10 Questions for U S Nationals champion Kevin Bracken

By John Fuller | June 05, 2003, 12 a.m. (ET)
KEVIN BRACKEN 2002-03 Team USA Ranking: No. 1 at 66 kg/145.5 lbs. Years on Team USA: 8 (1996-2004) Residence: Colorado Springs, Colo. Club: New York AC College: Illinois State Univ. High School: Chicago, Ill. (St. Laurence) Born: October 29, 1971 in Chicago, Ill. Height: 5-6 1. You have won four straight national titles and been in the finals for seven consecutive years. What are your expectations of yourself whenever you enter U.S. tournaments at this point in your career? Bracken: I expect to win. I expect to perform my best at all times. 2. Would you say those expectations are the same as what you have when you go into an international tournament? Bracken: That's part of competition, is teaching yourself to compete the same for every match. I still strive to do that, as I am sure the majority of athletes do. 3. In the finals, you wrestled Mike Ellsworth, a veteran who has been improving over the past year. Since you guys obviously train together at times, were you glad to see someone you were so familiar with in the finals? Bracken: Personally, I was happy that Mike wrestled well in the tournament. In terms of my goals in competition, I am going to fight him as hard as I can to secure the victory. 4. You gained a huge lead in the first period of that match, but did not really extend that lead by the end of the match. Did you coast through the second period or did Ellsworth just wrestle a better second period? Bracken: I was really limited since I got hurt in my second match. I hurt my shoulder. I was really struggling through that and it limited my movement. I did enough to win, but it wasn't my best. 5. Last year, you did not place at the World Championships after finishing seventh the year before. Were you disappointed with your finish? Bracken: Two years ago, I was shocked that I didn't medal. All of the pieces to the puzzle were fitting together. Last year, I had that little two or three percent that separates the guys that win the World Championships from the guys that don't. That little sliver was missing and I recognized it when the tournament was over. 6. What do you feel you need to do differently to get over the hump and win a medal at the World Championships? Bracken: I think I made a lot of the changes during this past year. I am learning to compete the same every time I step on the mat. I am really laying my best out there. 7. Over the past year, you have won the U.S. Nationals, Pan Am Championships, Granma Cup, Dave Schultz, Concord Cup, New York AC and Pytlasinski tournaments. Do you feel like you are beginning to reach that next level? Bracken: There are growth stages for competition. You look at somebody like Cael who has lost only a few times in his career and he is still growing. I feel like I am at the tail end of that stage. 8. Who helps you on a daily basis in the wrestling room? Bracken: Jim Gruenwald has made a difference in my career. Someone like Darryl Christian who works hard and I can do my technique on him as many times as I need to and I'll do the same for him. Gruenwald and I have really raised the level of the everyday practice. We're two World-class athletes pushing each other. 9. In your weight class, who would you say is an up-and-coming star that may control the U.S. circuit when you are done? Bracken: There's a lot of young guys out there right now. You got a guy like Harry Lester who is in the infant stages but a really good athlete. Cory Posey is out here training hard. Mark Rial is like a sponge. Between those three guys, probably being the youngest three in the weight class with moderate success, there will probably be some great battles to come. 10. There has been talk about the possible addition of a weight class following the 2004 Olympic Games. If it happens, what do you feel the new weight class should be? Bracken: They can make it anything they want, because I'll be done. In terms of that, if they would have hiked my weight class up one kilo or down one kilo from where it was, I very well probably would not have competed this year. The way the adjustment went, it went pretty well for my body type.