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One-on-One with Marcus LeVesseur

Marcus LeVesseur went where no other Division III college wrestler has ever gone before. From 2002-2007, the Minneapolis native compiled a perfect 155-0 record at Augsburg College and won four NCAA Division III titles, which had never been accomplished. In addition to starring on the mat for Augsburg, LeVesseur also excelled on the gridiron. He was a first-team All-MIAC quarterback for the Auggies.

Marcus LeVesseur is one of the rising stars in MMA (Photo/13twentythree Photography)
Following his college career, LeVesseur, a four-time Minnesota state champion, jumped into mixed martial arts (MMA). He is now one of the rising stars in the sport. On Friday night, LeVesseur will be featured on an MMA/boxing fight card put on by Seconds Out Promotions called St. Valentine's Day Massacre at Epic in Minneapolis. For information on the event or to purchase tickets, click HERE.

RevWrestling.com recently talked to LeVesseur about his record-setting college wrestling career, his MMA career, whether he plans to ever wrestle again, and much more.

While you were at Augsburg, you went undefeated (155-0) and won four NCAA titles. When you reflect on that amazing accomplishment, how much does it mean to you?

LeVesseur: It means the world to me that I was able to accomplish my goal of being the second wrestler ever to go undefeated in college and win four NCAA titles. After I won my title my sophomore year, I was just amazed. I thought, 'Hey, I could really make this happen.' It helps me out in life now. It makes me think, 'What else great can I accomplish? Or what else do I have the passion to accomplish?'

Coming out of high school, you were one of the top recruits in the country. You spent your first year at the University of Minnesota. What was that experience like for you?

LeVesseur: That experience was awesome. Minnesota won the national title that season. I think the most important thing I took from that program was how intense they train. I really got used to their workout regiments. From being in the wrestling room at one of the top Division I wrestling programs in the country, I kind of knew how to train like a champion, which I've always done, but I just really took that philosophy my whole entire career. Wear your opponents down and force them to make mistakes. That's the Gophers motto nowadays. I just bought into it. Even though I transferred, I took that philosophy with me.

The University of Minnesota had a wrestling room full of very talented wrestlers at the time, especially around your weight. Jared Lawrence won the NCAA title that season at 149 pounds and Luke Becker won the NCAA title at 157 pounds. What was it like working out with Lawrence and Becker?

Marcus LeVesseur became the first Division III wrestler ever to win four NCAA titles and finish his career undefeated (Photo/The Guillotine)
LeVesseur: It was awesome. I worked out with Luke Becker a few more times than I worked out with Jared Lawrence in the practice room. Those guys are phenoms. It was their fourth year in college. They really accepted me. And I'm really appreciative of that. It was a learning experience. After being highly recruited out of high school, you're kind of on cloud nine. And then after practicing in college, you're like, 'Man, OK, I had no takedowns today in practice. I almost got some, but Becker is so dang strong.' I think a lot of people go through that phase coming into a Division I program, especially a program like the U. Those guys are tough and they taught me a lot. As you're wrestling, some of the guys would just allow things to happen to them … whereas me and a couple guys would always fight through it and be stubborn to the situation. I think a lot of times that pushed the guys that had been there to really exceed their capabilities … and kind of put us back in our place. That was going on a lot and it was awesome.

What caused you to make the decision to transfer to Augsburg?

LeVesseur: One main thing was that I wasn't happy with everything that was going on at the U and in the wrestling program. And there were a few other key things, like family issues and problems, and then personal and social life problems. Those things just kind of attacked at one time. I just thought, 'OK, what's the best case scenario? And what's the next best scenario?' I spent a lot of time thinking about it. It really didn't help too much that my roommate, Cory Cooperman, was in the same position. Obviously, since we were roommates, we talked about whether we should transfer or stay and fight through it. The best choice for me was to cut ties and focus on school. That was my biggest focus my first month and a half there. I was doing superb in the classroom. I was pretty much getting a 4.0. About a month and a half into it, it became a little more challenging. There were a few more parties to attend. School slipped a little bit. So I'm like, 'Hey, I need to get this in check … because obviously I want to graduate.' And then I thought, 'What about transferring across the river to Augsburg?' Within the rules, I talked to (Jeff) Swenson. He was like, 'Our door is open if that is what you want to pursue.' So it just happened that I ended up wrestling for the Augsburg Auggies.

