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Wisconsin senior Connor Medbery brings new skills from Olympic redshirt back to college

By Taylor Miller, USA Wrestling | Nov. 23, 2016, 1:04 p.m. (ET)

 Medbery took fourth at the 2015 NCAA Championships.
Photo: Tony Rotundo, WrestlersAreWarriors.com
After taking a year off from NCAA competition, Wisconsin heavyweight Connor Medbery is back for his senior season and chasing after his first NCAA championship.

During the 2015-16 season, the UW All-American stepped away from the college scene to take an Olympic redshirt and focus on freestyle.

“It was a good opportunity to pick up some new skills and train a little bit longer to try to make the Olympic team,” Medbery said. “I ended up qualifying for the Trials and took the year to travel overseas a few times to train in a bunch of different places and pick the brains of some of the older guys who have been doing this for a while. It was a really great experience overall.”

Medbery, who was a two-time Fargo freestyle champion, fell to eventual 2016 Olympian Tervel Dlagnev in the quarterfinals of the U.S. Olympic Team Trials. Despite the setback, Medbery continued to make the most of his redshirt year, serving as Dlagnev’s training partner in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Medbery said the experience was incredibly valuable as he worked one-on-one with Dlagnev, a two-time Olympian and two-time World bronze medalist.

“It’s been really great to pick (Tervel’s) brain. He’s helped me out a lot defensively just trying to get to different positions and fight off shots. I got stronger mentally, too, in the sense of how to approach matches and how to prepare mentally,” Medbery said. “I learned that the end goal isn’t the most important thing; it’s the process to get there that matters. Getting the opportunity to go to Rio and be around him and these other really talented guys and see how they train was really valuable. It helped me a lot.”

Not only did he train with Dlagnev but he also got some time in with 2015 World champion and 2016 Olympic champion Kyle Snyder.

This summer Snyder became the youngest American to win and Olympic title in wrestling. He’s also the returning NCAA heavyweight champion, making him Medbery’s biggest competition in his quest for the 2017 NCAA title.

“I was mostly there with Tervel, but I’ve done some training with Kyle as well. It’s great to train with a high-caliber guy like that and one that I’ll likely see later this year,” Medbery said. “Outside of the great technician he is, the thing that sets him apart is his high pace and how hard he’s able to go the whole match. No matter how hard you train, you have to get yourself mentally ready for something like that.”

Although he trained primarily freestyle last year, Medbery has shown that he’s still trouble for the college guys, having already wrestled and defeated the nation’s Nos. 3, 4 and 5-ranked wrestlers in the first two weeks of the college season. He was named Big Ten Wrestler of the Week in back-to-back weeks as a result.

He said diving into tough competition so early in the season has helped regain his confidence and assured him that he did everything right in transitioning back into folkstyle.

Most of all, he’s enjoyed being back in a team setting and competing alongside the Badgers again.

“It’s been great getting to train with the team and travel with them again,” Medbery said. “I’ve enjoyed putting that ‘W’ on and getting out there and competing with the guys. Just going out there, competing hard and trying to do my best every match is really important to me this year since it’s my last year.”

The Colorado native placed fourth at the 2015 NCAAs as a junior and aims to climb to the top of the NCAA field in his final season.

On top of wanting to go out with a bang, Medbery is applying to medical school with hopes of becoming a surgeon in either pediatrics or orthopedics. Additionally, he is getting married next summer. The senior Badger said his solution to balancing all these things is simple.

“You just have to make sure you’re managing your time well and staying in the moment. When I’m at wrestling practice, I’m not worrying about the homework I need to do or the med school applications. I just stay in the moment with each of those areas and don’t really worry about the other ones,” he said.

Although his life after college wrestling looks to be busy, Medbery said he stills wants to stay involved with the sport and give back in any way he can. He has even entertained the thought of competing at the 2020 Olympics.

But for right now, he’s staying in the moment and setting his sights on the top of the NCAA podium in March but enjoying the ride along the way.

“I want to win a national title and there are some barriers in the way and things I have to overcome, but that’s the end goal,” Medbery said. “I think there can be a lot of pressure with your senior year, especially since I haven’t reached the pinnacle of where I want to be and where I think I can be. I’m just trying to focus on enjoying the year, working hard and competing for that greater purpose. One way or another, this is the last time I’m stepping on the college mat so I just want to make the most of it.”