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Jeff Kolpack, Published October 20 2010

Former Bison wrestler finds fresh start with MMA

It’s not a sport for the faint of heart. And it usually isn’t a sport for anybody over 30 years of age, much less 40.

But that was the challenge for former North Dakota State wrestler Keith Stensgard in preparing for Saturday’s “Free Fall” mixed martial arts card at the Northern Lights Casino in Walker, Minn.

“Everyone thinks I’m nuts,” he said. “But I believe you’re as young as you act. Everyone doubts I can do it but I want to prove everybody wrong.”

He’ll be part of 12 matches against an opponent Stensgard said “will be in his 20s.”

The Detroit Lakes, Minn., resident will be competing at 170 pounds, and getting to that weight took some work. When Stensgard first got serious, he weighed 206 about eight months ago.

He wrestled at 150 pounds in college and his last year at NDSU was 1991.

“People were always telling me, ‘Boy, if they would have had this right out of college, you would have been great at it,’ ” Stensgard said.

The workout regime required about five hours a day at three different venues. He did the wrestling drill portion at the Detroit Lakes High School wrestling room, mixed martial arts work in Fargo and weight training and cardiovascular regimen at a Anytime Fitness facility.

Plus, he still held down his regular duties at the 917 sports bar in Detroit Lakes.

“I got the mindset for it because of my wrestling background,” Stensgard said. “You have to make sacrifices.”


Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be heard on the Saturday Morning Sports Show, 9-11 a.m. on WDAY-AM (970).

He can be reached at (701) 241-5546.

Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found

at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia