GCU’s Heralded New Heavyweight Throwing His Weight Around Already
Story by Bob Romantic
Photos by Darryl Webb
GCU News Bureau
Tyrell Fortune sometimes forgets how big he really is.
GCU’s new heavyweight wrestler was on a school trip last week in Fresno, Calif., where he roomed with 5-foot-3, 120-pound teammate Kimoni Pollard.
The two were horsing around in their room – as wrestlers do – when the 6-foot-1, 275-pound Fortune grabbed Pollard and threw him. “I didn’t really try to throw him too far,” Fortune said, “but I ended up throwing him all the way across the room just playing around with him.”
“He launched me,” said Pollard, a freshman who is good friends with Fortune. “It was playful. He doesn’t know his own strength.”
Rivalry weekend GCU vs. Cal State Bakersfield, 11 a.m. Saturday, GCU Arena GCU vs. Arizona State University, 1 p.m. Saturday, GCU Arena
Opposing wrestlers can feel for Pollard, as they’ve been getting that same treatment on the wrestling mat ever since the much-heralded Fortune stepped foot on GCU’s campus.
The Antelopes have competed in two tournaments thus far in 2012, and Fortune has won his weight class both times in dominating fashion. He’s 9-0, with eight of those wins coming against NCAA Division I opponents. Not one of those nine opponents was able to score an offensive point against him. And he pinned a wrestler from Cal State Bakersfield in just 17 seconds – a GCU record.
If that’s not enough, get this: GCU’s wrestling coach, R.C. LaHaye, says that Fortune is only about 60 percent physically of where he’ll be by the end of the season after he sat out all of last year.
“He hasn’t even started hitting his stride yet,” LaHaye said. “He’s still warming up, getting used to carrying the extra weight and getting in shape.”
Fortune weighs about 50 pounds more than he did the last time he competed collegiately. That was the spring of 2011, when Fortune was winning his second NJCAA national title at Clackamas Community College in Oregon City, Ore.
After that season, he was still one credit short of fulfilling his associate’s degree. So, even though schools such as Oregon State University came calling, he took the year off to work and get his schooling in order.
That decision, LaHaye said, turned out to be a blessing in disguise. The time away from the sport enabled Fortune to pack on additional weight that has made him even more formidable in the heavyweight division.
“When he won his junior college titles, he was only 225-230 pounds,” LaHaye said. “The real good heavyweights, they’re all 250-260-270, and they would use their size against him. Now he’s 275, but he’s as athletic as he’s always been and he’s still quick. And no one can push him around, as big as he is.”
Fortune said the added weight came on almost by accident. He wasn’t wrestling much, which meant he also wasn’t running and his metabolism had slowed down. At the same time, he started working at the Reserve Vineyards and Golf Club in Oregon, helping to set up and tear down events at the posh venue.
“They have this really good five-star restaurant there, and I would eat prime rib and steak every night because I was there all the time, working 14-hour shifts,” said Fortune, a junior. “And the chefs there are great. They would cater to what I liked and could specialize it for me. Just from eating there all the time, it was easy to add weight.”
Fortune no longer has his own five-star personal chef, but said he has found plenty to eat at the campus dining options. He doesn’t eat quite as much as you’d think for a person his size, but he does have a couple of staples: He starts with a tuna fish sandwich every day for lunch, and he eats cereal with every meal – “Cinnamon Toast Crunch for sure.”
His sweet taste in cereal reveals a little bit of Fortune’s personality. He may be the biggest, baddest dude on campus, but he doesn’t act like it. He’s well-mannered, polite and courteous – even scolding younger teammates once for failing to bus their own dishes at the Student Union.
“He’s a really nice guy, really respectful,” Pollard said. “He’s always ‘Yes ma’am, yes sir.’ He’s always joyful to be around.”
Just don’t tell opposing wrestlers, particularly this weekend when GCU hosts Division I foes Cal State Bakersfield and Arizona State University in a pair of rare home matches Saturday at GCU Arena.
ASU’s Levi Cooper is one of the few heavyweight wrestlers in the country bigger than Fortune, and one of the even fewer who have beaten him.
Fortune was 32-2 as a freshman at Clackamas, 40-2 as a sophomore. Each year the only losses came at the Reno Tournament of Champions against Division I opponents. Cooper was one of the two wrestlers to beat Fortune his sophomore year.
LaHaye foresees a different outcome this time around, primarily because Fortune now has the size to contend with bigger heavyweights such as Cooper. He also thinks Fortune will be the man to beat in Division II despite the fact that the two-time national champ from Northern State University (who just had a one-point match against the Division I champ), the two-time national runner-up from St. Cloud State, the third-place finisher from the University of Nebraska at Kearney and a two-time NAIA national champ from Notre Dame College of Ohio all return in his weight class.
“The Division II class in heavyweights is extremely loaded,” LaHaye said. “There are four or five Division I All-American type kids in D-II right now in his weight. … But there’s no doubt in my mind Tyrell could go undefeated. There’s no doubt in my mind he can beat the two-time national champ and beat those other guys.”
And “those guys” undoubtedly know who Fortune is, even though this is his first year as an NCAA wrestler. Fortune was recruited by Ohio State University coming out of high school, when he was considered the top heavyweight recruit in the country. He also represented the U.S. at the 2009 Junior World Championships in Turkey, and he has his sights set on the Rio Olympics in 2016.
“If he just keeps doing what he’s doing — taking care of business in the weight room and the classroom and the wrestling room — the results will take care of themselves,” LaHaye said. “People are going to be surprised how good he’s going to get.”
Contact Bob Romantic at 639.7611 or email@example.com.