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Joe Betterman

Colorado USA Wrestling State Chairman

Daniel cardenas   pomona  co  6    co state 15u champion element view

Daniel Cardenas: Good People Making Great

Daniel Cardenas - CO:  We Build Good People

By Bill X. Barron

 

 

“Life is a wrestling match.  Nothing is handed to you.  Train and you will win all your battles.  Wrestlers learn to work through hard times.  In the end, we build good people.”  This life philosophy is what Pomona’s Dan Cardenas has ingrained in his 8th grade son Daniel as both coach and parent.  Daniel welcomes this approach: “I always try to make it harder on myself by working out in the mornings, then later practicing with kids from all over who are better than me.”  To keep him on his toes, Dan and Daniel travel weekly to practices all over the state and actively participate in out-of-state meets.

 

That is why Daniel always double brackets when he wrestles in tournaments; unlike some who avoid tough competition so they can place higher, Daniel is unafraid to match up against the best out there.  States Coach Dan: “For us, RMN is the crown jewel of Colorado.  We look to win their tournaments in order to gauge what’s next.”  To this end, Daniel competes on the Pomona high school summer duals team, where he is encouraged and pushed by Coach Sal Gutierrez, as well as Coach Sam Federico who is “always teaching technique that will work at the next level.”

 

Growing up on in and out-of-state competition prepared Daniel to go against California’s Joey Cruz this January in Tulsa.  Although Cruz was going for a record 9th title, Daniel knew he had him beat before the first whistle blew.  “I could tell from his handshake – not too firm – that he was less than confident,” says Daniel.  “I stayed in good position, not allowing him to capitalize on any mistakes.”  When the opportunity presented itself, Daniel took full advantage of the new expanded NFHS boundary rules to score a final takedown to win 4-2.  Concludes Daniel: “Wrestling is a community.  I appreciate that wrestlers, coaches, and parents from all over were cheering me on.”

 

Daniel says he is inspired to see good high school wrestlers succeed at the collegiate level and internationally.  He studies what they do well and seeks to emulate their most effective techniques.  It is clear that Daniel is a student of the sport of wrestling.  By choosing to go up against the best, Daniel does not expect to go undefeated.  Instead he asserts: “You put in the hard work wherever you are at.  You only have regrets if you quit trying.  When you lose, which you will, learn through your losses.  Then come back fighting harder the next match.”  As Dad Dan reminds his son: “Never go in thinking you are going to lose.  But if you do, learn from it!”

 

When you become as good as Daniel at an early age, dual teams from all over the country ask him to compete for them.  Even Blair Academy has showed interest.  Dad is letting Daniel select where he wants to compete.  One tournament Daniel does not want to miss is the Colorado Middle School State Championships at the end of March, where Daniel seeks to join an elite group of 3-time champions.

 

Regardless of his many successes on the mat, Daniel remains humble.  An approachable kid with an engaging smile, Daniel thrives on the camaraderie of the wrestling community.  Both teammates and opponents bring out the best in him, just as he inspires their best when matched up against him.  In the final perspective, Daniel understands that challenge is the medium through he must continually better himself.  For those who consider dethroning him, be forewarned: every time you square up against Daniel, you are facing an improved competitor who will not settle for second-best to anyone.

 

Aaden Valdez: A Profile in Courage

Aaden Valdez – CO

Challenge Only Makes You Stronger

By Bill X. Barron

For Pueblo East sophomore Aaden Valdez, a 5th-place finisher in Colorado State as a freshman and a Pan Am Schoolboy Greco silver medalist, he’s always known that wrestling “is all about the battle.  We all win or lose eventually.”  His father Zachary, coach of Aaden since he was three, is his biggest supporter as well as his most persistent challenger.  Zach reminds us: “Wrestling does not teach discipline; it teaches self-discipline, the quality which allows each of us to do the sport we love.”

What neither Aaden nor Zach could predict is how the circumstances of life would reveal Aaden’s true character.  Guided by what both wrestling and his own inner discipline revealed within him, Aaden has come to accept how a quirk of fate could inform him how to work even harder and to not take life’s gifts for granted.  In July of 2017, just a week before he was to compete in Fargo to bring home a Greco medal for Team Colorado, a fireworks accident severed four fingers on his left hand and cost him sight in his left eye.  Yet the day the pins came out, Aaden was back in the wrestling room and the gym training six days a week.

