On November 17, 2009 Jon Swart
walked off the football field at Southwest Minnesota State for the final time wearing a Dragon football jersey. Come this March, Swart will relive that feeling as he finishes his wrestling career at Minnesota State University Moorhead
and his life as a collegiate athlete.
Swart returns to his familiar heavyweight division after spending 2009 in the 197-pound weight class. The move is something that suits the stronger and more agile Swart.
“When I dropped down to 197 last year I was more concentrated on cutting weight and not wrestling,” Swart said. “Now I can focus on my wrestling and conditioning and also my style is more suited towards heavyweight.” Last season was the only year Swart spent at any weight class other than heavyweight.
The biggest change for Swart wasn’t the move in weight classes, but the full dedication of the offseason to wrestling. Prior to this season, Swart spent the summers in preparation to play as a starting defensive lineman for the Dragons football program. While he was a force on the field, it took its toll on his wrestling season.
“In the past my whole offseason was dedicated towards football and my wrestling suffered because of it, Swart said. “My body always felt worn down. After 11 games, you are just trying to make it through the wrestling season.” Last season, Swart made the transition from 275 pounds as a noseguard to the 197-pound weight class.
The full offseason has paid off for Swart who won five of his last six matches of 2010. With all of his focus on one sport Swart realizes it is time for him to leave a lasting mark on Dragons athletics.
“I definitely have something to prove this time around, Swart said. “My career has been overshadowed by football and wrestling always came second and it feels great to be able to give everything I got to wrestling and I’m finally starting to see some results.” Swart also sees a new look in the Dragons as a team.
“Last year we were really up and down all season and relied so much on our lower weights,” Swart said. “Our lighter weights are outstanding and now our upper weights have something to prove not only to our region but all of Division-II.”
When Swart arrived at MSUM there were two heavyweights, Chris Tuchscherer and Joe Facchinni who held the top spot that Swart would eventually take over five seasons later. Entering his final stanza, Swart remembers the expectations he had of those leaders and looks to apply those same techniques as a senior.
“When I was a redshirt freshman I had Chris (Tuchscherer) and Joe (Facchinni) and those two were a big influence on me,” Swart said. “Chris taught me a lot about heavyweight when I was coming off of 215 pounds in high school. Joe was a smaller heavyweight and taught me to be aggressive as well. Its strange to see how the roles have changed from when I was a freshman and now I’m the senior trying to give back to Gerad (Fugleberg) and Jacob (Bruns) who are going to be really talented wrestlers down the road.”
Swart ended the first half of his season in style, winning his final three matches in overtime. The move up to heavyweight not only spared Swart of having to cut a tremendous amount of weight, but helped him develop his wrestling skills and conditioning, something that has led to a 7-5 start as 2010 ended.
“Overtime is not my goal,” Swart said. “My goal is to get my offense going early but it’s nice to know I can lean on my conditioning. You don’t want to change your style to who your facing in OT but you have to be conscious about it.”
During his time at MSUM, Swart has become one of the most recognizable athletes on campus. While he still carries plenty of support from the coaching staff and his teammates, Swart’s biggest supporters are also his loudest. Both Jon’s mother Cathy Swart and his fiancé make their presence known but that is not anything new for the Fargo, N.D. native.
“It’s kind of funny we used to play football at the Fargodome and we also played a couple times at the Metrodome and I would be on the sidelines and I could hear my mom yelling across the stadium which is good,” Swart said. “I like it and she cheers her heart out along with Katie they both get intense about it which is something I like hearing about.”
As the Dragons dive into the heart of their conference season, things get only tougher for the Dragons and for Swart who will face the top heavyweights in the nation. The former Fargo North Spartan could care less about his team’s rankings or the ranking of his opponents, but knows the only important standings are yet to come.
“Division-II rankings are tough to judge by and that’s why you wrestle, its not done on paper,” Swart said. “The coaching staff reminds us that this is our time, it’s not how or where you start but how you finish.”