WRESTLING: Greco-Roman wrestler Rial takes nothing for granted
When Mark Rial completed his collegiate wrestling career at the University of Northern Iowa, he knew he wasn't ready to be done with the sport. But he still had a decision to make. What style did he want to wrestle'"I just felt like my style was geared towards Greco and when I did it I had a little more fun wrestling, being able to throw guys and lift guys,"said Rial."I think it's a little more challenging wrestling Greco rather than freestyle, and I want that challenge."After choosing Greco-Roman, Rial also decided that moving to train would improve his chances of success."I knew I wanted to wrestle Greco, and Colorado Springs was the place to be,"he said."I knew I couldn't really train anywhere else. I already went to college and this is the place to be if you want to get better."So Rial made the choice to move to the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. Now, five and a half years later, Rial is still training in Colorado Springs. While his location hasn't changed, his wrestling has."I am really proud of Mark Rial,"U.S. National Greco-Roman coach Steve Fraser said."He has improved a ton. He's a very dedicated athlete. He's a very hard-working athlete. In a tough weight class, I feel like he has really stepped up and improved."Rial is No. 2 in the most recent TheMat.com rankings in a competitive 66 kg/145.5 lbs. weight class behind Harry Lester, a two-time World bronze medalist. Lester has been dominant in the weight class for the past few years, but that fact only motivates Rial."It's competitive, but it's kind of not because Harry's been the guy the past few years,"said Rial."Until someone beats him, it's not really that competitive. I can't speak for any of the other guys at that weight but that's why I work as hard as I do. To be the guy."Lester isn't the only competition Rial has in his weight class. The weight class is filled with talented, experienced wrestlers who could not only challenge for the top spot in the class, but also an Olympic berth."I think it's really good for our team,"said Fraser."You know the saying iron sharpens iron. These guys are sharpening each other and making each other better."The competition has not only raised the level of wrestling on Team USA, but has also helped Rial improve. The U.S. Olympic berth will be on the line at the U.S. Olympic Trials for wrestling, June 13-15 in Las Vegas, Nev. But before anyone earns a ticket to Beijing in August, the U.S. National Championships will provide an opportunity to see each other in competition. Though the U.S. Nationals don't determine the Olympic Team, they are important all the same. This is where the actual champion can earn the No. 1 seed for the U.S. Olympic Team Trials."I think it's important to wrestle it to keep that competitive edge,"said Rial."If I didn't wrestle it, from Nationals all the way to Trials I wouldn't be in competition for a few months. It's good to wrestle it just to know where you're at and obviously for seeds for the Olympic Trials too."The U.S. Nationals will provide Rial with the perfect opportunity to show just how far he has come."He needs to go out there with confidence,"said Fraser."He has to believe in himself and his skill. Really, he needs to step up and be the guy to go after this thing."Rial has shown in competition that he is ready to take that step. Recently he posted impressive performances at the Dave Schultz International Memorial and the Vehbi Embre Grand Prix. At the Dave Schultz, he placed second, finishing behind 2006 World Champion Nikolay Gergov of Bulgaria, also a 2007 World bronze medalist. At the Vehbi Embre, Rial earned a fifth-place finish after a close loss to Seref Eroglu of Turkey, an Olympic silver medalist and World champion. Rial has made changes in his practice and preparation to help him achieve these strong showings."The only thing I've been changing is pretty much the mental preparation before my workouts,"Rial said."I come prepared to battle everyday, to drill, and to have a good attitude coming in. Going into competition I've changed because before maybe I was worried about losing too much instead of not caring just going out and wrestling. That's what I've been doing and it's worked out for me."Coming from a family that has always been involved in wrestling has given Rial a strong base from which to pursue his dream. Rial's father, Mike, was named the 1998 USA Wrestling Developmental Coach of the Year. Rial grew up in Fort Dodge, Iowa."I think it's helped me because it got me and my two brothers involved at an early age,"said Rial."All of us seeing how my dad loved the sport, it's going to rub off on us, and I think it did. My two brothers and I love the sport. They follow it and I still compete. It was big to have a father that was into the sport."In 2004, Rial competed at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials, finishing seventh."I didn't think I had a shot,"said Rial."I didn't know how good I was four years ago. If I would have prepared like I wanted to make the team instead of just preparing to do well, I think I probably would have made the team four years ago."Rial's experience at the 2004 U.S. Olympic Team Trials combined with the changes he has made will hopefully make it possible for him to achieve his goals."But that's (2004) in the past,"Rial said."Now, I prepare myself to not take for granted these years and the experience I have. I just don't want to take for granted anything and I don't have a lot of years left, so I need to make it count."A shot at the Olympics isn't the only thing Rial is preparing for right now. His wife, Lindsey, is pregnant with their first child."My wife is six months pregnant right now, so I've just been busy preparing for that,"said Rial, who just turned 30."It's been fun."For all the preparation that Rial has done, it might be time to take a risk."He's wrestled really strong and showed that he has great potential,"said Fraser."He's really got to believe that and go after this thing. He can't be conservative."