Many times a competitor faces off against his or her own inner demons before he or she ever takes on an opponent across the circle.  Aaden has quickly learned that “it’s still me out there.  I cannot escape who I am.  Instead I need to push through, to wrestle how I know to wrestle.”  Some opponents make the mistake of perceiving his physical challenges as an advantage.  As the son of a coach, Aaden is already one step ahead; rather than allow his hand or eye to be a limitation, Aaden requests his teammates to attack his right hand and approach him on the left side.

Inclined through his Greco training to attack the upper body, Aaden says “I was forced to be more creative.”  He now uses his left hand to set up his underhook, to sink a tight waist, and to lead his spiral ride.  In a recent tournament, Aaden lost a close 6-5 match to two-time defending 5A champion, Theorius Robison of Pomona.  He says the key was wrestling to win: “I took the match to Theorius.  I tried to keep him off-balance.”  Aaden asserts that instead of wrestling to not lose, he will continue to risk being great.

Zach is proud of how Aaden “realized this situation was not going stop him.  Aaden’s outgoing nature has helped him readjust.  Everyone knows Aaden.  His outreach is helping others push through difficulty.  The whole wrestling community has come together to support us.”  Aaden’s work ethic is such an inspiration that Denver East’s coach Randy Gallegos drove two hours several times this summer to instruct Aaden in the use of techniques that did not require a hand grip, such as leg riding.  Likewise, Aaden’s strength-training coach has individualized special exercises which can be mastered by an adaptive athlete.

An ardent supporter of and participant in RMN Events, Aaden asserts that “RMN prepared me with really tough competition.  Competing on a raised stage, it puts pressure on you to perform at a young age.  Now it’s no longer scary, because I have been there, done that.”  Coach Valdez adds: “Having that level of competition in our back yard, provides kids the opportunity to compete against the best.  Ed Gutierrez and his family have been great supporters of the wrestling community.”  After his accident, Aaden selected RMN-NUWAY’s Freak Show as his first test of action, competing in the high school elite division.

Now ranked second at 132 pounds in the 4A high school division, what’s most notable is that Aaden still loves the sport.  As dad and coach, Zach learned “not to overpush Aaden; it was important that he wanted to wrestle for himself.  I also taught Aaden to be mentally tough.  After nine hours in surgery this summer, the first thing he wanted to do was wrestle.  Yet he was worried about how colleges would see him.  I told him to just go out and do what you know how to do.  If you win, it will never matter.” 

A wiser Aaden now states: “Instead of breaking me, this accident has built me up.  It will not hold me back; it will not change who I am as a wrestler.  Every day, I want to get better.  I realize that I have potential.  I have the mindset to be great.”  Just the same, Aaden admits that “it’s been a struggle at times.  I have learned to adapt through experience and mat time.  It gives me positive motivation to improve not just my wrestling, but in all aspects of my life.”

In Spanish, La Gente means “for the people.”  A forward-thinking Juan Madrid founded Pueblo’s La Gente, seeking to unify and elevate Hispanic youth through the vehicle of sports.  As Zach relates: “Juan realized that kids are the future.”  Now all-inclusive and representing many demographics, La Gente instructs youth in many athletic endeavors.  But its signature sports – and the club’s foundation – are wrestling and boxing.  Club and East teammate, fellow sophomore heavyweight Andy Garcia, is a defending state and national champion.  Four nights a week, following his high school practice, you will find Aaden Valdez leading technique for the La Gente youth wrestling club.

At the recent Colorado USA Wrestling awards banquet to recognize this year’s national placers, Aaden received the Resilience Award, where was awarded a full scholarship to participate in the 2018 Cadet National Championships.  As he has already learned at any early age, a missed opportunity simply provides time to be that much more prepared for the next challenge.  For Aaden, his place in the national circle is just one year delayed.


POUDRE'S JACOB GREENWOOD SETS AIM ON 4TH COLORADO STATE TITLE.

For the Greenwoods, Toughness Is Family

How GRIT Has Inspired a Community

By Bill X. Barron

{As published in the February 15,
2018 Wrestling USA Magazine.}

Like most families, the Greenwoods of Livermore, Colorado had a plan; theirs was to raise kids who embody character, who seek to live with integrity, and who inspire through their faith.  Yet no amount of planning can prepare a family for the loss of a child.  Though initially devastated, parents Bill and Bernadette have learned to move beyond the tragedy, embracing community while inspiring kids and adults alike through their spirit of toughness.

