Barrett Stanghill Takes 5th in Kragujevac, Serbia

By:  Timothy Hands, June 29, 2017

Two of the Minnesota Storm’s most dangerous young athletes, Barrett Stanghill (85 kg) and Hayden Zillmer (98 kg), will be competing this coming weekend at the Ljubomir Ivanovic-Gedza tournament in Kragujevac, Serbia. Zillmer, as many know, has been very busy since turning in a runner-up performance to domestic rival G’Angelo Hancock (Sunkist, world no. 17) at the World Team Trials in late April. The thing about that is, it hasn’t been in Greco-Roman, or not just. Following a dominant showing at the freestyle Last Chance Qualifier in May, the North Dakota State alum competed in that style’s World Team Trials a few weeks later and wound up making the National Team, becoming the first wrestler to make both US National teams since Sam Hazewinkel accomplished the feat in 2014.

As for Stanghill, after graduating from Northern Michigan University in 2016 he joined up with the Minnesota Storm and the results speak for themselves. A fourth-place finish at November’s Non-Olympic World Team Trials gave way to a bronze at the US Nationals a month later. A couple of hiccups at the Dave Schultz Memorial and Hungarian Grand Prix gave him time to reset. At the World Team Trials in April, Stanghill wrestled well and found himself in the third-place/National Team match with a resurgent Courtney Myers (Army/WCAP), only to fall in short in controversial fashion. Stanghill had previously lost to Myers that day in the quarterfinals.

Even still, it has been quite the year for Stanghill, as he is now firmly entrenched as one of the premier 80 kilogram wrestlers in the nation. But entering this summer, he was initially unsure of what he was going to do competition-wise, and more importantly, where he was going to go. Some dominoes fell into place and now here he is, grinding it out in camp and prepping for the Ljubomir Ivanovic-Gedza tournament. There is a story to tell regarding how this has all transpired.

“I was back in Montana, it was Mother’s Day, in fact, and Coach (Chandler) sent out a text that practice is at 3:00pm,” Stanghill recalled. “I immediately took off on a 20-hour drive because I wanted to be there for practice. I wanted to be there for Pat (Smith). The ball started rolling from there and I decided to stay in Minnesota to train through the summer. Then Joe (Rau) got his knee surgery and he had a ticket (to go to Hungary), so I kind of just slipped into his spot. This was actually right after Universities —  Chandler texted me, “Would you like to go overseas?”, and I said “Absolutely.” The summer kind of unfolded that way, so now I’m here getting some great training here with this camp.”

Both athletes have been across the Atlantic for over a week preparing alongside the US Greco-Roman World Team, though by now, the members of that squad have returned stateside. In a way, it’s the two of them against the world, a somewhat precarious but necessary position to be in if you’re an American trying to up your international game. Naturally, Stanghill is motivated to get going against foreign opponents, so he is embracing the entire scope of the trip in more ways than one. “I am really looking forward to getting this first international medal,” said Stanghill. It’s fun to come out here because these guys are so tough, especially in par terre. I’m kind of getting beat up here (laughs). But I think par terre is one of the weaker parts of my game, so I’m trying to get it a lot stronger. My bottom needs work, too, but this top part needs work at the internationally level.”

Looking Forward

Since being diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes it has been a tough road. In Las Vegas, my first tournament since being diagnosed, my first match was good. In the next match, it was tough as my blood sugar elevated. In the third match my blood sugar went up to a very dangerous 400+ and I was unable to finish. Since then, I have continued working on finding aa way to control my blood sugar levels during tournaments. Yes, it has been a struggle with a lot of trail and error and many ups-and-downs in terms of wrestling success as a diabetic.   I have a strong determination to work with my insulin levels during tournaments and it has gotten better.  I consider it a milestone to have qualified for the Olympic Team Trials which occurred in the early months after I was diagnosed.  I will continue to make improvements in both my diabetes management and in my wrestling. I am proud to be one of the few top tier athletes to have achieved success as a Type 1 diabetic.  I hope to encourage others with Type 1 to realize they can manage their insulin and reach for their athletic goals.

Philipsburg Wrestler Stanghill Overcomes Diabetes to Chase Olympic Dream

Missoulian – by AJ Mazzolini

Tears rolled down Jayla Vick’s face and Barrett Stanghill could only watch. She felt guilty, blamed herself, for the hospital bed now hugging her son.

Was it in her family’s genes? Maybe from a great grandfather?

Stanghill, mere days shy of his 21st birthday, skipped past grief and let his mind drift out of the Kootenai Health Center in Coeur d’Alene. He was on the mat, his true habitat as a Greco-Roman wrestler with Olympic aspirations.

He thought about his future in wrestling.

