As a 15-year-old freshman, Brady Netland weighed 345 pounds. He was the overweight wrestler, with chips and soda seemingly always in hand.

At that size, his career would forever be limited to exhibition matches. Weighing 60 pounds more than the heavyweight cutoff of 285 pounds, he never would wrestle for more than pride or practice.

The next year, Columbia Heights coach Josh LeVoir challenged his sophomore with an offer to begin the 2012-2013 season. If Netland got his weight below 300 pounds, it would earn him a letter. In his second year with the team, Netland accepted the challenge.

“Doing the work isn’t hard. It’s the dedication it took, and keeping my mind focused. Getting your mind ready to go do these things is the hardest part,” Netland said.

The transformation began as a slow process. Netland entered his second season at around 320 pounds. Eating healthy and working relentlessly on the mat meant giving up Cheetos and putting in extra time at practice and conditioning. Netland’s desire to achieve his goal by the end of the season sparked what might prove to be his longest lasting lesson — knowing he possessed the willpower to change.

As the season came to a close, Netland’s weight teetered on the brink of his goal until his final weight was recorded: 299.9 pounds.

“I was just excited. I knew what else I could accomplish after doing that,” Netland said.

During the summer, Netland continued his transformation. He became a more important cog on the football team, earned team captain status for 2014 and solidified his role as an inspirational leader for his school. No longer a peer to be pitied, Netland had become a school hero and a role model for those wanting to better themselves.

With his first match of the wrestling season awaiting, Netland already has reached his second goal of making the heavyweight cutoff and vying for a varsity start. With a new outlook on sports and life, though, Netland is pursuing more than a trip to the state tournament.

In a year, Netland has become a determined student and lovable leader in the locker room and through the halls. The junior said he knows that sports isn’t everything. He’s taken his dedication to the classroom, bettering his grades and pushing himself to be ready for the next step.

“The benefit to me is knowing that I could do more to improve myself, and to show that if I can improve myself in this, I can improve myself in anything,” Netland said.

The name on his letter jacket —“Brady Bear” — reflects an ever-present voice of encouragement and determination to his teams, and slimmed-down proof that goals are attainable. But Netland knows the work is hard and the support system needs to be there.

Now a junior, Netland understands that he would not be in his current position without help from equally dedicated friends and teammates in Leandre Bauswell and D’Aireus Mock. With a matured attitude and a new outlook on life, Netland said, he is ready to be a rock on which others can rely.

“He’ll leave this high school next year with so much. He’s going to be successful no matter what,” LeVoir said. “It’s one of the greatest feelings you can have as a coach, to transform young boys to young men who can contribute to society.”

Netland knows what hard work and focus can bring on a personal level. His last goal will be to leave Columbia Heights with more hardware in the trophy case than when he arrived. Those who know Netland best aren’t be betting against him.