Friday, May 30, 2008

Man of the Year: Dustin Fox

By Jake Simpson
May 30, 2008

An athlete is often defined by his performance in the big moments, his ability to be at his best when the pressure is on.

This year, no one came up bigger than Dustin Fox. Literally and figuratively.

The heavyweight wrestler and Northwestern's Big Man On Campus brought home the school's only individual national championship in 2007-08. Fox anchored the Wildcats in their battles against Big Ten and national opponents, won the conference and NCAA championships, and beat Ohio State's J.D. Bergman three times in three months. On the way, he compiled a 29-1 record and charmed the NU campus with his shaggy blond locks and his mild-mannered attitude away from the mat.

No victory was more impressive - or primal - than the senior's epic defeat of Bergman in the national championship match. Bergman opened up cuts on Fox's forehead, and the match was repeatedly stopped as trainers frantically tried to stop the bleeding. And it actually got worse before it got better; the Ohio State senior headbutted Fox in the nose midway through the first overtime.

But NU's lovable Goliath never quit, pressuring Bergman until the Buckeye made a mistake. When he did, Fox pounced, grabbing Bergman by the leg and hurling him to the ground to earn his first national title in his last collegiate match.

"It's a dream come true," Fox said afterwards. "My nose is probably broken, my face is all beat up, but I did it." I achieved all my goals.

Fox had been faced with high expectations all season from the national wrestling media and a Cats' squad looking for someone to replaced Jake Herbert. The top-ranked heavyweight in the country going into the season, Fox lived up to the hype, winning his first 19 matches before an upset loss to Wisconsin's Kyle Massey.

The loss only galvanized the heavyweight - Fox would not lose again. In his rematch with Massey in the Big Ten tournament semifinals, Fox destroyed the Badger heavyweight 12-4 before outlasting Bergman for his first conference title. Then came the NCAAs, where NU's biggest star went out on top.

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