How is your relationship with Jeff Swenson?

Jeff Swenson
LeVesseur: I value our friendship more than just about anything nowadays. I just think about the life lessons we talked about … and how he has sort of sculpted me into being the man I am … and helped me develop some of my characteristics. Maybe in the public's eye it might not have appeared this way, but I looked at Swenson as like a second father. He really opened up his heart and his arms and was willing to help me with some of the things I was having issues with. But then he was also the coach and helped me get better. He always challenged me to be a better wrestler, a better student, and a better man. And he succeeded in that. We still keep in contact nowadays. He's a great guy.

I'm sure you heard the critics when you were in college. There were people who said someone with your talent had no business competing in Division III and should have been competing in Division I. Some people even went as far as to stay that if you broke Cael Sanderson's consecutive wins streak of 159, they wouldn't recognize it because you accomplished it in Division III and not in Division I. When you would hear criticism like that, did it bother you?

LeVesseur: No, it didn't bother me. But you would hear it all the time if you went on TheGuillotine.com or TheMat.com. You would see some of the posts. A lot of times, that was my challenge. It motivated me. I was like, OK, we all have our opinions. If saying that is what you feel, I didn't mind that at all. I just used that as a little bit of fuel for the fire.

Because of what you accomplished in Division III, there were people who wondered how you might have fared against Division I competition. At the time, did you ever think about how you might do against Division I competition?

Marcus LeVesseur won his first three NCAA Division III titles at 157 pounds before moving up to 165 pounds for his senior season at Augsburg (Photo/The Guillotine)
LeVesseur: I always thought about it. A lot of the guys that were at the top of the ranks were the guys I was wrestling with all the way up from middle school and high school. I kind of compared myself to them. There was one tournament that I wrestled in (University Freestyle Nationals) where I wrestled several NCAA Division I qualifiers at 165 and 174. I saw some competition there. Admittedly, probably not the toughest competition, but I wrestled some tough guys. I never let that get to me or bother me. I was just like, 'Hey, at some point, I will be wrestling some of these top guys … and that's in the future. When that time comes, then we'll have something to talk about.'

Did you ever consider wrestling in the Midlands?

LeVesseur: I for sure wanted to wrestle in the Midlands. There was always a conflict with Augsburg's schedule. Of course, I would have liked to have wrestled in the Midlands.

When you were in high school, you defeated Olympian Ben Askren handily, 13-4, in the finals of the Bi-State Tournament in La Crosse, Wisconsin. Were you surprised by how successful Askren became after high school?

LeVesseur: No, I wasn't surprised at all. Askren has a truly sound, developed, and unorthodox style. He's like Gumby. He can twist and turn. He's very good at countering people's attacks. When I wrestled him, I recognized that early in the match and was able to jump out to a big lead quickly … and then just sort of sat on it. But I wasn't surprised at all by his success. Obviously, if you're wrestling some of the top guys, like Chris Pendleton, year after year, with a similar style to mine, you're going to get good. Askren is a funky wrestler. His motto is "Fear the Funk" because he has a lot of funky stuff that is well-calculated and pinpoint.

After your college wrestling career, did you consider pursuing an international wrestling career? Or were you set on getting into MMA?

LeVesseur: At first, I was set on MMA. But then in 2007, with the 2008 Olympics approaching, I was training on my own and planned to wrestle in some tournaments. But then I ended up getting injured in November of 2007. I tore my MCL and my PCL. It was a grade II tear on my MCL, so there was no surgery on that. And then I had a slight tear on my PCL, so there was no surgery on that. So rehabbing back from that brought on 2008. My knee wasn't one-hundred percent yet. One of my favorite moves is a high crotch to the left side … and I'm not able to do that yet. So my knee isn't one-hundred percent yet. But when it does get back to one-hundred percent through rehab, I'll be back on the mat wrestling.

You have had a successful start to your MMA career. What are you hoping to accomplish in the sport?

