By Craig Sesker | Sept. 16, 2019, 5:26 p.m. (ET)

Daton Fix looks on at the Pan American Games Lima 2019 on Aug. 9, 2019 in Lima, Peru.

 

When Daton Fix started wrestling in fifth grade, he already had some catching up to do.

He quickly figured out a way to gain ground against his more experienced opponents: Enter as many tough tournaments as he could and face the best competition possible.

That approach has landed Fix a spot in the toughest tournament of his life. He is scheduled to compete at the world championships on Sept. 19 in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan.

“I’m excited to represent the United States and have the opportunity to wrestle on a big stage like this,” he said. “I’ve made big strides since the NCAA tournament and I’ve worked hard on wrestling in every position. I have a game plan for what I want to do, and I just need to execute it.”

Fix made his first senior world team in men’s freestyle after finishing as an NCAA runner-up for Oklahoma State as a freshman. The top-seeded Fix suffered a heartbreaking and controversial overtime loss to No. 3 Nick Suriano of Rutgers in March’s NCAA championship match at 133 pounds.

“My dream was to become a four-timer and I got that taken from me,” Fix said. “I wasn’t happy about it, so I went right back to the wrestling room and I’ve tried to better develop my skills. I need to be able to get to my opponent’s legs, and that’s helped me in freestyle.”

Fix, 21, knocked off 2017 world silver medalist Thomas Gilman in a tough three-match series at Final X to make the world team at 57 kg.

Known for being stingy defensively and excellent in scrambles for position, Fix has trained extensively to expand his offensive arsenal.

“I’ve been working hard on developing my shots and focusing on letting it fly a little bit more,” he said. “Offense is what wins world titles. If I am going to beat the best guys in the world, I am going to have to get to their legs and put up points.”

Fix is wrestling in his first world championships on the senior level, but he’s no stranger to the international stage, having competed in a world championships at some age-group level every year since 2014, winning a junior world title along the way.

Fix also won a silver medal at the Summer Youth Olympic Games Nanjing 2014 in China.

“I love the sport and I love wrestling,” he said. “I enjoy competing. I’ve always wanted to challenge myself and wrestle the best guys.”

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Fix burst onto the scene when he beat one of the best, knocking off Spencer Lee twice in one day to make the 2015 cadet world team. Lee was a returning cadet world champion who went on to win a junior world title that year, and he’s started his collegiate career at Iowa by winning NCAA titles in his first two seasons.

“Spencer had the lead in both matches,” Fix said of their bouts in 2015. “I was down early, but I was still real confident I could come back both times we wrestled. He was a tough opponent and those were good wins for me.”

Lee and Fix are expected to battle for years to come in freestyle.

For now, though, Fix is ready to medal against the best wrestlers on the planet at 57 kg.

He’s also is looking to qualify the U.S. for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. The top six finishers in each weight class at the world championships qualify their country at spot at the Games. Which wrestlers fill those spots will be determined at the 2020 U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Wrestling in April.

Fix grew up just down the road from Oklahoma State, the winningest wrestling program in NCAA history. He now wrestles for legendary OSU coach John Smith, a two-time Olympic gold medalist and four-time world champion.

“Growing up in Oklahoma and dreaming of putting on that orange singlet, it’s a big deal,” Fix said. “At Oklahoma State, we’re a big family and we’re close — it’s a tight group of people. It’s something special to be a part of that school and the wrestling program.”

Fix has jumped right into the senior level despite still having three years of college eligibility remaining.

He placed second to Gilman at the Final X in 2018 before knocking off the former Iowa Hawkeye in the best-of-three finals this year.

Fix tuned up for the world championships by capturing a gold medal at the Pan American Games Lima 2019 last month in Peru.

Fix also has grabbed the attention of wrestling fans. His popular Twitter account — @_Greatest_Ever1 — has more than 13,000 followers.

“Greatest Ever was something I did as a goal,” he said. “My goal is to not only be the greatest wrestler, but I also want to be known as an even greater person. I want to be an all-around good guy and do the right things.”

The message Fix has pinned to the top of his Twitter profile speaks volumes: “I do good when people doubt me. When someone says I can’t do something, I want to do it more. I won’t back down from anyone.”

Fix is a quiet, humble soft-spoken young man, but he’s also confident and determined when he steps on the mat.

“I’m excited about the world championships,” he said. “I’ve been training hard and I’m ready to go. My focus is on winning a gold medal.”

Craig Sesker is a sports writer based out of Waverly, Iowa. He has covered three Olympic Games. He is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.