After all, the Maryland high school state champ from the mid 1990's is now a fitness model/actor who has appeared in a number of fitness magazines (on the cover and inside) … and is currently featured in a TV commercial with an amateur wrestling theme.
Greg PlittGreg Plitt has led an active life. In the years between high school and being featured on TV and in major magazines, Greg Plitt attended the United States Military Academy at West Point … and became an Army Ranger. He's now an aspiring actor, who, in addition to the wrestling-themed commercial, had a part in the Matt Damon movie The Good Shepherd.
Greg Plitt is a young man of considerable accomplishments. In conversation, he comes across as eager, enthusiastic and energetic. He obviously takes on life with great zeal, saying that he owes a lot of his attitude to having been a wrestler. Yet, he is incredibly modest and humble about what he has achieved, seemingly with an anyone-can-do-this-if-they-put-their-mind-to-it attitude.
The prep wrestler gets back into the (red) zone
This spring, Greg Plitt has appeared in TV commercial for Old Spice Red Zone Skin Conditioner, putting his experience as a wrestler to work.
In the commercial, Plitt (wearing a red singlet, appropriately, since the product is part of Old Spice Red Zone product line) brings his opponent to the mat and puts him in a pinning predicament. The opponent comments on how soft and supple Plitt's skin is. Referee slaps the mat, blows his whistle and the product appears onscreen.
The commercial is only 30 seconds, but it took considerably more time to bring it to life. Here's how Plitt describes the process: "I went to an initial audition, then got two callbacks. They knew I was a wrestler, which may have helped…"
Greg Plitt"It took about a month from the audition to the actual filming of the commercial."
"It was a SAG -- Screen Actors' Guild -- job, so we were paid the standard day rate of $537 for filming. If the commercial never ran, that would've been all I received. But, I'm paid residuals every time it runs, which is great."
When asked if his mat experience came into play in the shooting of the spot, Plitt says, "We were shown storyboards with the script on them. The producers knew they wanted us to start on our feet, and end up on the mat. They let us come up with various options, but it had to look good on screen. We did probably 30-40 takes over the course of seven hours of filming."
"It was fun to get back out on the mat and get the blood going again."
Trading skates for a singlet
Although he loved all sports as a youngster, ice hockey was Greg Plitt's primary passion. He first laced up the skates at age three, following the lead of his granddad and his dad, and, for nearly a decade, it was THE sport for the Baltimore-area native.
His parents stressed athletics and academics. "We had a summer supplemental reading list when I was in grade school," Plitt recalls. "Dad would always ask how I was doing, if I was making my way through the list. If he felt I wasn't making enough progress, he'd make me do a workout, starting with 100 laps in the pool, 100 sit-ups, 100 push-ups, etc."
"Instead of thinking of the workouts as punishment, I really came to enjoy them. The workouts made me a better player, with more energy. I actually would try to get him to increase what I had to do … I think this is where I got my drive to work out, to take care of myself, that has stayed with me even today."
"It also helped me become a better student. I didn't want to fail, and disappoint my folks."
Greg PlittThen Plitt describes the life-changing moment when he was forced to take up a new sport: "At age 12, dad had forgotten to pay my hockey league bill, so I couldn't play."
"Luckily, as they say, when one door closes, another opens. There were flyers at school announcing the start of wrestling season…"
"I won states as a seventh grader. Seniors suddenly seemed to know who I was, which was cool."
"I never went back to hockey," adds Plitt. "I went at wrestling all-out."
"My dad was really into it, too. He'd get these technique tapes featuring guys like Wade Schalles. We'd watch them together, then practice what we'd seen on tape."
Greg Plitt can recall one specific example when one of those living-room lessons came into direct use during an actual match: "Getting ready for states senior year, dad showed me a tape featuring Granby rolls. In the state finals, the score was tied zero-zero with 41 seconds left. I was in the down position; I popped up, and, using the Granby roll, put him on his back, scoring back points, and winning the state title at 189."
"I remember dad having tears in his eyes. It was a special moment that we shared together."
At the end of his high school wrestling career, Plitt was a Maryland state champ, and a two-time high school prep All-American (placing second in the nation his senior year). In addition, he played football and was on his school's golf team.
Like sister, like brother (in his own way)
"In high school, I got some offers from college wrestling programs out west," says Plitt. "However, at the time, my sister was at Annapolis (at the United States Naval Academy), and was transformed. I liked what it had done for her. The way she carried herself, with such confidence and integrity."