A word first used to describe young Nicholas’ approach to life – how he dealt with being the younger wrestling brother to Jacob and Job – the word GRIT became more than the name of the wrestling club formed to respect how he lived his , after Nick tragically lost his life at age six.  GRIT is an every-day reminder to never take success for granted, to earn what you seek out of life, to have the fortitude to sustain one’s initiative, and to energetically rise to meet each and every challenge.life

GRIT is more than a word.  For Bill, a former University of Northern Colorado wrestler whose four boys all took to the sport, “grit initially spoke to the way Nicholas worked to keep up with his older brothers.  After we lost him, God spoke to my heart:  the first name that came to mind for our club was grit.  GRIT not only described my son , but spells an acronym which stands for Grace – Righteousness – Intensity – Toughness.  GRIT was not only about our family; it represented what we had to give to our community.  It was our opportunity to do for others what Nicholas had done for us.”Nicholas

Following that life-changing moment in 2008, Bernadette led her family through a career decision of her own; she quit her job so she could become her children’s at-home teacher.  This was not just an action to re-center her family’s priorities; it also allowed each child space to grieve and be themselves.  She relates:  “The kids needed time to heal, whether to ride a horse or to cry.  Our home returned to being a place of safety.  We now share a unique relationship.  Even my mother, a former teacher, is now an English tutor to our two youngest, Billy and Hattie.”

The state’s 5A outstanding wrestler in 2015 when he captured his first title as a freshman at 126 pounds, Jacob became even more dominant in garnering successive titles at 132 in 2016 and 138 in 2017.  Now a 145-pounder, Jacob seeks to join a select group as Colorado’s 21st (and Ft. Collins’ first) four-time state champion.  He has committed to wrestle collegiately for Division I Wyoming.  At 132 pounds, Job looks for his first title after placing 4th in 2016 (120 lbs.) and 2nd in 2017 (126 lbs.).  Much younger brother Billy competes with a passion similar to Nicholas, but according to Job, “Billy expects himself to be good without all the pressure.  He’s super laidback.”

Longtime family friend Barrett Golyer is now head coach for Jacob and Job at Poudre High School in northern Colorado.  Poudre enters the 2017-18 season ranked third in 5A, the state’s large-school division, led by senior Jacob and junior Job not only in performance but also in wrestling attitude and overall team direction.  Barrett recalls how “Nicholas was a scrapper.  His loss could have torn apart their family; instead it brought them closer together, helping them find ways to give back to the community.  Ultimately, it affected the way we coach at Poudre, with an emphasis on relationships.”

Coach Golyer acclaims:  “The Greenwood brothers elevate our intensity; they know how to drill, how to coach practice partners to make each other better.  Their club and family has authored a cultural transition for our team.  Now when they get to high school, kids already have the skill set to perform and place at a higher level.  More importantly, they understand how to do wrestling and how to live their lives in the right way.” 

Jacob himself believes that “we bring a different level into the wrestling room.  Coach Golyer knows that we have been around higher level wrestling.  (Every summer GRIT sponsors a camp with Olympic-level athletes.)  Coach draws out new techniques from us; if he sees something he likes, he asks us to teach them to our teammates.  I try to work as hard as I can to be the best person in the room.  By the end of the year, it is my hope that we will all be working hard toward the same goal.”

Job describes how wrestling and family have shaped him as a person and an athlete.  “Wrestling is totally a good judge of a person’s character.  You should never be comfortable with where you are; you can never be as perfect as you want to be.  At first, after losing my brother, I wrestled in anger.  Then I learned that in wrestling you can fight back within the rules.  Now, like Nicholas, I focus on the joy of it all.”  When Job finds a penny before a tournament, he knows that Nicholas is speaking to him from above.  For older brother Jacob, “wrestling has simply made me tougher.  The longer I wrestle, the more I learn about humility.  The higher up you get, the opponents are super tough, but the best are still super humble.  When you’re really good, there’s no need to show off.”

