Matt McDonough knows how special it is to represent the United States in a World-level event.
The 2010 U.S. Junior World Team and current U.S. Senior National Team member is determined to earn another chance to compete on that stage.
So, when he was presented an opportunity McDonough waited little time to accept it. McDonough will wrestle University Nationals champion Nahshon Garrett for the 125.5-pound spot on the U.S. University Freestyle World Team on June 23 at Arizona State University in Tempe, Ariz. They will compete in a best 2-of-3 series with the winner representing the U.S. Team at the University World Championships in Pecs, Hungary, from July 8-12.
This is the first year USA Wrestling has allowed the top finisher, eligible for the University team, at the senior World Team Trials to challenge the national tournament winner.
“It was one of those opportunities that are hard to quantify,” McDonough said. “It was a once in a lifetime opportunity. As an athlete, you only get so many chances. Your clock is only ticking for so long that you are physically able to compete, so why not take advantage.”
McDonough placed third in senior freestyle May 31 in Madison, Wis. Hawkeye Wrestling Club coaches informed him of the new format on Sunday and he made his decision the next evening.
“I needed to make a decision quickly,” McDonough said. “It was a short turnaround.”
McDonough added, “I was looking to make the World team and that didn’t happen. There is some unfinished business there.”
The experience provided a few lessons, as McDonough lost his opening bout by a point and rolled through the backside to finish third in a weight won by fellow HWC member Tony Ramos. He realized you have to be ready to capitalize from the first whistle.
“Every chance you have to score you need to score,” McDonough said. “It’s that much more important in freestyle as it is in folkstyle.”
McDonough has never faced Garrett in freestyle competition, but wrestled folkstyle in college. Garrett won the last meeting in the 126-pound quarterfinals of the 2013 NCAA Championships. Garrett was an NCAA runner-up for Cornell in March.
“He’s a tough competitor,” McDonough said. “He’s explosive He wants to win this just as bad as I do, but only one guy can come out on top.”
McDonough cut from 134 to 125.5 for the World Team Trials. With the new multiphase trials format, he could compete for the 134-pound spot on the U.S. Senior World Freestyle Team in July at Fargo, N.D. he will cross that bridge when he gets to it.
“One event at a time,” McDonough said. “You can’t put too much in your head or you won’t be fully prepared for the next thing and the next thing is this wrestle-off.”
The wrestle-off is a step in the right direction for McDonough. He is set on becoming the best in the world, but it starts with being the best in the United States.
“This is my dream,” McDonough said. “This is what I’m working for. You have to fully immerse yourself in it.”
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