FARGO — North Dakota State senior Brent Fleetwood will enter the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships on Thursday with a 24-4 record. That’s 24 victories over an opponent and 24 wins against Mr. Food.
The latter can be the enemy, a vicious fellow that requires Fleetwood to be more disciplined at the table than most people could imagine. He’s 5-foot-9 and competes at 125 pounds.
Bison head coach Roger Kish calls him a “big 25-pounder.”
Fleetwood takes it one step further.
“I’m a huge 125-pounder,” he said. “Let him know.”
Know this: Fleetwood is ranked 10th in the country and is one of four Bison who will be going for All-American status at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh, Pa. Like Fleetwood, the other three Bison qualifiers — Cam Sykora at 133, Andrew Fogarty at 165 and Lorenzo De La Riva at 174 — are making return appearances to the national meet.
It’s the last shot for the senior Fleetwood, who transferred from Central Michigan two years ago to find a better level of wrestling with the Big 12 Conference Bison.
A good chunk of that involves keeping his body at his prescribed weight.
“I think it’s a little bit like a science experiment, but we have it right now,” said Fleetwood, from Smyrna, Del. “A lot of it has to do with self-discipline. The older you get, the more self-discipline you’re going to start to achieve. You learn the little things, you learn your body and you learn what works best for you.”
Fleetwood’s best guess for an offseason weight is 138 pounds. That said, he feels “smaller” during the summer, perhaps a result of not training as hard as he does during the season.
NDSU has helped manage his weight in a variety of ways, from nutritional advice to giving him time off during the season.
“He’s got a big frame and he’s big, he’s tall,” Kish said. “He’s thick, so he has to stay extra disciplined in his diet and training from week to week to make sure … he doesn’t allow himself to get too big and too heavy through the week prior to competition.”
The NCAA has a “Weight Wrestling Management Program” that prevents unsafe weight-loss practices. Most of the old style of weight loss measures, like the use of rubber suits, saunas or diuretics, are banned. The penalties are stiff, with the first offense calling for a suspension in eight competitions.
“There are policies in place that help manage weight and allow these guys to do it and help them do it a better way,” Kish said.
That better way has Fleetwood feeling strong heading into his first-round match against Wyoming’s Cole Verner.
It’s made for a successful season. He’s beaten four ranked wrestlers and was narrowly beaten by No. 2 Nick Piccinni of Oklahoma State 2-0 in the Big 12 title match. If making the NCAA tourney is equal to obtaining an undergraduate degree, then Fleetwood has bigger goals in mind.
“Basically, if you can win nationals or be an All-American, then you get your Ph.D. in wrestling,” he said. “So I’ve put enough hours in, put enough time into this sport, that I’d like to get my Ph.D. in it.”
So it would be Dr. Fleetwood?
“I’d love it,” he said.