Part of Nicholas’ continuing impact is reflected in how Bill now coaches.  “We try to get out of state to see different opponents,” Bill states.  “We also take a month off after the season,” allowing not only for physical recovery but also for a mental break.  The loss of a child has created a more reflective approach; it “led us to do things outside the box.  We had to change things up.  We didn’t want to do what everyone else was doing.”  Ultimately, Nicholas’ absence has heightened the Greenwoods’ commitment to family, deepened the family’s faith in God, and strengthened ties to their community.

As team mother, Bernadette offers this perspective:  “Wrestling is something all of us love.  But you don’t love it every day, especially cutting weight.  Therefore, we dedicate our lives to GRIT.  When I walk into the GRIT room, I think about why we do it all.  I think about how Nicholas would do it.  Nicholas loved sports and he loved people.  He continues to be our inspiration, our motivation.”

4X FARGO CHAMPION, 3X WORLD TEAM MEMBER, 2X CO HS STATE CHAMP


(MH1) Malik Heinselman CO scores on double leg while competing at 50kg in the 2017 Jr. World Freestyle Championships.

Wrestling Has Become My Way of Life

By Malik Heinselman – Senior at Castleview High School (CO)

I became interested in wrestling at a young age; I was 8 years old when I attended my first wrestling practice.  My dad had always talked about wrestling, so I wanted to try it out. 

One of the most valuable lessons I learned is when I lost my first match.  My dad just told me to keep my head up and always have good sportsmanship.  My parents have always been there for me from the day I started; I know this support will continue until the day I decide to retire.  I trust them to do everything necessary to support me.

I have had many coaches in my corner throughout the years, but the most important and supportive coach would have to be Ike Anderson.  He pushes me to my limits every practice to help me become the best version of myself.  Currently, head coach of Castleview High School (Castle Rock, CO), Coach Anderson was a 1988 Olympian in Greco-Roman Wrestling and later served as the Olympic Greco Developmental Coach for USA Wrestling.

In addition to my coaches, my peers have helped me tremendously.  They always push me with a competitive edge that helps me continue to wrestle hard. In addition, my sisters are always there for me. They offer continuing support in my toughest times and help keep me motivated.

Wrestling has made a great impact on my academics.  I have always wanted to go to a big wrestling college; to get there I needed good grades and good wrestling skills. That goal drove me to work on my academic accomplishments, which helped me make an early decision to attend Ohio State.

For me, Rocky Mountain National tournaments are always enjoyable.  I remember going to several of their tournaments all over the West; even when I did not win, I had a great time.  They were always tough tournaments which made me use my best skills.

I have many future aspirations in this sport, but my largest goal comes after college.  Of course, I want to win the NCAA’s, but I crave an Olympic / World title in Freestyle.  That is my highest goal, one that I always think about achieving every day.

For those new to the sport, I think the most important thing to learn is to have fun. Wrestling can be a very obsessive sport.  Everyone wants to win.  It can break people or it can make them into stars, but if you aren't having fun with it, why would it matter in the long run?  Find a sport or hobby that will fulfill your own aspirations.

Wrestling has changed many aspects of my life.  When I was in 8th grade, I went to a wrestling school, then for the next year I was held back because of my small size.  In high school, I got to train with some of the best in the world at the Olympic Training Center.  The sport of wrestling has taken me all across the world, competing in different countries while representing Team USA.

After I'm done wrestling, I think I want to become a coach.  Teaching kids at any age level will be a way to give back to the wrestling community.  Wrestling has molded me from a kid into a young adult.  It has given me life lessons I don't think any other sport could give.  Wrestling has given me values which help me express who I am.

EDITOR’S NOTE:  Malik Heinselman has earned two Colorado high school state championships at 106 pounds, going undefeated in 2016-17.  He has also garnered four Fargo national titles:  Cadet Freestyle 2X, Cadet Greco, Junior Freestyle.  During Fargo in 2017, he was in Sweden for the World Junior Championships, placing 7th at 50kg.  A 3-time Cadet (2X) & Jr. World Team member in freestyle, Malik has committed to attend Ohio State University in Fall of 2018.  Malik is also a USA Kids National champion in both international styles.

 

At His Best Against the Best: Windsor's Dominick Serrano


DOMINICK SERRANO, WINDSOR-CO scores 2 points in Fargo Freestyle 2017 Cadet final against Ryan Sokol (MN). Sokol prevailed for the title.

