Robby Smith at the 2017 Senior World Championships. Photo by: Tony Rotundo, Wrestlers are Warriors
With a rich history of past American heavyweight Greco-Roman champions, USA Wrestling has put together its first ever Heavyweight Greco-Roman Training Camp from Feb. 4-15.
Running the two-week long training camp is Assistant National Greco-Roman Coaches Mohammed Abdelfatah and Momir Petkovic.
In an effort to continue the tradition of being the very best in the world, top heavyweight athletes from all over the country have made their way to the United States Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo.
“We invited some of the top guys from around the United States to train including 2017 World silver medalist from Estonia, Heiki Nabi. We of course have our World Team member Robby Smith here as well. It’s turning out to be a great start to the season,” Coach Mohammed said. “The purpose of this camp is to get the United States back on top with our heavyweights and to close that gap. It can be challenging but like everything in life there are ups and downs. In the past, we have had multiple World and Olympic heavyweight Greco-Roman medalists. We need to get back to that.”
Today, four-time World Team member Robby Smith has control of the weight class in the USA. He leads the heavyweight Greco-Roman camp being held at the OTC.
“All the guys coming into this heavyweight Greco-Roman camp are focused,” Smith said “Ready to wrestle. That’s what this camp is all about, trying to build the best guys that we have. Taking this entire group forward and trying to make Greco strong again. Right now, we are building. We have a great base. Personally, this camp has been getting me back to my wrestling shape. We did an entire month of base training and lifting and now I am pushing back to get into that wrestling timing. Tweaking the tools and getting the timing back.
“I am excited because I am going into the Thor Masters tournament in Denmark in way better shape and way stronger than I was last year. I plan on going out there and having fun and winning it for our team. I’ll keep that momentum rolling into nationals and getting ready for trials.” Smith said.
Heiki Nabi of Estonia, a two-time World champion is also attending the Greco-Roman Camp. Nabi won silver at the 2012 London Olympic Games and was a 2017 World silver medalist.
“Huge thanks to Coach Mohammed Abdelfatah for inviting me out here for this heavy weight camp,” Nabi said. “Training at the Olympic Training Center is one of a kind. Back home we only have two mats, here we have several. I have been having great workouts. It’s been good training with all these guys. On the mat we fight, but when we step off, we’re friends. It’s the most important thing. There are a few younger guys here, so it’s been good showing them some tips. It’s a great feeling being able to give something not just receive all the time.”
Among other heavyweight wrestlers attending the camp is OTC resident Nick Boykin, who is among the top young talents hoping to continue the U.S. tradition of excellence.
“There aren’t a lot of heavyweights that have good training partners. This camp really helps with that. Working with guys who I never do on a daily Is such a great opportunity. Working with different types of stances, forms and strength is really beneficial,” Boykin Said
Additional guys partaking in the camp include 2015 Senior World Team member Joe Rau, 2017 U.S. Open champion Kevin Radford, 2015 NCAA Div. III National Champion Donny Longendyke and NAIA All-American Francisco Ceron from Concordia University in Nebraska.
With an undeniable strong and powerful history of heavyweight Greco-Roman wrestlers, U.S. strives to get back on the podium in the upper weights.
For a quarter of a century, world-class heavyweights from the USA set a high bar for the future. Starting off was 1984 Olympic gold medalist Jeff Blatnick, who became one of the first-ever Greco-Roman Olympic gold medalists for the United States, alongside teammate Steve Fraser.
Blatnick, a Distinguished Member of the National Hall of Fame passed away in 2012 and is remembered as the resilient wrestler who overcame cancer just before winning gold at the LA Olympic Games.
Nearly a decade later, Team USA had one of the most accomplished and decorated U.S. Greco-Roman wrestlers of all time, Matt Ghaffari.
Ghaffari was a three-time World medalist and a 1996 Olympic silver medalist. He was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2013.
In 2000 at the Sydney Olympic Games, Rulon Gardner stunned the world after winning heavyweight gold over Alexander Karelin of Russia. Nicknamed the Russian bear, Karelin was an undefeated three-time Olympic gold medalist before losing to Gardner. Gardner added a World title in 2001 and an Olympic bronze in 2004.
History didn’t stop there. Heavyweight Dremiel Byers went on to win three World medals including a 2002 World Championship. He represented the United States for 10 consecutive years including two Olympic Games.
“After this camp, we head to Thor Masters in Denmark,” Coach Mohammed said. “This camp really sets us up. Our goal is not necessarily immediate but long term. It’s really a wonderful opportunity for all of these incredible heavyweight Greco athletes.”