Fleming hard to pin down Wrestling: Ben Fleming took to the mats as a freshman as a means of staying in shape for football. Now a senior, he's setting his sights on becoming a state heavyweight champ.

December 21, 1997|By Jeff Seidel | Jeff Seidel,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Ben Fleming had few lofty goals when he joined North Carroll's wrestling team as a freshman three years ago. He just wanted to stay in shape for football and have a little fun.

But Fleming's values have changed.

The senior heavyweight still plays football, but wrestling has moved to the top of his priority list. Fleming has become one of the state's top heavyweights, winning the county title each of the past two years.

"Now, football keeps me in shape for wrestling," he said.

Despite having no wrestling experience, Fleming quickly picked up the sport as a freshman even though he didn't compete much. He took over the varsity heavyweight spot as a sophomore, going 19-10 and winning the county title.

Last year was Fleming's breakthrough season. The 5-foot-9, 230-pounder went 25-5 and won the county and region tournaments before taking fourth place in the state. Fleming is 2-0 this season and will be one of the favorites to take the Class 3A-4A state title.

Fleming said he had no clue that this degree of success would come his way. His first goal was just to learn the intricacies of wrestling and try to be a strong competitor.

Fleming said his confidence grew once he began catching on and learning the moves. During his sophomore year, Fleming knew how to handle himself on the mat, and everything came together last season.

North Carroll coach Bryan Wetzel, who also works with the football team, first asked Fleming to come out for wrestling because of his size and toughness.

Wetzel said Fleming's accomplishments are more impressive considering he never wrestled in rec leagues.

"He's a solid wrestler," said Wetzel. "He's not out there to do the big throws and wild moves. Ben won't make mistakes."

Fleming said he took a simple approach to the sport -- practice hard and listen. He works tirelessly throughout practice and has continually improved.

"I like it when you go out there and get the guy and pin him real quick," said Fleming. "It makes me feel really good, because you know you're better than him."

Fleming also puts in a lot of practice time away from the school. Some of his friends and teammates often get together to practice their moves, something Fleming credits for helping him blossom.

Adam Boog (171) is one of the teammates and friends Fleming works with the most. Boog has mats in his basement, and the two friends have been working on moves there throughout their varsity careers.

"He works hard in practice," said Boog. "He's got an intense attitude during the matches. Ben is always looking to do the best in everything and to be the best."

Fleming's biggest victory may have come in last year's region final, in which he scored a 2-1 victory over Bel Air's Jeremiah Albright. Albright took a 1-0 lead late in the match, but Fleming remained patient and scored a takedown in the final 30 seconds to win the region crown.

Wetzel cites that as an example of how Fleming, one of the team's captains, leads by example and not with words.

"He's definitely a leader, but it's through his performance," said Wetzel.

Fleming has continued to be a solid football performer, too. He's started as a lineman each of the past two years and was an all- dTC Central Maryland Conference pick this season.

But wrestling now gives Fleming his greatest joy. The senior should be one of the favorites for the state title but remains low-key about it. After all, he knows how plans can change.

"You've got to work hard to become what you want and get what you want," said Fleming. "Hopefully, I can win states."

Pub Date: 12/21/97

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