Seeking the Best Opponent to Become the Best

Dominick Serrano – Windsor High (CO)

By Bill X. Barron

“My favorite part is just learning about wrestling.  I work on not losing my cool or freaking out.  The harder and closer the match, the more I love it.  I want to give the crowd a good match.”  This perspective, that of Dominick Serrano – Windsor High’s (CO) freshman state champion – illustrates that he will just continue getting better, a scary thought for his opponents.  Rather than dodge those who might beat him, Dominick directly seeks out the best of the best, because he knows they will only make him better. 

When he began wrestling at age five, it was all about the fun: “I loved going to practice and tournaments and spending time with my parents.”  While he has not lost the enjoyment of good competition, he knows that he now has to work harder to stay ahead of his opponents.  He says: “I take wrestling seriously, but still have fun so I don’t get tired of it.  The right mentality for me is to keep getting better, not allowing myself to get too cocky.” 

Although Dominick first began to get noticed when he came out of nowhere in 8th grade to win Tulsa Nationals, he learned to invite challenge through participating in RMN Events.  “I like the way that RMN keeps the tournaments running real smooth, even though they are not small.  I knew there could always be some kid who could pin me.”  RMN Events helped Dom stay humble: “I never placed when I was younger.  It gave me the idea of real competition, and it taught me to make the most of winning, to not take it for granted.”

This past season, his freshman year at Windsor, Dominick went in with the belief that he could beat anyone.  Just as importantly, Dominick was focused on “not losing to someone that I knew I could beat.  Having regrets, that’s what hurts.”  Showing maturity, he knew that he was not going to change what he does best, but at the same time that “I could have my own style for each wrestler I faced.”

“What helped me out at State is that my coaches got me in great shape, ready to go all six minutes.  Coach (Monte) Trusty told me that the only one who could beat me was myself.  Coach (Ben) VomBauer (Bear Cave Club) helped me stay calm, so I didn’t let nerves get to me against older kids.  I knew I was the same weight and that was all that mattered.”  Traveling all over the country, “beating kids who might have been better than me, also prepared me for State,” says Dom. 

Coach Trusty adds this about Dominick: “We are blessed to have Dom and his family as part of the program; all are incredible people.  We're also very excited to see Dom continue his upward growth as a wrestler and person.  I also hope he chooses to pursue the highest level goals our sport has to offer and have wrestling become his professional career, as there is no doubt that he was born to be on a mat!”  Dom also thanks his parents: “I couldn’t be more thankful – they are a big part of my heart – and they will always be there for me.  They are the best people I know.” 

Using the combination of inner strength and not avoiding those who could beat him ultimately led to his first state title.  It also prepared Dominick for his success this summer at the Cadet National Championships in Fargo, where he showed his versatility in finishing 2nd in freestyle and 3rd in Greco.  He learned that by “wanting to be perfect, I didn’t do my best.  But I learned from my losses.  In God’s plan, if I lost, it was meant to teach me.”

In looking to the future, Dominick shares: “I am looking forward to taking one tournament at a time.  I want to be noticed, to be seen, and to do that I must keep training, keep giving it my all, to not have any regrets.  I want to wrestle and beat the best kids, kids who on paper might beat me.  I realize that I am going to have a target on my back this year.  Therefore, I have to get in great shape, to be prepared, to keep aiming for a similar outcome, and simply to keep improving.”

Idan Peek Interview


Idan Peek

Dedication and Persistence in the Final Season By Anna-Lee Boerner, 2015

COLORADO SPRINGS, CO. – Extra dedication is what separates the top athletes from the rest. For Idan Peek, this level of commitment has become an essential factor in achieving his career goals.

Peek is a Pine Creek wrestler going into his senior year. He is a returning state qualifier and is looking to claim his place on the podium this post season. The veteran wrestler identifies that his style has changed dramatically, which has caused his goals for this season to be set higher than usual. Aside from the common goal of becoming a state champion, Peek holds specific goals for the season. “I want to get thirty pins this season,” Peek revealed to CUSAW. This may be a high, but pursuable goal for a wrestler of Peek’s caliber. Aside from statistical goals, Peek desires to leave a “pretty big impact,” in his final year of high school level wrestling.

