Marine officer and wrestler Jared Fekete.

Marine officer and wrestler Jared Fekete. (Facebook)

BEZONIA, Mich. (Tribune News Service) — Jared Fekete believes in a simple law of nature. A law of his own human nature.

That means paying forward the guidance and support he received as a middle and high school student-athlete at Benzie Central.

“I’m just going to give as much as I can,” the 2013 Benzie Central High School graduate and U.S. Marine Corps officer said. “I just see what wrestling did for me. I see it now.”

And Fekete sees it when he goes home on leave and wrestles with and coaches the Benzie Central team.

“I can see it in their eyes and see that they’re me 10 years ago,” he said. “It brings me a lot of joy. I like being around these kids that share the same sort of bent that I had. I looked up to people at that age; so if I can be that for them, I’m honored.”

But Fekete understands being a role model is a tremendous responsibility.

“You have eyes on you,” the 28-year-old said. “But I believe in the system and the sport and the solid foundation it can give you to keep them on a path that brings them to a little better place.

“I want to give back. I want to teach. This is a lifetime thing. It’s a commitment.”

Fekete has been stationed at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina as an active-duty Marine Corps officer for the last three years. Before he joined the Marines, Fekete wrestled for four years at Wheaton College after a successful high school career on the mat for the Huskies. While in the Marines, Fekete has continued wrestling while also honing his skills in Brazilian jiu-jitsu.

The discipline and joy Fekete gets from competing in these combat sports go beyond winning and losing. In fact, it is sometimes in the losing where Fekete finds the greatest lessons.

“I’m refining a process,” Fekete said. “If I fail, I’m almost happy about it these days because I can take a lesson from it.”

Those lessons keep him moving forward.

“Pain is inevitable, and you have to be OK with that. It doesn’t have to be a roadblock,” Fekete said. “Just accept that you want to do X, Y and Z, and then put yourself out there. I’ve learned a lot about myself doing it that way.”

Fekete has eyes on representing the United States at Nationals, Worlds and even the Olympics as part of the All-Navy Wrestling Team, which he joined after the All-Marine Wrestling Team was disbanded. He is set to compete in Washington on Feb. 25 when he’ll face wrestlers from the United States Army and Air Force before heading to U.S. Nationals in Las Vegas in April.

Soon after that, Fekete is set to leave the Marines in May and return to northern Michigan where he will start a team called Sleeping Bear Jui-Jitsu and provide coaching and training out of the CrossFit Dunes gym in Frankfort this coming June. He’ll also return to Benzie Central as an assistant coach with the Huskies wrestling program, another way to give back to something that has given him so much.

“Benzie Central and their wrestling team and that coaching staff, the culture they’re building there with that program is a really cool thing,” Fekete said. “I’m really proud of them, and I’m really excited to come back and be a part of that.

“That program and that school did a lot for me. So I want to give those kids that leg up and that push they might need.”

Fekete will be coming back to a program on the rise. The Huskies just won a Division 4 district championship and then followed that up with the program’s first regional title in its history.

Benzie varsity wrestling head coach Josh Lovendusky was Fekete’s junior high wrestling coach and then became the high school varsity coach when Fekete started his freshman year at Benzie Central High School.

“He was the first state medalist I had as a coach,” Lovendusky said of Fekete. “He was one of the nicest kids we had there.”

Fekete proved that on the mat, and Lovendusky saw it firsthand.

“There was a kid that (Jared) busted his lip open in the semifinals, and all Jared had to do was crossface him one time and the kid would start bleeding again and Jared would have won the match. Jared refused to touch the other kid’s face because he didn’t want to win that way,” Lovendusky said.

“That speaks volumes to his integrity as a person, how he lives his life and the belief system that he’s been brought up through. To be in the Marines and go through it and do everything trusting in the Lord and believing the things he believes, he’s just truly an amazing individual.”

That is why Lovendusky is so excited about the prospect of Fekete returning to northern Michigan and Benzie Central.

“I know that he was the past, he is the middle and he will be the future of Benzie wrestling. I know he will be a part of it in some way, shape or form,” Lovendusky said. “To have somebody with his knowledge base that wants to train kids, that wants to bring wrestling to the forefront in northern Michigan is amazing and something that this area has needed for a long time.”

Fekete, who worked with Lovendusky as a coach at Benzie for two years between graduating college and joining the Marines in 2019, said that Lovendusky — along with his father — was a big reason why wrestling became such a love and passion.

“He didn’t fill my head up with all of these nonsense ideas, but he pushed me and told me I could come up and train with the older kids,” Fekete said. “It hooked me. The popular thing in our school was to play basketball, but wrestling was just different. And I liked that.”

Fekete had a great deal of success on the mat in middle school, and that only drove his love for the sport deeper. But the success could not sustain, he said.

“There’s a lot of losses and failures throughout the successes that just add up,” Fekete said. “But wrestling was this solid thing that made everything else seem less hard. That’s why I stuck with it.”

And that’s why Fekete will stick with it. Wrestling and jiu-jitsu have brought him all across the country and all over the world. What he’s discovered is that it doesn’t have to stop. It might be different, but it doesn’t have to stop.

“I’m always going to be a competitor. I kind of need that to keep going,” he said. “There’s a trick that gets played on you when you’re younger. There doesn’t have to be the sense of these ‘good ol’ days.’ You just keep going and make your days good.”

(c)2023 The Record-Eagle (Traverse City, Mich.)

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