They say champions are a breed apart.
And as you listen to returning Class A state champions Tyler Fleetwood of Fulton and Logan Lee of Orion talk, it’s hard to disagree.
Both are embracing the challenge of going for one more state title.
Pressure? They view the next three weeks as fun.
Fleetwood won state titles at 106 as a sophomore, 120 as a junior and now seeks his final high school state title at 132. Yes, he actually is going for a three-peat.
"It’s going to be fun," said Fleetwood, who takes a 31-2 mark into the postseason. "Just getting ready to defend my title, it’s going to be awesome."
Lee, a junior, won a state title at 220 as a sophomore, his first high school season in the sport. He will be seeking a repeat at the same weight.
Lee (26-2) seems to embrace the whole journey just as much, even though he knows both this week’s regional at Rockridge and sectional a week later at Oregon, will be difficult, let alone the state finals at Champaign.
"I am really looking forward to competing with the best," said Lee, much like Fleetwood, with an unmistakable enthusiasm.
Both face formidable challenges.
Mercer County’s Stone Engle (35-1) is 1-1 against Fleetwood this season, with Fleetwood winning the last encounter at Orion’s Bob Mitton Invite, 4-2.
"He knows that he can get beat," Fulton coach Chris Grant said. "Nothing is going to come for free. Just focus, and we will zero in on the competition that we will run into and do what we need to do, just like with Engle."
After losing to Engle earlier in the season, Fleetwood made adjustments.
“Now I am sure Engle will do some adjustments, and we will have to be prepared for that,” Grant said.
"He’s a tough competitor,” Fleetwood said. “I like wrestling tough matches.”
Lee will have some challenges, too.
“There’s several kids (at 220) that he wrestled last year, they were juniors and he was a sophomore,” Orion coach Dan Diamond said. “And they gave him a handful. They are all back this year. There’s four or five kids, and any one of them could win state.”
“To be able to go back to the state series is always tough,” Lee said. “Our competition at our sectionals and our regionals is really top-notch. I am really looking forward to competing with the best.”
Lee believes there are some advantages to seeing wrestlers you’ve seen before.
“It’s really nice to be able to see and scout some of your opponents,” he said. “They get the same looks as you do, so it pretty much evens out. I pretty much like to see the competition, wrestle the competition before the state series starts.”
Pressure is something both wrestlers embrace.
“I like wrestling tough matches,” Fleetwood said. “It will be fun. I am ready for the challenge.”
“I love being under pressure with all eyes on me,” Lee said. “When I go into duals, sometimes being down a couple of (team) points, I love being able to know my match can decide that.”
Fleetwood said the one thing he has learned from previous trips to state is to be aggressive.
“If you wrestle hard, it pays off,” he said. “Having two state titles, I am not satisfied until I get my third one.”
And so the duo begins the state series at Rockridge on Saturday.
“I’ve got to get to my tasks, get to my style," Fleetwood said. "I am in pretty good shape if I get that first takedown against (Engle).”
Lee was an unknown a year ago. This year it’s different.
“Obviously, this year people know who he is and where he’s from,” Diamond said. “It adds a little extra to it. It makes anybody’s day or year if they can beat a defending champ.”
But the 6-foot-5 Lee brings some unique attributes to the mat. It starts with his height and goes far beyond that.
“He’s just an excellent athlete,” Diamond said. “He’s got strength, and he’s 6-5. He’s got leverage, and you can’t make that up. You either have it or you don’t.”
The University of Iowa-bound tight end/defensive end also is plenty competitive.
Both parents were college athletes. His sister is at Mankato State and plays volleyball.
On Saturday the fun begins.
“I am just looking forward to the opportunity,” Lee said.
“The next three weeks, I love it,” said Fleetwood. “Just the atmosphere and stuff, it’s second to none. It’s surely the best three weeks of the season.”