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Monday, June 17
The Indiana Daily Student

sports

Wrestling career far from over for senior

Most people would have given up. In fact, most do.\nSenior Michael Dixon had high expectations for his collegiate wrestling year. But after placing just 8th in February's Big Ten tournament, the heavyweight fell short of his goal -- an invitation to the NCAA National Championships in Iowa. As a fifth-year senior, Dixon was about out of options.\n"Usually, after the seniors are done, we just let them go. But Michael didn't miss a practice," coach Duane Goldman said. "It was obvious that, after Nationals, he had something left to prove."\nEyeing a shot at the University Freestyle National Championships, Dixon continued to show the kind of work ethic that had made him such a valued member of the Hoosier wrestling squad. In a few short weeks, Dixon went from being Big Ten wrestling afterthought to National Freestyle Champion. In doing so, he automatically qualified to represent the U.S. at the Pan American Championships in the Dominican Republic later this month.\n"It was a little bit of a surprise, just because I wasn't sure of his freestyle experience," assistant coach Mike Mena said. "As a reward for having such a good attitude, he ended up winning the Nationals. That's huge."\nIn an ironic twist, Dixon shut out Ohio State grappler Nick Preston 2-0 in the tournament semifinals, which led to the final match against Michigan State's Nike Fekete. Preston and Fekete placed 2nd and 3rd, respectively, at the 197 pound weight class in that same Big Ten tournament that had seemingly ended Dixon's wrestling career just a few weeks earlier.\n"It felt pretty good," Dixon said. "They were in a different weight class, but those guys were the elite 197 pounders in the Big Ten." \nIn the finals, Dixon jumped out to a quick 4-1 lead, but saw that evaporate in the waning moments of regulation. But Dixon won the match, and the title on an overtime takedown. \n "I feel like I can beat those guys anytime I want to," Dixon said.\n Dixon came to IU weighing around 210 pounds, attempting to break into a heavyweight racket made up mostly of 280-pound wrestlers. Collegiate wrestling goes directly from the 197-pound weight class to heavyweight, making it difficult for Dixon.\n"He was always facing guys that were bigger than him," Goldman said. "Even though he beat a lot of those guys and was in some close matches, it was just so much to overcome."\nThe transition to freestyle wrestling was made easier by the help of IU assistant coach and U.S. Olympic wrestler Charles Burton, who will also have his own hands full this month when he faces 1996 Olympic champion Khadjimourat Magomedov, among others, at the 2001 World Cup of Freestyle Wrestling in Baltimore.\n"Freestyle is a lot more offenisve," Dixon said. "I'm still learning the moves. Burton taught me a lot as far as moves go. Points are a lot easier to come by."\nDixon spent the fall as a walk-on member of the IU football squad, and made the most of his time there by adding on 20 pounds of muscle. But competing in the Freestyle National Championships meant slimming down, as the competition includes a 213.75 pound weight class that was ideal for undersized heavyweights like Dixon.\n"He weighs about 230 naturally, so for him to wrestle at 213, he just overpowers everybody," Mena said. "They're not going to be able to hang with him. He's going to power out of a lot of moves, and he's athletic, too."\nA management major in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs, Dixon would prefer to pursue a coaching career when his competitive days are done. But the Indianapolis native has no intention of hanging up the head gear any time soon. On the advice of Burton, Dixon intends to go to the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, with his eyes set on the 2004 Olympic Games.\n"Because of his strength, athleticism and attitude, it's very realistic that he could be an Olympic champion," Mena said\nGoldman further endorsed Dixon's potential.\n"He's coming into his own," Goldman said. "All of a sudden, when it looked like his wrestling career was over, it really had just begun"

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