With all of the hype surrounding the high school Folkstyle season, Peek doesn’t feel any less pressure walking into the room on the first day of the Freestyle and Greco-Roman season. He accredits the consistence in expectations to his coach, a well-known athlete himself. “I am under T.C. Dantzler when I wrestle Freestyle and Greco. He has a way of motivating you to do your best”, Peek explains. T.C. Dantzler, known best for being a member of the 2008 United States Olympic Team, has played a key role in Peek’s success throughout his Freestyle and Greco career.

“He (Dantzler) pushes you to perform your best,” whether it is in the Front Range Club’s home wrestling room or at the Olympic Training Center where Peek says is, “just two hours of getting your butt kicked”. It is very clear that Peek values his time in the room with both his high school and spring season coaches.

Peek accredits his progress to his coaches, but also credits his family’s support for his success.  His family, although not having a background in wrestling, has fully embraced his involvement in the sport. “I wouldn’t have made it to Fargo or the junior duals without their help,” he admits, “They have helped get me where I am today”. Family is a large part of any athlete’s life, and in this case, has been a huge foundation for Peek’s training.

Wrestling is a lifestyle, but stepping out of the room and taking part in age appropriate activities is crucial to not mentally burning out within the sport. Peek has his own ways of staying level, “I like to go to live shows, and I like to hang out with friends”, a simple but essential way of maintaining mental health within the room.  Keeping a level mind can be a crucial part in a wrestler’s or any athlete’s athletic career.

A positive attitude for any athlete can be difficult to maintain. Peek himself has had trouble maintaining a positive mindset in the past, but mentions that, “Off the mat, it is important to remember to be a nice person, and to do the right thing. On the mat, it doesn’t matter if you are wrestling your best friend or someone you hate. No matter who it is, aim to dominate. If you are one point away from the tech and there is five seconds left, the best thing you can do is go for the tech.” Persistence and good character are key components in succeeding on and off the mat. It has been acknowledged by officials and wrestling fans that Peek is a humble and dedicated competitor.

Peek’s senior year has him thinking about college and considering his future options. “I still don’t know what the next step of my career will be, whether it is wrestling in college or trying to go big in Greco,” persistence will take Peek far both in his wrestling career and his life’s path.

Peek himself would like to acknowledge his fellow Pine Creek and Front Range wrestlers and coaches, and is proud to say that, “Pine Creek is coming to fight this year, and the team is motivated and ready”.

C.U.S.A.W. would like to wish Idan Peek the best in his final season competing at the high school level and would like to thank him for his contributions.  


Zane Leaf Interview

Learning to be Coached as an Official By Anna-Lee Boerner, 2015

COLORADO SPRINGS, CO- Striving for the Olympic stage is a prime motivator in each wrestler’s training. For Zane Leaf, achieving this dream took a new path when he became a CUSAW Mat Official.

The journey from local competition to performing at the Olympics is a merely identical path for athletes and officials. Crucial to both is simply the individual’s willingness to put in mat time. An extra hour of film or practice is the way Leaf intends on achieving his career goal. He officiates under the expectation that the amount of practice and training an individual is willing to dedicate themselves to determine their possibility of success.

‘I want to be an Olympic referee,” Zane Leaf bluntly has established as his CUSAW career goal. It seems to be too drastic of an anticipation, but to Leaf, his desire forces him to reach the level of it being a reality.

Moving up in rankings for U.S.A. Wrestling officials requires persistence and as Leaf says, can be compared to, “climbing a ladder”. In his first year of officiating the Olympic styles, Leaf faced many obstacles that taught him the critical value of accepting advice and guidance from the surrounding veteran officials.

Tension between Leaf and veteran mat officials was a career halting obstacle that forced Leaf to reevaluate himself in his rookie season. “I didn’t want to listen to their feedback,” Leaf admits, but has since opened himself to accepting the assistance. Accepting constructive criticism was a struggle that Leaf repeatedly faced.

After attending and officiating the U.S.A. Wrestling Nationals in Fargo, ND, Leaf fully comprehended the value of experience and guidance. Leaf compares this direction to being from a coach or teacher. “It’s like being in the (wrestling) room and getting critiqued,” Leaf continues his competition mind set, “You have to take it and run with it, or you won’t get any better”. Much aligned with a coach, a veteran mat official is a crucial reference for preparing for unexpected events that take place on the wrestling mat.

