Brock Lesnar announced his retirement from MMA along with his intention to stay with the WWE on Tuesday, but it is important to remember that before he was a seemingly superhuman pro wrestler and mixed martial artist, he was a seemingly superhuman college wrestler.
Sports Illustrated's B.J. Schecter went to Minnesota to speak with Golden Gophers wrestling phenom Brock Lesnar, a mountain of a college senior, who was hoping to win a NCAA Championship.
Minnesota wrestling coach J Robinson calls Lesnar an anomaly, a freakish combination of size (56-inch chest and 21-inch biceps), speed, strength and skill. Robinson has seen Lesnar, who is 20 to 30 pounds heavier and four inches taller than the average college heavyweight, throw 260-pound men around like dolls and execute finesse moves rarely used by guys in his weight class. Since joining the Golden Gophers after winning the national junior college heavyweight title at Bismarck (N.Dak.) College in 1998, Lesnar has been all but unbeatable. He was 24-2 last season as a junior, won the Big Ten title and finished second in the NCAAs. This season he's 22-1 with 11 pins and is the top-ranked heavyweight in the nation, according to Amateur Wrestling News, despite a narrow 5-3 loss to Iowa's 6'1", 250-pound Wes Hand in Minnesota's final dual meet.
The future heavyweight champ told SI that he had an obsession with strength from an early age.
As a youngster Lesnar tried to lift everything in sight, and at age five he had already suffered two hernias after trying to heft bales of hay.
"All I wanted to do was get big and strong," says Lesnar. "I was amazed by guys like Arnold Schwarzenegger, and I'd always be doing push-ups and pull-ups at home. On the farm I tried to be a workhorse because I knew if I could cut it on the farm, I could cut it anywhere."
Lesnar's combination of finesse and power have served him well, as he has held the heavyweight titles in UFC, WWE and the NCAA, and is probably seen most clearly in his now famous "wheel of death" scramble from the 2000 NCAA semi-finals.
The now 37-year-old Lesnar is scheduled to put his WWE title belt on the line against Roman Reigns at the upcoming Wrestlemania 31 pay-per-view on March 29.
- Brendan Maloy