Brent Fleetwood had been working for this day for years. Raven Luckett had no idea this was coming until recently.
Yet there they were Tuesday, sharing a ceremony in front of their excited classmates in the lobby of the Smyrna High gymnasium. Fleetwood signed a national letter of intent to attend Central Michigan on a wrestling scholarship. Luckett unexpectedly signed to play volleyball at the University of Delaware.
“Never in a million years would I have thought that I would go to UD to play volleyball,” Luckett said. “But I’m so excited, and I’m thankful for this opportunity.”
Fleetwood was just as excited, even though he knew where he was going and what he was doing.
“I think it was just the best fit for me,” he said. “I was looking at a lot of other colleges, and when I went [to Central Michigan], it immediately felt right.”
Volleyball was a secondary sport for Luckett, who had only been playing since her freshman year and just recently started playing out-of-season club volleyball. She excelled in track and field, winning Division I titles in the 400 meters (56.37), 200 meters (25.00), long jump (18-7¼) and high jump (5-0) at the DIAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships last spring to lead the Smyrna girls to their first Division I team title.
Those performances drew the interest of recruiters, and Luckett visited Oregon State and Syracuse to pursue track.
“Coming up to this year, through my whole high school career I thought I would strive for a D-I track scholarship,” Luckett said. “I never once thought of being good enough to play D-I volleyball.”
With just two weeks left in the regular season, UD coaches contacted Smyrna volleyball coach Daniel Wandless. The Hens loved the 5-foot-9 Luckett’s raw athletic ability, and envisioned her as an outside hitter.
“I know she has a lot of accomplishments in track the last two years, and probably will do the same this year in track,” Wandless said. “But her growth in volleyball from her freshman year to her senior year has just been tremendous. She just has so much more volleyball in her.”
UD was the only college to contact Luckett for volleyball, and Wandless said she faces a lot of offseason work to compete with players who have been playing year-round for years. But Luckett is ready for the challenge.
“I’m excited for the road ahead of me,” she said. “I’m going to work the hardest that I’ve ever worked before in volleyball.”
There was never a doubt that Fleetwood would wrestle in college. He also considered Buffalo, Edinboro and Maryland before deciding Central Michigan was best for him.
Fleetwood went 47-0 last season at Smyrna, earning the prestigious Beast of the East title at 113 pounds and winning his third consecutive DIAA individual state title.
“I’m really competitive,” Fleetwood said. “I’ve always liked the hand-to-hand, physical altercation. I’ve always liked that aspect of it. It teaches you a lot – the dedication, the drive that you really need to be at the top.”
Only nine Delaware high school wrestlers have won four individual state titles since 1957. That is at the top of Fleetwood’s list this winter, along with another Beast championship.
“It’s really nice to see his progression into the type of person he is today,” Smyrna coach Kurt Howell said. “Not just in wrestling. This is a young man that we’re all proud of. We’re proud that he came from our program and our community, and we’re sure he’s going to go out there and represent us well.”
Central Michigan has won 13 Mid-American Conference titles and produced 38 All-Americans under coach Tom Borrelli, who also recruited and signed Howell when he was an assistant coach at Clemson. That was one of many factors that attracted Fleetwood.
“You have to have the mentality that that’s what I want to do,” Howell said. “I want to dedicate half of my college time to academics, and the other half to athletics. That’s a huge commitment. You have to decide that I’m really ready to roll up my sleeves and dig in. I’m proud that Brent has made that decision.”