For Jack Wischmeier, 2017 was a year to remember.
He finished second in points in the Lucas Oil Pro Pulling League Champions Tour pro stock tractors class, collecting a couple of wins along the way.
Then he applied and was accepted to participate in the National Farm Machinery Show Championship Tractor Pull at Freedom Hall in Louisville, Kentucky. There, he placed fifth on the first night of the event.
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While the 18-year-old Trinity Lutheran High School senior has been around tractor pulling for most of his life, he has been competing for only two years.
After all of those years watching his father, Steve, compete at tractor pulls, Jack finally was able to get behind the wheel in 2016.
Competing in the Lucas Oil Pro Pulling League Midwest Tour, he participated in three hooks, setting him up for the big season the next year in the Champions Tour.
“For me being 17 years old and getting second in the points league and then getting invited to do this farm show, that was really wild for me,” said Jack, who lives north of Cortland.
He, however, is quick to give credit where credit is due.
“You’ve got to have a team,” he said of his father and others who help him. “There’s all of the behind the scenes you don’t see a lot. TV doesn’t look at it, either. You go on TV, and they show it on TV just like they do NASCAR, but you don’t ever see the behind-the-scenes stuff that goes into all of it, and that’s the part that counts.”
Steve started pulling nearly 30 years ago with Charlie and Bruce Stahl, Mark and Brian Tape and Erv Warren.
When Jack was young, the family spent many weekends at events in Indiana or out of state.
“Over the years, being able to participate in many different events has allowed us to travel with family and friends, visiting many states and county fairs throughout the Midwest making memories that we will never forget,” said Beth Wischmeier, Jack’s mother.
Going to all of those tractor pulls allowed Jack to develop a passion for the sport.
“I’ve always been around it, always helped out, always been interested in it,” he said. “We’ve always farmed, too, just the agriculture part of it. You’ve got the pulling family during the summer, too, and you always get excited to see them.”
Jack learned all he needed to know about preparing a tractor for competition.
“It’s kind of like any other motorsport that you go into,” he said. “You’ve got to change oils every so many passes, you’ve got to check basically everything over — all your injection lines, your water lines, everything, just everyday maintenance on it.”
By the time he was old enough to drive a car, he knew more about the ins and outs of tractors.
“The pulling tractors, everything is mechanical, so there’s not a computer on it besides the computer that reads all of the temperatures and everything we want it to read,” Jack said. “Like all of your diesel pickups and diesel tractors now, they are all computer, so your computer basically tells you when to pump fuel in the motor and everything.”
Jack’s first competition in 2016 was in Greensburg.
“The very first pass always goes by fast,” he said. “Dad said everything would just come natural. You would press the brake naturally, let on the clutch, come up on a throttle natural. It felt like two seconds. Instead, it was 12.”
Doing it on his own for the first time was nerve-racking, he said.
“It’s not like just driving a tractor through the field, definitely,” he said, smiling.
Jack placed sixth in that event and was second the next weekend in Urbana, Illinois. Then in the beginning of September in Springfield, Tennessee, he finished last because his engine exploded.
Moving up to the Champions Tour in 2017, Jack said he could tell he was at the pinnacle of the league.
At the events, first place gets 50 points, and it continues to go down by two from there.
Through the 18 pulls in Indiana, Wisconsin, Ohio, Illinois and Missouri, Jack accumulated 621 points in his tractor, Barely Gettin’ By. The winner had 654 points, and there were 17 in the pro stock class who competed in at least seven events.
Jack won twice — once in Tampico and the other in Henry, Illinois.
“For me, it was wild not having a lot of experience going into it and just relying on my two guys that set the tractor up and Dad relying on him and the other two guys and me doing the driving,” Jack said.
Going against people from age 16 to 70 with varied levels of experience, Jack was happy with the results.
“It’s just crazy,” he said. “If it wasn’t for Dad and our crew and everybody else that helps us out, I probably wouldn’t be here.”
Knowing all of the work that goes into preparing to compete makes it fun for Jack.
“There’s a lot more thoughts that go into it before you pull than after,” he said. “You’ve got to set your tires right, you’ve got to pick your gear, you’ve got to set your weight on your tractor right. There’s a lot that goes into it in the beginning. Then at the end, you can basically shoot yourself in the foot and tell what you did wrong unless you did good, then it’s opposite.”
Jack’s parents are proud of his accomplishments.
“The hard work and countless hours spent by Jack and the pulling team, preparing for each event is something to be proud of,” they said. “At the end of the day, whether we win, lose or break, we must remember to be thankful for the opportunity that the Lord has given to us to make long-lasting relationships along the way and the ability to compete in each tractor pulling event.”
The friendships made while competing at these events are priceless and are more important than any trophy won, they said.
“As parents, being able to see our children be a part of these friendships and making new ones is what winning is all about,” they said.
After the successful season, Jack decided to submit a résumé to participate in the National Farm Machinery Show Championship Tractor Pull.
His family had tractors at the event in past years, but this was his first time competing.
“The way Dad put it to calm my nerves is it’s the biggest brush pull you’ll ever go to,” he said of the nonpoints pull. “In reality, it is. That’s basically what the farm show is. It’s just for fun.”
The event ran Feb. 14 through 17. Each day, the top three in each class advanced to the finals. Jack placed fifth in the pro stock class Feb. 14.
That experience motivates Jack for the upcoming Champions Tour season, which starts at the end of May and runs through mid-September.
“It just gets my adrenaline going again,” he said. “It gets me ready for it, but we’ve got to get through spring first and get through that before we go play. We’ll just be farming, and you’ve got to get work done before you go play. That’s my rule anyway. That’s what Dad’s rule is.”
Besides working on his tractor and helping on the family farm, Jack participates in Trinity’s new school-to-work program that allows him to spend the end of his school day at his family’s business, Wischmeier Trucking Inc. in Tampico.
His tasks include operating farm equipment and heavy construction equipment, driving a semi tractor and trailer and working on the farm or in the shop.
He also is vice president of Trinity’s FFA chapter and is working toward being a 10-year 4-H’er.
After graduating from high school, Jack said he may keep working at the family business.
As far as tractor pulling, he said he wants to keep doing it as long as he can.
“It’s kind of like basketball for somebody else,” he said. “It’s just a hobby for me.”