For 15 minutes, the 30-pound redfish on the end of Drew Dickson’s line kept struggling.
“That thing was fighting mad,” Dickson said. “It did not want to come into the boat.”
It was the last fishing trip of the season before Dickson, an incoming freshman from Indian Trail, North Carolina, made his way to George Mason University, so there was no way that fish was going to get away.
And that is when Dickson’s training as a wrestler kicked in.
“You just have to keep going, keep reeling in,” Dickson said of the tussle that took place in a boat on the Atlantic Ocean off Kure Beach, North Carolina. “Just like in a wrestling match, you have to keep attacking and keep scoring if you want to win.”
Dickson has done plenty of winning on a wrestling mat.
As a senior at Porter Ridge High School, he won the North Carolina High School Athletic Association Class 4A Midwest regional championship at 138 pounds, and finished second in the state. He was the first wrestler from his school to be named Southwestern Conference MVP.
Dickson also excelled in the classroom as a member of the National Honor Society and as an AP Scholar, a recognition given to those who score 3 or higher on three or more AP exams.
“I was talking with him, and I felt like the school was headed in the right direction and growing,” said Dickson, who plans to major in mechanical engineering. “It felt like the best place for my ambitions and that I could get everything I wanted done there.”
Dickson said the spark for his preferred field of study came from working with his father, Scott, at his auto repair shop. Changing oil, fixing brakes and doing engine work made Dickson realize he wanted to build things.
“I want to have my hands on something,” he said. “I want to be able to design stuff and build stuff.”
As for wrestling, Dickson said he started in fifth grade.
“He fits the mold of our program,” Mason wrestling coach Frank Beasley said. “He’s an outstanding student who works extremely hard both academically and athletically.”
Dickson knows there will have to be trade-offs if he is to be successful at Mason, especially because wrestling is so physically and mentally demanding.
“Going into college, I know there is academics, athletics and a social thing,” Dickson said. “I know I’ll have to let one fall to the side. Doing a sport and having a rigorous academic program, giving up the social standpoint of college is how I’ll get it done.”
“I felt after my senior season I needed to wrestle in college to reach my full potential,” he added. “I feel Mason is the place where that can be done.”