Heavyweight lives up to the hype

Jake Simpson

Ladies and gentlemen, meet Northwestern’s newest NCAA champion.

He’s a 285-pound behemoth who won 29 of the 30 matches he wrestled this season. He’s a two-time All-American who has helped resurrect a moribund program. And he’s a frat boy. On the surface, he’s the archetypical jock.

Except instead of being “to cool for school,” he’s as friendly as they come. Except he’d rather talk to you in Mandarin Chinese than “Dude” speak. Except he sports long, shaggy hair, sometimes dyed blond, instead of a buzz cut.

Ladies and gentlemen, meet Dustin Fox.

The Sig Ep senior epitomizes the term student-athlete. He’s RTVF by day, TKO by night. He loves animé almost as much as he loves beating Ohio State’s J.D. Bergman, whom he defeated in the regular season, the Big Ten Championships, and the NCAA final.

And he has filled the Jake Herbert-sized void in our hearts.

No disrespect to Herbert, but when the defending NCAA champion left to train for the Olympics, it hurt. Sure, it was cool to think that a Wildcat might bring a gold medal back to campus. But he left behind a school yearning for a new Big Man On Campus.

Football and basketball has its share of stars, but no one, well, Big enough. Basketball has no one taller than 6-foot-8. Football’s biggest star, running back Tyrell Sutton, is a mere 190 pounds.

So the task fell squarely on Fox’s gargantuan shoulders. Ranked No. 1 going into the season by several wrestling magazines, the heavyweight was expected to win an NCAA title.

The task might have overwhelmed a smaller man (no pun intended), but Fox is used to it by now. Ever since he arrived at NU as the top-ranked prep heavyweight in the nation, the senior has dealt with the burden of high expectations.

Time and time again, he has risen to the challenge.

First, he helped turn a last-place program into a perennial contender in the country’s toughest conference. While Herbert dominated the headlines with his run to the national title, Fox quietly finished seventh in last year’s NCAA championships, helping propel the Cats to a school record fourth-place finish.

This year, he literally and figuratively rolled over the competition, anchoring the NU lineup in dual meets against the nation’s best teams. Against Iowa, Fox won the final meet of the match to give the Cats the victory. A lone defeat to Wisconsin’s Kyle Massey was avenged in the Big Ten Tournament, when he steamrolled the poor Badger 12-5 on his way to the Big Ten crown.

Fox saved his best for last, turning in a gritty performance in the final match of his collegiate career. While the score was even throughout, it appeared that Bergman had the upper hand, battering Fox and opening up several cuts on his forehead. Again and again, the match was halted as the NU trainers attempted to stop the bleeding. Each time, the senior stepped back on the mat. So close to the title, Fox simply would not be denied.

Even when a Bergman headbut shattered Fox’s nose midway through the first overtime period, the NU senior refused to quit, staying on his feet and waiting for an opportunity. Suddenly, deep into the second overtime, there it was: Fox had the Ohio State senior by the leg.

Putting all 285 pounds into one last takedown, Fox hurled Bergman to the ground. Seconds later, he bear-hugged coach Tim Cysewski, wearily raising his arms to the sky, going out on top.

The win was bloody. It was relentless. It was everything you would expect from NU’s self-effacing, Mandarin-speaking, opponent-throwing Big Man On Campus.

Sports editor Jake Simpson is a Medill junior. He can be reached at [email protected]