By Patrick Dillon @Pdillon_SGN
EXETER – Eric Mittlestead became the first Monarch to sign a Division I National Letter of Intent in two years last Wednesday. He will be following in his fathers’ footsteps, Eric Mittlestead Sr, in becoming a wrestler for the CSU Bakersfield Roadrunners.
“The hard part is over,” Eric said. “I’ve worked the past four years perfecting my craft and it all ended up stacking together. Now on to the next chapter in my career.”
Stories about wrestling had always been told inside the Mittlestead household, but it wasn’t until Eric was in seventh grade that his interest peaked. That year he asked his dad if he could teach him how to wrestle. His father agreed to do everything he could to aid his son.
“From there I was off to becoming the accomplished wrestler I am today,” Eric said.
Eric capped off a splendid four year varsity career this past season by finishing in the top 16 in the state at 220 pound weight class. It was the second time he had qualified for the state tournament. He was a two time Central Sequoia League Champion, and the individual Division II Valley Champion.
Eric’s strategy was never to cut any weight. He began his career wrestling in the 170 weight class, but always competed up a class. Even during his senior season he was still 15 pounds under the limit. That is where his 6-foot, 6-inch frame helped out.
“A lot of people underestimate me because of my height,” Eric said.
Going against wrestlers who were usually shorter, and stouter than Eric gave him a lot of chances to use his speed and leverage. Then once he got to the state tournament he went up against a lot more wrestlers of his height, but they were all cutting weight to enter. That made it harder for him to be so dominate.
At the college level things only get more difficult for Eric. First, he has to deal with the shadow his father cast over the school, and it is a pretty big one.
Eric Mittlestead Sr. still holds some of the top individual season records at the school despite wrestling in 1987. He is tied for 12th on the most wins in a single season with 43. He is 17th on the best record in a season with 43-3. He was also named one of the only modern day wrestling All-Americans for the Roadrunners.
Second, Eric has to make a drastic change in his weight class. At the college level the weight classes go from 190 to 285 pounds. He is keeping with his high school strategy, and moving to compete at the higher weight class. In order to make it a smoother transition, he is already bulking up. He has gained 25 pounds since finishing last season. He also plans on redshirting his freshman season.
“It is going to work out once my body begins to mature and fill out,” Eric said.
While the obstacles are there, Eric is looking forward to the relationships he is going to form. It is one thing that he remembers from his fathers stories more than the wins and losses.
“Being a wrestler, you are part of a very close knit community,” Eric said.