He thought about it while doctors first discussed his torn elbow ligament. He thought about it as a routine check-in turned atypical and the attention shifted to his frequent urination, dizziness and blurred vision. He thought about it through a 5-hour emergency room stay and he thought about it more once doctors came back with a diagnosis.

His blood sugar was off the charts in the 900s. He had Type 1 diabetes.

Stanghill had made a habit of overcoming odds, though. He picked up wrestling in junior high, turning a late start in to two Montana state championships at Philipsburg’s Granite High. He left school a year early for the Northern Michigan Olympic Training Site, the only high schooler enrolled.

But on this day in June of 2014, insulin injections doing the one thing his sculpted and inculcated body could not, the prospect of a national title and donning the Stars and Stripes seemed farther away than ever.

“Can I do this? Can I wrestle with this disease?” he asked his doctors.


Wally Stanghill remembers the day his only son approached him about joining the wrestling team. Barrett was in seventh grade, hardly a shadow of the physical specimen he’d grow into, and lacked any experience.

Wally had wrestled a bit at Helena High and did his best to dissuade the boy without being to hard on him.

“I told him it was too late,” explained Wally, an industrial tech teacher at Granite High. “I was like, ‘You can’t wrestle with these kids who have been wrestling since they were kindergartners. It’s just too much to make up, technique-wise.’

“And of course he proved me wrong as he has on numerous other occasions.”

Though not right away.

Barrett was the low man in the wrestling room that year. He didn’t win a match. The next season, though, he claimed a middle school state title.

“What I learned most from those two seasons: If I train hard, I can win,” the younger Stanghill recalled.

The training continued, more and more hours in the gym each year. By his sophomore season of high school, Stanghill, competing with the Drummond-Philipsburg co-op, became the most dominant wrestler in Class B-C at 160 pounds.

A state championship followed. Then another.

The Class B-C ranks couldn’t contain Stanghill’s ambition. Instead of returning to school for his senior year, the 18-year-old opted to finish his degree online and move to Marquette, Michigan.

The town — small by most standards with about 20,000 residents, though enormous when compared to P-burg — sits on the north side of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Its Northern Michigan University houses perhaps the most renowned U.S. Olympic wrestling feeder program in the Greco-Roman style.

No precedent existed for the move, NMU Greco head coach Rob Hermann said. Stanghill was unique, the first to attempt such a feat.

The student-athlete, who earned his GED while also taking nine college credits that first year, made an impact right away. He finished second at the 2013 FILA Junior Nationals in Las Vegas at 74 kilograms (about 163 pounds).

His technique was decent, but unrefined, Hermann said. What stood out was the young man’s power.

“His biggest asset is his strength. He’s as strong as a bull,” Hermann quipped.

A year later, Stanghill dominated the Junior Nationals bracket. No wrestler scored a point on Stanghill in four matches and the NMU representative notched back-to-back technical falls in the semifinals and finals, 9-0 and 8-0, respectively.

But the physicality of Stanghill’s passion was about to catch up with him.


In his third match of the 2014 FILA Junior World Team Trials, Stanghill exited a stoppage in the second period from the down position, facing the mat. His opponent, using a gut wrench hold, tried to roll the downed wrestler to his right, pinning Stanghill’s arm awkwardly under their combined body weight.

The unnatural bend in his right elbow resulted in an avulsion fracture, breaking a piece of bone off in the elbow joint, and ruptured Stanghill’s ulnar collateral ligament.

Such an injury required “Tommy John” surgery, a procedure most frequently seen after baseball pitchers blow out their arms through overuse.

It was on a trip back to visit his mother in Coeur d’Alene that summer that doctors discovered there was more that ailed him.

The diabetes diagnoses explained a lot, Stanghill figured. The exhaustion, the weight loss, the issues with his vision.

His coach at World Team Trials, NMU assistant Aghasi Manukyan, had noticed something, too.

“After my first match, my coach was like, ‘Your legs are black,'” Stanghill recalled, deciphering the Armenian’s rudimentary English. “He could tell something was wrong. I definitely felt very strange.

“The wrestling mentality, ya know, is nothing’s wrong and keep pushing through.”

The next few months were spent rehabbing and trying to control Stanghill’s newfound illness. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease in which a person’s pancreas stops producing insulin. The body can no longer process sugars like glucose into energy. Insulin must be introduced.

After consulting with doctors at the Mayo Clinic and a long phone conversation with former Olympic swimmer and gold medalist Gary Hall Jr., himself a diabetic, Stanghill altered his diet and fine-tuned his approach to working out.

Still, Stanghill wondered. How would his body react during real competition? His first tournament back, the 2015 Senior Nationals in Las Vegas in May, provided an unfortunate answer.

