Fulfilling A Dream

October 7 will now be one of my most memorable days of the year. This is the date where I accomplished something that I have be striving for 10 years. A lot of hours and lot of sacrifice all came together when I made my first world team. On October 7, I made the U23 word team for the great United States Of America at 85 kilograms(187 lbs). This was my third tournament at the new weight class of 85 kg. I wrestle most of the year at 80 kg (176 lbs) and the cut along with the diabetes began to be too much. With a lot of thought and consultation with coaches and family members I decided to make the jump to the heavier weight class.

Being at 85 kg is a different game, I could no longer focus on overpowering my opponent. I had to change how I wrestle, I had to start focusing more on technique and being a smarter wrestler. Giving up weight and strength is a big no no in the wrestling community. “You have to cut weight” or “How are you going to compete if all these guys are cutting weight and you aren’t?”. Well, I’ll tell you how, you have to come up with technique and use movement to score on bigger opponents. Is it easy? Absolutely not. Are there advantages of not cutting weight? Absolutely. Especially for a diabetic. You get to eat every meal, so you are at your full strength. You also have the advantage of not having to do extremely hard workouts to get the weight off. This allows you to use your energy more efficiently for the tournament.

With one win under my belt at 85 kg at the University Nationals, I was going into the U23 tournament confident. I weighed in on Friday and promptly went to my favorite restaurant Texas Roadhouse with a teammate. Ordered my pre-tournament ribeye and baked potato (same order regardless). After a great meal I proceeded to the hotel to relax and wait for my father to arrive. By the time my dad got to the hotel room I was already sound asleep. We said a quick hello in the morning and got ready for the tournament.
The tournament started at 9 am, I had a first round by so I knew I had a lot of time before my first match. I warmed up with a teammate, Richard Carlson, who is also a 85 kg wrestler. Just so happens my teammate is a pretty tough dude, and the third seed in the bracket. Since I was seeded first, and the way the brackets are set up, there would be no chance in wrestling him unless we both lost or both made the finals. As it were, the later happened! But we will get to that.

My first match was against a young man by the name of Trey Hardy. Trey attends my Alma mater, Northern Michigan University, home of the Olympic Training Site (OTS). Trey and I have trained together on many occasions. Trey reached out to me when he was in high school to inquire more about the OTS. We struck up a friendship but I left before his freshman year. Trey is a tall athlete for the weight and I am kind of a short stack for the class. It probably looked comical to someone who is outside the wrestling world. Be that as it may, the match began. He was battling me very well, but he made a mistake by giving up a two-on-one and I capitalized. With a takedown for two points I immediately began my top offense. I lifted the big man for a throw, I put a lot of effort into it, and executed a four point throw. The mat official threw up two fingers for two points. I frantically looked around putting four fingers up in my defense. The two chair judges agreed with me and awarded me the four point move one point away from the biggest move you can be awarded. We got back to center and started a good pummel once again. Not too long later he gave me my favorite position once again, the two-on-one. This time I took him to his back which is worth four points. Eight points is the technical superiority in Greco. 12-0 for my first round, needless to say I was feeling good.

My next match was against a wrestler named Richard Robertson, a wrestler from Illinois. I do not know a lot about Robertson but I do know he is a tough wrestler, who will be a force in Greco if he chooses to continue training that style. The match started out much like the first, both battling for positioning, holding center. I managed to slip in an underhook which is one of my best positions if I can get to it. I sunk the underhook in deep and started walking him toward the out of bounds mark. In greco if you push an opponent out of bounds it is a score of one point. I made a few adjustments and attacked the body. I had him dead to rights, I was going to put him on his back out of bounds and take my four points. But that didn’t happen. Being a very solid wrestler he knew what I was trying to do and quickly bellied out. So the score is now 2-0 and we start wrestling again. We were both pummeling well and all a sudden a scramble happened and he ended up on the ground with me on top, two more points. Just like in the first match I went for my lift and this time there was no question about the four point throw. I’m ecstatic I just teched my way to the finals. But there is a challenge. Robertson is claiming my takedown was a slip and therefore the two point and four point moves would not count. The video review comes back in my favor and we shake hands, I’m on to the finals.

While I was wrestling in my semi-final match my teammate, Rich Carlson was also taking care of business against the guy seeded second. A hard fought match, Carlson won 3-0. The finals are set up in a World Team Trials as a best out of three format. Carlson’s and my first match was the second from the last match of the first round of finals. We both were behind a curtain before they made our introductions. Jumping around, keeping a sweat, trying to calm the nerves we waited for our names to be called. Finally it was time!

The opening of our match was high pace, high intensity. Both of us have similar styles when it comes to the brawling aspect of Greco Roman wrestling. About half way through the first period I cut an angle on him and as I got behind I went for a turn and got it. Again I went for my lift if I executed, match would be over. With great defense from my opponent he stopped me from getting the tech and the refs order us back to the center of the mat. We battle hard and the period ends. After a quick 30 second pep talk from coach Dan Chandler and teammate Joe Rau I’m back to center. The second period almost seems a mirror image of the first. Around the halfway mark again I see an opening and expose it for a two point takedown near out of bounds. I try to get a turn to finish the match but Carlson’s defense is superior to my offense. We get back to the center and I lead 6-0. After many attempts in the last half of the match I stayed in strong position and didn’t give up any points to end our first match.

The second match is less of a wrestling match, and more of a street fight between two guys who both seem to have heads as hard as bighorn rams. Literally was a head banging, hard pummeling, fist flying kind of match of two warriors. Three quarters of the way I score a takedown out of bounds. Later, before the period ends, I am awarded a passivity point. The score is 3-0 after the break and we are back at it. The second period looks more vicious than the second. Both of us trying so hard to make the team spot we are truly fighting for it. Finally I hear that second period whistle sound and I know I am the world team member! Every emotion is running through me. I haven’t been this happy, this excited, this outstanding in my entire life. After my interview I get to hug my coaches, my teammates and my father. The feeling is indescribable. It’s not even real yet. I cannot believe I finally did it! After the paperwork is filled out and coaches instructions are given to me I finally get a time to reflect. The experience is surreal. We head out of the now empty building smiling so hard you couldn’t remove it with a wire brush. My father takes myself my teammate Malcolm (who came down just to watch) and his girlfriend out to dinner. Guess where. You know where we went, Texas Roadhouse. I have never had a bad steak at the Roadhouse, but there was something different about this one. I felt I had truly earned it for maybe the first time in my life.

When we finally got back to the hotel the energy level had dropped but the feeling of achievement was still there. Both my father and I were exhausted from the emotional roller coaster we had been through in such a short time. He had to leave early in the morning so we talked as much as we could manage before both falling asleep. He was gone before I got up with the plaque made of black walnut, shaped as the United States, saying 85 kg World Team Trials winner with him. He already had a spot in our house picked out and sent me a picture as soon as it was hung.

I compete November, 21, in Poland. I will be traveling to Belarus first for a acclamation camp on November, 4. I would like to thank all my family, friends, teammates and Minnesota Storm for all the support and sponsorship. I’ll be sure to keep everyone posted on my travels and experiences abroad. Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed it, and thank you for the support!!!