"I was accepted at Annapolis, and ready to go. But there was something nagging at me, that I might be merely following in her footsteps. I had been contacted by the wrestling coaches at West Point after the finals of the high school prep national wrestling tournament. After much thinking and discussion with my family, I decided that would be the direction I'd take."
Plitt entered West Point one week after graduating high school as the class of 2000. Upon graduation in May 2000, he was appointed Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army, Infantry branch.
Greg Plitt"They say West Point is a leadership school, but I think it's a place where leaders become even better leaders," according to Plitt. "It's all about management -- time management, learning how to use limited resources to maximum effect, how to work with others as a team."
"There are no parties, no frats. It's all about getting ready for work, and your career in the military … It's like being submerged under water for four straight years, then coming up for air."
"Being at West Point helped me focus on the horizon, on long-range goals, rather than just getting through a day… It really helps you find out who you really are. Not just your strengths, but your shortcomings as well, and how to overcome them."
From West Point to the Army Rangers
After graduation from West Point, Plitt set his sights on being a Ranger, the elite soldier corps of the U.S. Army. He entered the U.S. Army Ranger School, where "I went from being 215 (pounds) down to 165 in 65 days during training."
"Everything is designed to test you, to put you through the stress that simulates combat," adds Plitt. "You go out on missions with very little sleep, trying to keep each other motivated, to solve problems … It's incredible leadership training, and a real boost to your self-confidence. You gain a degree of integrity and honor that becomes part of every decision you make and everything you do."
Greg PlittIn the "Frequently Asked Questions" section of his Web site (www.gregplitt.com), Plitt says, "Hands down, the best part of the military for me was the awesome responsibility of leading soldiers. Day in and day out, you are constantly burning the midnight oil to improve yourself physically and mentally in order to be the best leader for your soldiers … The job comes with a tremendous amount of sacrifice and hard work, but it is completely outweighed by the degree of job satisfaction you feel. To have soldiers look to you for direction whether on or off the field of battle is extremely humbling and inspiring."
Greg Plitt completed his five years of service in May 2005. As he says at his website, "My military experience will forever be one I will keep close to my heart. My time in the service as rewarding as it was demanding. The greatest experience I had in the military was the awesome responsibility of leading soldiers. Never forgotten, but forever missed."
Wrestling's role in all this
Greg Plitt has achieved great things on -- and off -- the mat. And he gives the sport of wrestling considerable credit for making him the man that he is today.
"Wrestling is like no other sport," says Plitt. "It's both a mental game and a physical game. It's also an independent endeavor, and a team sport. But, unlike most team sports, it is just you on the mat. You can't depend on anyone else to bail you out during a match."
"Wrestling has helped me through all phases of my life -- West Point, Army Rangers, and now my acting career -- in so many ways. You learn lessons from losing, failing -- not to give up, to try a new approach to try to succeed the next time. This helps me in my present career dealing with rejection. Rather than stay down about it, I think, �OK, what can I do differently next time to make myself better, to help me get that next job?'"
"I also gained the satisfaction of dedicating yourself to your goals," adds Plitt. "You remember the journey, not necessarily the end-state, for instance, being on the podium. You appreciate all the hard work and sacrifice you put into getting a title, or whatever your goal. You also realize that when the going gets tough, you don't bail out. You see it as a journey, a long-range thing, not a momentary gratification."
"The champions are the ones who go out to run at 5 a.m., even when it's pouring rain. They pass on going to the party that might be fun while it's going on, but will be forgotten the next day." Plitt said that attitude has helped him to build and maintain his physique into a condition that puts him on the covers of major magazines such as Men's Fitness and helped him land the Old Spice commercial.
More than just muscle is shaped from this attitude. "I think wrestling can really shape what you're capable of," Plitt adds. "If you're the fourth seed and accept that judgment of you, you'll probably come in fourth. But if you go in with the attitude �I should be first' you'll be more likely to realize your dream."
"A young mind is so fragile," concludes Plitt. "It can go either way. I was blessed to have loving, supporting parents. With encouragement, hard work and a focus on long-range goals, anyone can be a champion."
Watch Old Spice commercial with Greg Plitt:
UPDATE: On Sunday, Jan. 17, 2015, Greg Plitt was hit and killed by the southbound Metrolink Antelope Valley Line commuter train in Burbank, Calif. outside Los Angeles while walking or running between the rails. Some sources state he was filming a video for a commercial or segment for a reality TV series. Plitt was 37.