Marcus LeVesseur is hoping to someday become a champion in a predominant MMA league (Photo/13twentythree Photography)
LeVesseur: Ultimately, I'm looking to pursue my career for the next four years as 2012 approaches, so I can be a two-sport athlete, wrestling in tournaments and competing in MMA. I would love to be a champion in a predominant league … whether it's a UFC champion, a WEC champion, an Affliciton champion, or a Strikeforce champion. Those are some of the more credible leagues. I want to have a healthy career fighting in one of those leagues. And then after that, eventually look to open up a school for wrestling and self defense, which would include boxing, kickboxing, and jiu-jitsu. That's long-term, big-picture. I just want to take it year by year. It's an exciting sport and it's growing. If I can stay healthy and have a healthy MMA career, it's going to help with paying off loans and paying bills.

What is your current training situation? Do you have a regular training academy or gym?

LeVesseur: No. Right now, I'm just working out with several local fighters. I'll be looking to do some jiu-jitsu training at RevolutionMMA. And just the past several weeks I've been making contacts with the Minnesota Mixed Martial Arts Academy and Greg Nelson. But that has yet to be decided. But hopefully in the next few weeks I'll be at those places full-time.

After going undefeated in college wrestling, was it tough to deal with losing in MMA?

LeVesseur: Nobody likes to lose, especially if they have a strong passion and are a competitor. In wrestling, you can kind of master your style and then make your opponents have to adjust to it. If they don't adjust to it, then you can score points just by making it awkward or by throwing them off … and getting the victory. In the fight world, it's totally different. You have kicks coming at you. If you take someone down, and that guy is good on the ground, you have to watch out for submissions. So there are more ways in MMA to lose. The losses just pushed me to get back in the gym and work harder. Obviously, I know there are people out there who are better than me at pretty much everything I do, so that pushes me in my training sessions.

Are there any MMA fighters that you admire?

Roger Huerta wrestled at Augsburg before becoming an MMA standout (Photo/Sherdog.com)
LeVesseur: I admire one of my real good friends, Roger Huerta. He fought in the UFC seven times. He was 6-1 in UFC fights. I look up to him a lot just because he's a friend of mine who has accomplished great things. This is the guy I was walking down the street with, living the same old life as me. I'm like, OK, I see the path he has taken … and now I'm right behind him, three years later. Besides Roger, I admire Georges St-Pierre. He's an animal. He's technically sound. I like Anderson Silva. Pretty much all the UFC champions right now, even Brock Lesnar. He's a dominating force. He controls the fight very well. As a wrestler, that seems pretty easy … go in there, take him down, control him, and pound him. But really, can you do that every single time? No. That's what makes it a great challenge for me … I have to be skilled in all these areas.

I went out to California this past summer to tap into and network in the MMA market out West. I ended up at a Muay Thai school. I was training there for three months, full-time, three workouts per day. Just like wrestling, I'm trying to master my style so that I can keep that style up and cause fits for my opponents.

You have a fight scheduled for Friday night at Epic in Minneapolis that is part of an event called the St. Valentine's Day Massacre. What are your thoughts on the fight?

LeVesseur: I'm excited for the fight. I've been training real hard for this fight. I've had a couple injuries here and there the past few weeks, but I'm ready to go. Obviously, this is kind of dedicated to Scott LeDoux because of his situation (Scott LeDoux, a former professional boxer and current Executive Director of the Minnesota Boxing Commission, was recently diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's Disease.) My thoughts go out to him and his family. I'm just glad that I can be a part of something this big for somebody so special to boxing and MMA in Minnesota.

Your friend and high school teammate, Carey Vanier, is also competing on the card Friday night. Describe your relationship with him.

LeVesseur: Carey and I are like brothers. Since I was 5 or 6 years old, he was always my neighbor right across the street. We grew up playing football together, wrestling together, and running around the neighborhood together. He's just a great guy. A very good friend of mine. Now that I'm 26 and he has been my friend for about 20 years, I think that's something very special that a lot of people don't find. If they do, those are good people to keep around you. So now in 2009, here we are, on the same card, fighting for a good cause, and pursuing our careers in MMA. I'm sure he's pumped up. I'm pumped up as well. I can't wait until weigh-ins, the last training session, going over the game plan, which has already been mapped out, and then just execututing.

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