It’s all in the family
Editor’s Note: This story has been shared with us by the West Lyon Herald, where it appeared on the front of the sports section on Wednesday, March 23. The story features the children of 1998 Nevada graduate Michael Fleshman, whose parents, Kay and Vern Fleshman, live in Nevada.
INWOOD — Getting to a state championship in any sport is not an easy task.
But the Fleshmans of Inwood believe anything can happen if you put in the hard work.
That philosophy paid off during the grade-school state wrestling championships this past February, as Easton Fleshman, Emmitt Fleshman and Eagan Fleshman all took home championships at the sixth grade, fourth grade and kindergarten levels.
Neither of their parents, Michael or Courtnie Fleshman, participated in wrestling, but both insisted they go out due to the lessons wrestling teaches.
“It’s something that they can do when they are younger. It keeps them active and it gets them used to competing,” Michael said. “Wrestling is a team sport, but at the same time you have nobody to blame but yourself if you lose. That teaches them a lot of things. When you go up to the plate and hit a ball, or when you step on the football field you can use the things that you learned in wrestling to be mentally tough and physically tough too.”
“When you are on your own, you do your own homework,” Courtnie added. “It’s not a team effort when you get to a job and you are out of college. It’s you and nobody else and wrestling teaches that type of aspect.”
That philosophy translated to the mat even before all three grapplers had their success this past season.
“When Easton was a second-grader, he won the championship that year. That was the first time we went and we really didn’t have any expectations then. We said just wanted to go down there and see what it was like,” Courtnie said. “Then as a kindergartener, Emmitt wrestled on Saturday and he ended up being a state runner-up. That was like ‘Alright. Wow. OK.’ “
The success has come to no surprise for the Fleshmans
“They’re all just very special. I’m sure all parents say that, but they’ve always been special kids and I guess it doesn’t really surprise me,” Courtnie said.
The path to state is easier for the kindergarten through second-grade level than it is for the higher grades. For the lower grades to compete at the state tournament in Waterloo, all they have to do is sign up. Eagan took the opportunity and won all four of his matches this past month in a total of 1:40 for an average of 25 seconds per match.
“He has two older brothers to practice on,” Michael explained about the feat.
“He has beaten his brothers five times, but that depends on who’s the ref,” Courtnie added.
For the older grades the path to the state tournament is a little more difficult. Grapplers first have to sign up for the district tournament, where only four individuals are able to advance out of the entire district.
“But the kids that do well at districts; they put in the hours of practice. Either two, three or four hours a week,” Michael said.
He noted that his boys’ practice schedule follows that fact.
“We practice two nights a week for sure, except leading up to state then we might go three or four times,” Michael said. “All year long we go two times a week. Otherwise, they are wrestling just about every night in their house or down in the basement. That’s more for fun usually, working with new moves and things like that.”
“Our house is a 24/7 wrestling area,” Courtnie added.
The national tournaments also help in the journey to a state championship.
“They (the top wrestlers) go to the tougher tournaments and maybe when they go to those tougher tournaments and get a loss or two, but come district time it’s a different level,” Michael said.
Easton and Emmitt both go to the national tournaments when they can, with Indiana being one of their favorite spots, but not for a reason one might think.
“I like going to Indiana because in the morning we get to go down (across the border) to Ohio and have breakfast at this restaurant where Mennonites serve us breakfast,” Emmitt said.
Then, based on the success at the state tournaments, grapplers can get invited to dual team events across the country either by the AAU, USA or the National United Wrestling Association for Youth. Easton and Emmitt have participated in the national duals in Tennessee and were recently selected to participate in the Heartland Duals in Council Bluffs, April 15-17.Emmitt said he likes the dual team aspect.
“I like wrestling with dual teams because you get to meet new people, you get to wrestle with them and you have more people to cheer you on besides my parents,” he said.
Easton likes the more traditional format.
“I prefer individual, because you usually do better,” Easton said. “You yourself can be good, but other kids on your team cannot be so great and it brings the team down. Individually, it’s all about you.”
Michael noted wrestlers need to still be able go out and produce on the mat in either fashion. He said Easton, Emmitt and Eagan have done that.
“They (the boys) have put in all the hard work. I’ve got the easy job of just trying to get them there,” Michael said. “You see all these other kids from the United States and if you want to stand at the top of the podium, you have to be willing to put in all the practice time and make sure you get your homework done so you can go to practice.”
That work ethic is not just limited to the mat. Michael and Courtnie’s No. 1 rule in the house is to get schoolwork done first. That can sometimes turn into a friendly competition.
“They don’t only compete on the mat. They compete in the classroom as well,” Michael said. “So when I come home our kids will say ‘I had straight As this quarter when my brother had a B so I did better than you’.”
Sometimes it even goes further then that.
“My brother got a detention. I didn’t, so I’m perfect,” Emmitt said with a wide smile.
The second rule is you have to be able to “earn” your way to the national tournaments.
“We stress greatly that the boys have to do odd jobs around the community to earn money in order to pay for their portion of the trip,” Courtnie said. “We feel that’s really important. We (as parents) have to work to go places, they do too. They put in the work in the wrestling room, we get that, but there’s something when you earn $5 and you put $5 down, there’s a little more of a lesson in that. We try hard to implement that and just try to teach them ownership and responsibility.”
The odd jobs the boys have done in the past range from mowing a neighbor’s lawn to picking up sticks. Easton and Emmitt said the jobs have positives and negatives.
“My favorite is I love to mow the lawn,” Easton said. “I have a couple of people that ask me if I want to mow their lawn and I say ‘Sure’.”
“I don’t like picking up sticks because there are so many small ones and it takes forever,” Emmitt said.
One of the big money-makers for the Fleshmans is their bake sale during Christmas time that includes a variety of cookies, bars and “pizza brownies.” The communities of Inwood and Larchwood were impressed with how much work the boys put into the project.
“People kept asking ‘Really? The boys are actually helping you with that?’ and I said ‘Yep. They do’,” Courtnie said. “They decorate this or that cookie, or Easton likes to make Puppy Chow and Emmitt was the king of the pizza bars. They helped out tremendously with that. It was definitely a joint effort on everybody’s part.”
The Fleshmans believe that hard work will, and should, continue to pay off in the future.
“Just keep wrestling hard, just go out there and wrestle your best match each and every match, no matter if it’s the same kid that you beat every time or if it’s a kid you never wrestled or beat. Just go out there and wrestle your best,” Easton said.
Eagan Fleshman summed it up in two words.
“Kick butt!” he said.