The grappler won his first two matches before fatigue set in. His blood sugar spiked into the 300s and 400s, well above the typical 100-to-140 mg/dL range (milligrams of glucose per deciliter of blood).

“It was out of control,” explained Stanghill, who withdrew after a semifinal loss. “Your balance is off, everything. You don’t feel well at all.

“After Nationals, I was really considering stopping.”


Stanghill needed to test himself again. He entered the United World Wrestling University Nationals three weeks later.

With his father Wally at his side to help him regulate his blood sugar — “My dad would harp on me, ‘Ya gotta check it, ya gotta check'” — the wrestler felt better than he had in more than a year.

It showed. Stanghill captured the 75-kilogram national title in Akron, Ohio with a 2-1 victory over Iowa’s Burke Paddock, a former Junior National champ as well.

“I felt just like I did after winning the Montana state tournament,” Stanghill offered with a charming laugh. “Just on top of the world.”

Paddock’s aggressive approach on the mat clashed with the Montanan’s deliberate defense. Each time the Hawkeye wrestler shot in, Stanghill latched his elbows to his ribs, sliding the trespasser down off his body.

Paddock was called twice for passivity, Stanghill’s fortified walls rendering his approach useless, to forfeit two decisive points.

“People call me more of a defensive (wrestler), maybe even characterize me as boring,” Stanghill began, “but with the best wrestlers in the world, you watch them and they’re so very sound. They’re not looking for huge things. That’s what I tried, to adapt.”

Added Coach Hermann, “He knows what he wants. He knows what his strengths are and he stays away from the position he doesn’t want to be in.”

University Nationals provided another feel-good moment for Stanghill — a chance to compete against an old friend.

Charlo High graduate Jacen Petersen, now a rising-sophomore at Arizona State, met Stanghill in the semifinals of the tournament. The two Montana Class B-C wrestlers hadn’t met on the mat since February 2012 when the Philipsburg boy schooled his Mission-Charlo counterpart in the state finals.

While Stanghill’s specialty is Greco-Roman, Petersen likens himself a freestyle wrestler, the other discipline offered at the Olympics. But the latter grappler had his eyes set on making the semis in Greco.

“I knew I’d wrestle him one way or another because that was the goal,” Petersen said. “I didn’t really care who else was there. I always want to try and beat him.”

Petersen chuckled.

“It has not worked out yet.”

Stanghill got the best of his Big Sky buddy, 4-2, to run his career record to 4-0 in the rivalry. Petersen finished third at the national meet.


Just as he did back in Philipsburg, Stanghill is leaving Northern Michigan early.

With his health back in order, the wrestler has turned his focus squarely on the Olympics. After a two-month immersion training experience in Armenia over the winter, Stanghill has joined the program at Team USA’s Olympic Complex in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

The 2016 Olympic Games in Rio do Janeiro might be a long shot — Olympic Trials are held next April, just nine months from now, at Iowa City’s Carver-Hawkeye Arena — but Coach Hermann expects to see his unique protégé in an Olympic singlet soon enough.

“I’ve got, like, five or six guys that I can put my finger on that are gonna make the Olympic team, probably by 2020,” Hermann boasted. “He’s one of ’em.

“There’s not a doubt in my mind that he’ll make an Olympic team some day. Or win a medal.”

One Month In ~ Three to go…

Barrett Stanghill training in Gyumri, Armenia

Barrett in the Gyumri, Armenia with wrestlers

I am approximately one month into my four month stint in Armenia. I have grown by leaps and bonds in my wrestling. My first two weeks were filled with intense three a day trainings. Now, I am in the second largest city in Armenia, Gyumri, training twice a day. I am still loving every second, it is easy being surrounded by extraordinary coaches and wrestlers. I already feel that I am a part of their wrestling family, which helps when I am so far away from my loved ones. Every wrestler here knows what they are training for, being a world champion is not a dream, it is expected. On several different occasions we have been kicked out of the gym for training to long after practice. My health is wonderful, I am still in shock that I have been blessed with this amazing experience. I would like to thank everyone who has helped me make my dream a reality. This is the first of many posts, hope you enjoy.

First Two Weeks in Armenia

Getting to Armenia was no small feat – Due to weather, the flight into New York was delayed and I had only 20 minutes to make my connecting flight which was in a different terminal…  I got to the gate with moments to spare only to find the flight was delayed, again due to weather) by 2-hours.  I got a little sleep on the way to Moscow where I had a 4-hour layover before finally getting to Yerevan, Armenia.  I was met at the airport by one of the Coaches.  I settled in at the training center where I found the accommodations very comfortable.  This was to be home for the next two weeks.  We were training and staying at the Tsakhkadzor Sports Complex.

