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Police stations? Garages? Pandemic forces U.S. wrestlers to get creative

By Edwin Perez, Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication | July 30, 2021, 7:40 p.m. (ET)

U.S. wrestlers who qualified for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games pose on the mat at the U.S. trials.

Wrestlers, like athletes in other sports, were forced to find creative ways to train for the Tokyo Games during the pandemic, especially while quarantining. 

That’s when siblings stepped in.

Kyle Dake (Cornell, wrestling) and younger brother Corey Dake, who also wrestled at Cornell, knew they would have to find a unique way to help Kyle get ready.
“He had been off the mat for several years and we decided that we needed somewhere to train so what we did is we got some wrestling mats,” Kyle said. “We pulled my wife's car out and my truck out and rolled it out in the garage and made it our wrestling room. We spent a couple months training there.

“We had a couple guys who were in the bubble with me and, you know, we just made sure that we stayed focused and did everything we could to make sure we stayed healthy and kept training.”

It was a similar solution for Kyle Snyder (Ohio State, wrestling) and his younger brother Kevin Snyder. They trained together in the only place that allowed them during one portion of quarantine.

“My little brother wrestled at Ohio State, so we trained together actually at a police station,” Kyle said. “Everything was really shut down and then when we could find different rooms in the area to go, we went and trained and spent a lot of time visualizing and just preparing my mind to compete the way that I want to compete.” 

Adeline Gray was in a similar situation but it was her sister Geneva Gray, a wrestler in high school who is now a coach, who changed all her plans to help Adeline prepare for the Games. 

“My sister was supposed to move to Colorado Springs last February to help me train through the Olympics,” Adeline said. “Then, the pandemic hit and I looked at her and said, ‘Are you going to stay for a year and a half?’ She was able to put her life on hold and help me train.”

The Gray sisters did anything they could to help make sure Adeline was ready.

“We got creative in the living room, wrestling on the grass and getting zoom wrestling practices,” Gray said. “I was lucky that I had a safe person that I didn't have to worry about having COVID-19 because she was living the same life I was, socially distanced, and we were able to get some workouts in our home.

“It was definitely not ideal but (we) made it work. I made the Olympic team again so I guess it's good enough.”

The ability to be versatile and adapt is not a trait unknown to wrestlers.

“We talk often about how wrestling teaches amazing skill sets of adversity and being able to adjust on a dime,” Gray said. “Those are all things we do while we compete. It is not different from what we all had to do during this time.”


Edwin Perez, Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication

Edwin Perez is a journalism student at Arizona State University. This story is part of a collaboration between the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee and ASU's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.