NANJING, China -- U.S. wrestlers can check off another box: three-for-three.
In addition to Mason Manville’s silver medal on Monday night, Team USA’s Cade Olivas and Daton Fix added two more of the same color on the final night of competition at the Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games.
The journey to the podium was one they shared together, as was the success that followed.
“We’ve been practicing and preparing each other all week – talking about this moment for a while,” said Olivas. “We had to push each other to get where we are.”
Showcasing their talent in the 46 kg. and 54 kg. freestyle divisions, Olivas and Fix took similar paths to their podium spots, where each wrestler earned technical falls in their first three qualification matches and made quick work of their fields.
With Olivas up first in the gold-medal round, he viewed the match as he always does. “I look at it as if I’m going up against the world champion every time,” he explained.
True to his word, the 46 kg. freestyle national and Pan American champion wrestled Russian Ismail Gadzhiev as if he faced the world champion, but ultimately fell short, 3-1, in a match that saw multiple standoffs and defensive tactics from the Russian.
While disappointed with the result, Olivas’ positive experience at the Youth Olympic Games and success in Nanjing, China, has only enhanced his passion for wrestling. “I love everything about the sport. The competitiveness, and how it’s one-on-one,” he said. “When I step out on the mat, I know it’s all on me.”
Minutes later, Fix stepped onto the mat against stiff competition, and Olivas’ focus quickly shifted toward seeing his compatriot capture the elusive gold medal that U.S. wrestlers were seeking. The other side of the 54 kg. final featured Kazakhstan’s Mukhambek Kuatbek – a bronze medalist at the cadet world championships.
The Oklahoma native found himself in an early hole, down 6-0 in technical points, but mounted an impressive comeback and launched a 5-0 run that heard raucous cheers from the crowd, expecting him to pull out a win.
With his father and fellow Team USA athletes encouraging him from the stands of Longjiang Gymnasium, Fix attempted an impressive comeback to tie the match with one more point, but he was pushed out of the ring in the final seconds and lost, 3-1.
While it was not the medal he came to Nanjing for, Fix felt a great sense of national pride seeing Old Glory raised during the victory ceremony. “I came up a little short tonight, but it’s amazing to represent such a great country and see our flag up there.”
Olivas’ and Fix’s silver medals have only added fuel to the fire, motivating them to become champions. Having reached the top of their sport at a young age, both understand what it will take to feel gold around their neck: “A lot of hard work. It’s more than just practice, you have to put in more work than anyone else,” Fix noted. “Whenever I see the other guy round around the mat with his flag, not having my hand raised, it pushes me to train harder.”
Inspired by U.S. Olympic wrestling champions such as John Smith and Cael Sanderson, both men ultimately hope to represent Team USA on a bigger stage someday.
For now, they will walk away from the Youth Olympic Games with hardware and a little extra motivation in the meantime.
“It’s awesome that we brought three guys here and we all get to bring home medals,” Fix said. “Not many other sports can say that.”