–2 record and three individual state championships and was a two-time All-American at the University of Michigan, will be inducted with the 2017 class into the Mason High School Athletic Hall of Fame on Sept. 22.
In 2007, Youtsey joined a talented wrestling program with several individual state champions already on the roster. But the coaches were aware from the start that they’d added a talent equally capable of state championship caliber.
“We knew that Conor was an outstanding wrestler and that he would have an immediate impact on our team, but it’s hard to gauge exactly how dominant a freshman might be,” said coach Brian Martel. “With Conor, there was almost no learning curve. He was physically and mentally ready to compete right when he began his freshman year.”
And compete he did in his freshman outing. Wrestling at 112 pounds, Youtsey helped Mason to a 34–3 overall record and both league and district championships.
Individually, it was the only year Youtsey did not win an individual state championship. In the state semifinals, he bowed out after an overtime loss to teammate Tony Burge—one of only two career losses at the high school level.
For the next three seasons, Youtsey served as a team captain and was an integral leader on teams that won two more district championships and a regional championship in his senior season.
As an individual during that same three-year stretch, Youtsey was nearly untouchable. As a sophomore, he won his first state championship at 112 pounds. But in his junior and senior seasons, he achieved back-to-back 45–0 seasons and state championships at 119 pounds.
Youtsey was a Fargo freestyle All-American his junior year. As a senior, he was named the Lansing State Journal co-wrestler of the year, “Mr. Wrestler” in the state of Michigan and a USA Wrestling All-American and was selected to compete for team USA at the 2011 Dapper Dan Wrestling Classic.
Youtsey’s determination and work ethic on the mats was matched in both the classroom and the community.
“Conor was well beyond his years with regard to his maturity, his discipline and his ability to balance academics with athletics,” said Martel. “He was essentially a junior/senior in these areas even when he was still a freshman. After his freshman year, he just continued to grow.”
A National Honor Society member, Youtsey graduated with a 3.66 grade point average and was a two-time member of the Michigan Wrestling Association Academic All-State team. What’s more, he was the Michigan recipient of the David Schultz High School Excellence Award, which recognizes the combination of wrestling ability, scholastic achievement, character, citizenship and community service.
Outstanding U of M career
Collegiately, Youtsey was a four-time letter winner at the University of Michigan where he competed for coach Joe McFarland, who recalled, “Conor was a committed, extremely hard worker who turned into a great leader for us.”
Red-shirted his freshman year, Youtsey competed the following season as a red-shirt freshman, earning a 20–13 overall record and a seventh-place finish in the Big Ten. He was an NCAA qualifier but did not place at the NCAA championships.
But his next two seasons were an improvement and by the end of his red-shirt junior season, Youtsey had earned a nickname in Ann Arbor. “We called him ‘Mr. March’ here because he really turned it on in the tournament,” said McFarland.
Youtsey impressed as a red-shirt sophomore, earning a sixth-place finish at the NCAA championships. Unseeded entering the tournament, he upset the No. 15, No. 9 and No. 2 seeds on his way to earning NCAA All-American honors. As a red-shirt junior, he elevated his performance in March — earning fifth-place finishes in the Big Ten and at nationals, which made him a back-to-back NCAA All-American.
After deciding to forgo his final year of eligibility, Youtsey took a full-time job while he finished his undergraduate degree. But as fate would have it, Youtsey’s wrestling career wasn’t finished. A string of injuries to wrestlers in the 125-pound weight class led to McFarland asking Youtsey to come back mid-season.
A true team player, Youtsey rushed through all the compliance requirements and came back to help the program. On Jan. 22, before even practicing with the team, Youtsey pinned a Northwestern opponent in his first match in nine months. Despite his short red-shirt senior season, Youtsey finished fifth at the Big Ten championships and qualified for nationals but did not place.
Youtsey’s team spirit prompted McFarland to describe “Mr. March” in a way that might mean even more to a Wolverine. “He was a real ‘Michigan man’ in the truest sense,” said McFarland. “The team and the program came first, and to be called that means a lot here.”
This story was no surprise to Martel, who recognized Youtsey’s selfless attitude at Mason as well. “His willingness to support his teammates and do whatever it took for his team to be successful is the legacy that he has left at Mason High School,” said Martel.
After graduating from the University of Michigan with a degree in political science in May, Youtsey found opportunities in wrestling once again. He joined the University of Pittsburgh’s wrestling program as a volunteer assistant coach and is the head coach of the Pittsburgh Wrestling Club.