Tim Jackson, the Head Editor of the school newspaper, has agreed to join the wrestling program for a season-long series of articles highlighting the program and it's wrestlers through stories from both on and off the mat. Tim has put together an extensive series of article topics. Below is the seventh story in the series.
In a lot of ways, Eric Norgard is just like any of the other wrestlers on the F&M wrestling squad. Hard working, intelligent, and charismatic are all words and phrases that aptly describe Norgard.
At the same time, Norgard is definitely one who marches to his own beat, preferring to stand out as an individual rather than blend in with the rest of the crowd.
"I've kind of always been [an individual]," Norgard said. "When I got here as a freshman, I think that really started it, at least here. I always had my friends on the team, but I also always had my friends on my hall. If I ever needed to get away from it all [wrestling], I would just go hang out with them. But I don't always need to be around people, and I actually enjoy it a lot sometimes."
As a wrestler at F&M, Norgard has appreciated the simpler things that have come with being a wrestler. When asked what his favorite part about being on the team was, his answer essentially amounted to simply loving the fact he had the opportunity to wrestle after high school.
"I guess that I can say that I'm a division one wrestler, which really carries a lot weight," Norgard said when asked what his favorite part about wrestling was. "I'll be able to say that for the rest of my life."
As the sole junior on F&M's roster, Norgard will be in the unique position soon of being the only senior on the squad. Although being the only senior on the team next year will likely be a role that comes with a great deal of responsibility, it hasn't fazed Norgard. In fact, the thought hardly ever crosses his mind.
"I haven't really put a lot of thought into it yet," Norgard said. "When I was a freshman, we had a class of three and the other two dropped out. It's just something I've become used to. I don't see it as a, I don't think I'm supposed to be the one to set all the examples for everyone, I think I will, but it's just not something I'm going to think of like that."
Perhaps the reason behind Norgard's calm, comfortable approach to his future role with the team comes from the support he already receives from the coaching staff.
"I think he'll handle [the responsibility] well," assistant coach Matt Greenberg said when asked about Norgard's upcoming role with the team. "He's not someone I ever have to worry about not showing up. He's always there, always doing what you tell him. As far as an example of what you need to do or how you need to do it, there's nobody I'd rather have doing that. I think he embodies what it take to balance everything."
"I think he's the perfect person to have if you can only have one senior."
It didn't take long for Greenberg to figure out what he had in Norgard. Ironically, that moment occurred during Norgard's freshman year and involved him making a mistake rather than excelling on the mat or in the classroom.
"His freshman year, we went down to North Carolina for a match," Greenberg said. "After we went through skin checks, he thought he had weighed in, but forgot he hadn't weighed in officially. He sat down and started chugging a Gatorade. I said, 'What are you doing? You can't drink, you haven't weighed in yet!' He was three pounds over by the time he chugged his Gatorade, so he had to lose that weight in like thirty seconds."
"He ran sprints and he was doing all kinds of crazy stuff [to lose the weight]," Greenberg continued. "Seeing him do all that, I knew this kid was legit. I knew he really wanted to make it work and he made it. He got out there and wrestled. Most kids would have been like, 'Aw, I screwed up, I'm done. I can't wrestle.' He made it work though. I think that kind of embodies the kind of kid he is."
"It was actually apple juice," Norgard said, grinning as he began recounting the story. "I just started drinking and didn't think anything of it and then I had this moment of sheer panic in the locker room and thought, 'What did I just do?' I started jump roping thinking I was going to lose the weight in two seconds. As soon as I realized that wasn't going to work, I just found the nearest garbage can and, well, you know."
This is just one of many examples of Norgard's dedication to the wrestling team. He has developed a very personal bond with the program, and is thrilled to see it thriving in head coach Mike Rogers' second season at the helm.
"It's going to be weird next year because I'm going to be the only person who was here before Rogers so I'll be the only one who has seen just how far this team has come," Norgard said. "At the end of the year last year, we won four matches in a row. And this year, we have so many freshman doing incredible things just stepping on the mat for the first time at the college level. So I'm excited for the rest of the season and for next year, but once I graduate it will be crazy to see how far this thing can go."
Off the mat, Norgard's maintains his status as being a little different than almost everyone else. He has grown up loving the beach and the water, and has a tattoo of the beach. With a house on the Jersey Shore, Norgard has plenty of opportunity to get his fill of the water.
"[The beach] is definitely my place, where I like to be the most," Norgard said. "Wrestling and surfing are just my two favorite things in the world to do. It's the best."
Although the junior doesn't have to focus on what his life after college will be like for a little while, Norgard has a general feeling about what he would like to pursue after his collegiate career is over.
While emulating his father is towards the top of the list, Norgard is unsure about whether or not he wants to follow step for step in his father's path.
"My main goal would be to own my own company and to work for myself," Norgard said. "My Dad kind of does that now, he's the vice president of his company. He worked his way up to get that job, he's been at the same company for thirty plus years now. I don't know if I'd like to start at the bottom like he did though."
"I just gotta come up with that next great idea."
An unassuming kid, it can sometimes be easy to lose Norgard in the crowd. But he's anything but invisible when he steps on the mat or is in the locker room. There's a reason Greenberg said if he could only have one senior next year, Norgard would be his guy. With all of his accomplishments, positive character traits, and his general attitude towards just about everything, it is easy to understand why Greenberg feels this way about Norgard.
While he certainly doesn't blend in with any crowd, Norgard certainly fits in with just about everyone, the hallmark of an adaptable leader who can relate and connect with everyone around him.
Although F&M will be downsizing numbers wise in terms of senior leadership next season, the wrestling program will be in good hands.