Barrett Stanghill training in Armenia

Barrett with Armenian Wrestlers 2014

There was no time to get over jet-lag… it was right into training.  We started with an early morning walk outside followed by three practices.  One of the practices generally involves running.  One of the more common routes was 4-miles of uphill grade.  Most practices have live wrestling – 5 seven minute live go’s, punctuated with situational go’s; body locks, under-hooks and such.  A lot of rope climbing…  Here in Armenia, pull-ups are like breathing – you must do them to survive!  I have always stayed after practice to do additional workouts, however, in Armenia, no wrestler leaves the room until the Janitor turns out the lights.  Sundays are off but usually a heated soccer game will ensue where I have been relegated to Goalie since my soccer skills are not up to their standards.




Road to Rio – 2016 Olympics

Road to Rio – 2016 Olympics.

My goal is to compete as a wrestler for the United States in the 2016 Olympics. I have been training at the Olympic Training Center in Marquette, MI while attending college at Northern Michigan University for the last two years. I have been invited to train in Armenia with top tiered wrestlers in my weight class of 75 kg. This is an opportunity to train with the best in the world which will put me in the best position to go for USA gold in Rio in 2016. I will be in Armenia for 4 months and will return in April to compete in Nationals/World Team Trials in May (Las Vegas). I won Junior Nationals in 2014 and am looking forward to competing strong in 2015 as well. While in Armenia, I will be involved in an intensive training environment with a focus on live wrestling.

After winning the National Championship and being awarded the Outstanding Wrestler Award in the FILA Junior Greco-Roman National Championship, I went on to complete at the World Team Trials in Madison, WI. I was injured in the third match of the best of three tournament which resulted in having “Tommy John” surgery to repair my ulnar collateral ligament and avulsion fracture. The week before the surgery I was feeling pretty rotten, which I attributed to the medication the Dr.’s had me on. Actually, it was a bit more serious – I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes (insulin dependent). It was never in my mind that I would not continue to wrestle. I simply considered the diabetes and surgery as challenges to overcome in the pursuit of my ultimate goal – being an Olympic wrestler for the USA.

I owe a special “thank you” to the medical staff at Kerlan-Jobe (Los Angeles), specifically, my surgeon Dr. Michael Banffy, and I am now back at 100%. Regarding my diabetes; I have developed a relationship with Dr. Louis Phillipson, an Endocrinologist, at the University of Chicago, and I am confident, with his expertise, I am able to control the diabetes and compete at the highest levels. I now skype with Dr. Phillipson on a regular basis and he has enlisted the help of an Endocrinologist in Armenia to work with for the next several months.

Thanks for following my journey


Training in Armenia

At the USOEC at Northern Michigan University where I currently train, I have an amazing coach, Aghasi Manukyan, who won gold for Armenia at the World Championships, and is an multi Olympian.  Coach Aghasi has facilitated for me to train in Armenia with top international wrestlers, including a gold medalist in my weight class.  I will be departing on December 10, 2014 and will be training in Yerevan, Armenia for the next several months.  I am looking forward to training with these top tiered athletes.

YerevanYerevan, is the capital and largest city of Armenia and one of the world’s oldest continuously inhabited cities. Situated along the Hrazdan River, Yerevan is the administrative, cultural, and industrial center of the country.  In addition to training, I look forward to learning of the culture and history of this ancient country.

Results for Austrian Junior Open

Barrett took 3rd in the Open

Stanghill Wins Fila Junior Nationals Greco @ 74 KG & Receives Outstanding Wrestler Distinction

Barrett Stanghill wins Fila Jr Nationals

Stanghill wins Fila Junior National at 74 KG and received the outstanding wrestler award

Photo by John Sachs.

The Outstanding Wrestler of the tournament went to Barrett Stanghill of NYAC, who won his 74 kg finals match by a technical fall of 8-0 over Anthony Valencia of Team Tribal Wrestling.  Stanghill competes at the USOEC program at Northern Michigan.

Barrett was able to hold off any wrestler from scoring on him in the four matches he had.

US Olympic Education Center – Northern Michigan

This special program was implemented in the Fall of 1999, with the intent of offering opportunities to 18-24 year old Greco-Roman wrestlers that have the potential to win World and Olympic medals for the United States.
This program is designed to train young Greco-Roman wrestlers in an intense training environment, with an expert Greco-Roman Coach. The program offers, at the same time, the opportunity to receive a great college education from the University of Northern Michigan. We at USA Wrestling believe that this new program will be one of the keys to our future World and Olympic success. We look to the participants of this program to become our future Olympic Champions in Greco-Roman wrestling.

This University Resident Program works hand-in-hand with our Senior Greco-Roman Resident Program held at the United States Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The Northern Michigan Program will grow each year and will become one of the most prestigious, most effective Greco-Roman training and education situations in USA Wrestling history.