Going for Four
by Tim Fitzgerald
You'd never know that Les Sigman is going after his fourth national wrestling championship March 10-11. He is as calm and soft-spoken as ever and seems to wonder why he's getting so much attention.
Sigman could set University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) records and become the first Maverick to win four national titles (wrestler Roy Washington had three and his brother, Mel, had two). In doing so, he would join the ranks of only four other Division II wrestlers to win four national championships.
The senior heavyweight from Sturgis, South Dakota, will be competing with nine other Mavericks at the national tournament March 10-11 in Findlay, Ohio. The Maverick team will be trying for a third straight national championship.
"I try not to focus on the national championship, but rather on my performance," Sigman said. "I've had a pretty good year and hopefully will finish off with a good performance."
Throughout his Maverick career, Sigman's focus has been steady and on the mark. He came to Omaha from Brown High School in Sturgis. He wasn't heavily recruited and, according to UNO coach Mike Denney, he was "under the radar" to many schools.
Denney had been successful in Sturgis recruiting two of three Vorhees brothers to wrestle at UNO, so he was familiar with the heavyweight prospect. "You don't see heavyweights do what he can do," said Denney. "He makes it look easy, and so many old wrestling buffs know he is unique."
Denney said he felt a connection with Sigman that has continued today. "I could sense a great character in him from the very beginning," he said. "He's very humble, soft-spoken, kind of walks softly and carries a big stick. He always had a great work ethic and he's had to work for everything. I've seen an improvement each day and year that he's been here."
Denney describes Sigman as someone with moxie. "He's like a thoroughbred racehorse. They've got moxie – that something extra for the stretch run. There's an old saying that a champion does what's expected and then some – he's always had that ‘then some.'"
Sigman began wrestling in second grade and was competing at 135 pounds and then 189 pounds in high school. He didn't move up to the varsity until his junior year, but then finished second in the high school nationals.
"People started calling me when I got the number two ranking, but UNO was one of my top choices," Sigman said. "I was successful early (after coming to UNO), which helped my confidence."
Along with his wrestling victories, he's also had his share of injuries, including three knee surgeries, a dislocated shoulder, surgery for anterior compartment syndrome (lower leg) and a broken bone in his foot.
Sigman, who weighs in at 250 pounds, practices each day against assistant coach Jason Brilz, whom he's quick to credit for his winning. "Jason has had a lot to do with my success because I keep evolving each day that I practice against him. I set my goals high for my performance, and I'm always trying to improve."
"He's been a gift and I've been thankful for him every day," Denney said. "Les is a great young man and someone you'd be proud to have on your team and in your family."
For more information about wrestling at UNO, visit the Web at http://gomavs.unomaha.edu/.
Tim Fitzgerald is manager of photography at UNO. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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