While Smyrna High’s Brent Fleetwood has never been one of the biggest athletes on the wrestling mat, he always seems to be achieving some big accomplishments that have him right on the verge of the state’s history book.
While Fleetwood, a junior who went undefeated in the 113-pound weight class last season, garnered accolade upon accolade throughout his memorable year, that wasn’t the biggest thing that stood out to head coach Kurt Howell by the time all of the trophies and awards had been collected.
“I think one of the shining things about [Fleetwood] is his character,” Howell said. “The day after we won the [Division I team title at the] Dual Meet States, everybody was celebrating that and he came in and did a two-hour clinic for our Little Wrestling [juniors] program.
“All of the little kids had questions that they had written up beforehand and they were asking him and he was just standing up there in front of all of them … and they’re all looking up to him like he’s their hero,” the coach recalled.
They certainly choose a good one in Fleetwood. He built a 47-0 record last season, captured a championship at the prestigious Beast of the East tournament at the Bob Carpenter Center, helped Smyrna to the Dual Meet team title and topped it all off with his third consecutive title at the 57th annual DIAA Individual State Wrestling Championships in February.
Fleetwood, who has a career record of 123-12, was chosen by The News Journal as the Wrestler of the Year for his stellar accomplishments throughout last season.
“It was awesome. It was a good year,” the teen said. “I’m really starting to find out that it’s those last couple of steps of learning that make the difference from just being good to great.”
Fleetwood has steadily improved since winning his first state championship as a freshman in the 103-pound weight class at Smyrna.
Now he, along with his friend and Caesar Rodney junior wrestler Micah Hight, are on deck next season to hopefully gain entrance into the exclusive club known as four-time Delaware high school wrestling champions, a fraternity that has only opened its doors to nine wrestlers since 1957.
“That’s definitely a big goal,” said Fleetwood, who began wrestling at the age of six. “There’s not many people who have done it and it would be great since it’s one of the things I’ve worked towards most of my life.”
Howell cautions that it won’t be an easy road to make Delaware wrestling history, but he thinks that Fleetwood’s goals are very attainable.
“This year, what didn’t he accomplish? He won everything. He keeps finding little ways to get better,” said Howell, who was a four-time state champion himself at Newark High from 1983-86. “We’ve had talks that back when you were a kid you got better by leaps and bounds, but right now getting to the top … like with a ruler, you took those inches one at a time, but now you’ve got to take those little centimeters, you’re in that top inch.
“He makes little changes and subtle changes that really some people just don’t notice and you really don’t notice if you’re watching him wrestle through the year you could say, ‘Well, he just keeps winning,’ but he’s winning with different things.”
Fleetwood was especially impressive at last season’s individual state tournament. He recorded three pins and had a technical fall en route to his third crown. He capped his season with a fall in 3:03 over Polytech sophomore Kody Stevens in the championship bout.
However, Fleetwood said his most memorable bout came in the Beast of the East finals, where he rolled to an 8-1 decision over Brecksville’s Aaron Assad.
“I had a lot of good matches, but probably the biggest was the Beast finals,” he said. “It was especially tough with the nerves and pressure and everything, but I was able to kind of open it up.”
Opposing coaches and other wrestlers often look at Fleetwood and find themselves in awe of his talent.
“Brent is a special kid. He really is,” said Pat Kelley, head coach of Delaware Military Academy. “I’ve been involved with wrestling in this state for 25 years, and he’s someone you only see once in a while.
“His technique is above and beyond anybody in the state, pound-for-pound. He’s very, very technical. It’s amazing to see him work. He can transition from move to move to move. Some of the kids will look for a shot, and if it’s not there they stop. Brent is looking three shots ahead. He’ll use the first two shots to set up the third shot.”
That, Kelley says, comes from experience.
“He’s wrestled all over the country. He’s wrestled the best kids in the country,” said Kelley. “He’s probably seen everything there is to see. He knows which situations are coming, and how to get out of them.”
Fleetwood said those kinds of skills were developed by devoting himself to wrestling full time. He practices six days a week during the regular season and three to four times a week, plus works out regularly, during the “offseason.”
“It just never really stops,” he said.
Fleetwood hopes it doesn’t stop anytime soon since he has had several colleges, including the University of Maryland, come knocking on his door with future opportunities. For now, he’s keeping his options open, but is leaning toward a Big Ten school.
Fleetwood sees himself moving up to the 120- or 126-pound weight class next season in search of his place in history.
Howell believes he won’t have any trouble finding motivation.
“There are times when motivation is tough for him,” Howell said, “like if you’re going into dual meets where you’re wrestling kids that you feel like you should be able to tech fall or pin, you have to find little things to do and different ways to approach it.
“He’s become very good at finding little things that make a big difference,” he added.