Aside from the temporary struggle of establishing his place as a referee, Leaf acknowledges the family resembling atmosphere at wrestling events. After officiating at the Southern Plains Regional and the Fargo National, Leaf developed close relationships with various officials. He identifies them as his, “wrestling family from around the nation, that will always be the fuel that advances (Leaf) toward (his) goal”.

Leaf’s first year officiating the Olympic styles resulted in his being commended from respected officials, coaches and wrestlers. He is well known for his passion on the mat and expressing true characteristics of an Olympic level referee.

CUSAW would like to express its gratitude toward Zane Leaf as well as the other mat officials for their contribution to the sport of wrestling.

True Path to Greatness


TRACY G'ANGELO HANCOCK (CO), UWW 2017 World Junior Championships - Richard Immel, USA Wrestling (Photographer)

Tracy G’Angelo Hancock

Through the World of Wrestling, All People Are As One

By Bill X. Barron

“Of all the trails in this life, there is the trail of a true human.  I believe you are on this trail.” (Chief Kicking Bird to Lieutenant John Dunbar in “Dances with Wolves”)

In knowing Tracy G’Angelo Hancock, for whom wrestling has been his family, one believes that his path to greatness is true.  Leaving home at age sixteen, the school of life has helped him mature quickly.  Now as he travels the world, he has found that “the people you meet are so genuine, so unique.  Without even knowing you, they invite into their homes to meet their family.   To them, a Greco wrestler is a fighter – and they respect fighters.”  G’Angelo also cites that he has never felt prejudice because “wrestling neutralizes differences.  Overseas, you’re a sportsman first.”

G’Angelo began wrestling relatively late at age eleven; in his first season of middle school, he fractured his growth plate.  But the coach kept him as part of the team, his first experience of wrestling as family.  Just two years later, G’Angelo was holding up a first-place trophy representative of finishing on top of the RMN-sponsored Colorado Middle School State Championship.  Already big for his age, G’Angelo put on more muscle while acquiring the skill which earned him 4th and 3rd place at his 195-pound junior high weight in the 2012 and 2013 state high school championships.

“While growing up, Rocky Mountain National Events was the place to be, the big thing to win,“ says G’Angelo.  “Not only was RMN where I could get a huge trophy, but it also prepared me for the big stage.  I thank RMN for the opportunity to grow as a person.  RMN taught me to have a champion mindset, for which I am forever grateful.  Ultimately, I believe that the sport of wrestling helps you grow as an individual, boy or girl.  RMN provided me with that chance.”

On the national stage, G’Angelo has earned three U.S. junior titles along with two at the senior level. Now 20, G’Angelo has traveled the world on three junior national teams, earning a 96 kg world bronze medal in 2016; in 2017, he had the unique privilege of competing for his country on the junior and senior national squads as well as winning 3 of 4 championships as heavyweight for the United States U-23 team.  His motto for success on this tour was “step and regret.”  It helped him offset the weight difference with finesse.

G’Angelo cites aspirations to “be best in the world.  The more I wrestle, the more I fall in love with the sport.  I willingly commit my all to it, to train to be the best on the planet.  Wrestling has been my life and always will be.”  At the Olympic Training Center, Coach Ahad – now the Cornell RTC coach – “showed me insane training styles which, while brutal, made me stronger and built a foreign-style fire within me.”  At the same time, Ahad’s teaching kept him humble “by reminding me that no one has mastered the sport, that everyone can be beat.”

Throughout his journey, he has had father figures like Olympian TC Dantzler, who influenced his decision to focus on Greco.  A multi-dimensional person, G’Angelo plays the piano, loves to challenge friends to a game of chess, and after graduating early from high school he has followed TC’s lead to continue his education while earning a $75,000 scholarship to finish his bachelor’s degree in business management.

“Going to the world championship is a unique experience,” reflects G’Angelo.  “You train for so long to go against people who give it their all, win or lose.  This sport demands so much focus.  To become best of the best, perhaps a small adjustment will make the difference.  Matt Lindland (U.S. Olympic Greco head coach) taught me that wrestling is like watch-making:  learn to critique the little things.”

For one who has grown up in the family of wrestling, G’Angelo has lessons of his own he will one day impart to those just starting out.  He would like them to remember that wrestling, like life, is “a fight, a battle.”  Yet it is also one to enjoy, “to experience in a positive way.”  If life and wrestling are his teachers, G’Angelo Hancock is one of its foremost students, one who will continue to make a difference, on and off the mat.