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BENNETT: Catching up with Braxton Amos

I had a more than interesting catch-up conversation earlier this week with Wisconsin’s Braxton Amos, who last weekend finished runner-up in Greco-Roman at 97 kg to G’Angelo Hancock at the United State Olympic Team Trials.

Many subjects were broached, but suffice it to say Mr. Amos definitely is a born and bred Mountaineer.

He loves the simplicity of life, family, friends and the sport nearest and dearest to his heart, wrestling.

His accomplishments from the time of dominating the mat as a youth with Trinity Awards, to becoming the first two-time winner of the Robert Dutton Award and then the first West Virginian to capture the national Dave Schultz High School Excellence Award speaks for itself.

Last weekend was a complete whirlwind for the former Parkersburg South three-time state champ.

After finishing his match at 9 o’clock or so he “went straight into drug testing and paper work from there. Got back to my hotel at about 11:15 and talked to a bunch of boosters who support USA Wrestling. Mom and (sister) Presley showed up about midnight asking if I wanted to get some food. I hadn’t eaten in like 13 hours.”

A 6 a.m. flight from Texas to Madison, Wisconsin awaited him.

“After the flight I texted my coach and asked him when I needed to get back,” added Amos, who had been in West Virginia since last Sunday night. “The university and USA Wrestling want their national team to get (COVID-19) vaccines. That way we don’t have to quarantine if someone gets hurt so they can send us overseas. The university wants it so they don’t have to deal with testing anymore. It just makes the logistics of things easier. We don’t have to worry about the 10-day quarantine after we leave or we go back state-side. They give us the option of just doing quarantine and stuff.

“It’s kind of one of those optional practices you’re required to show up at if that makes sense. If I make the Junior World Team (qualifies late this month in Coralville, Iowa) they’ll send me to Siberia for two weeks. It’s smack dab in the middle of Russia. COVID is the best of our worries there. If that’s the only thing I have to worry about while I’m in Russia that’ll be pretty good. The amount of phone calls I’ve had to make to try and find a pharmacy with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine was absurd. One way or another I was going to get it, might as well get it on my own terms.”

Making a run to the Greco-Roman finals as a No. 6 seed was something few gave him any chance to do. Although Amos wishes Hancock the absolute best this summer in the Tokyo Olympics, he’s ready to go as the alternate if called upon.

“When I first went out to the Olympic Training Center I was 17, didn’t really know much about Greco in an international sense and he (Hancock) kind of showed me around the OTC and helped me out learning the ropes of Greco,” Amos admitted.

“Not really a mentor, but a guy trying to help out a 17-year-old kid.

“It’s like a senior in high school kind of helping out the freshmen and sophomores coming up through. Helping out while you can, but still not focusing too much on them because you have your own stuff to focus on. It was definitely a week of everything coming full circle.”

As far as being a national team member Amos admitted, “I’m proud to represent my country. That’s something I’ve always wanted to do. I didn’t think I’d get to do it this early in my life, but I’m happy to be able to do it. In my eyes it’s one of the biggest honors you can have, either having a flag on your sleeve or USA on your chest.”

The ongoing issues with COVID-19 is something Amos isn’t much of a fan of.

Of course, he has little choice in the matter.

“It’s interesting to say the least,” added Amos, who said they were getting tested twice a week at the Wisconsin Regional Training Center. “When we got to our hotel they tested us and then they broke everybody up into tiers. Tier one was athletes, training partners and coaches and some staff that would have direct contact with us. If you weren’t tier one you weren’t allowed to be around anyone else. When my mom and sister flew down I wasn’t allowed to see them until after the tournament was over. I mean it is what it is, but it sucks.

“A lot of people want to follow rules that don’t make sense and make us do stupid stuff. As far as the wrestling itself goes, nothing changes. You work out. Do the right things. Eat right. You train right and don’t worry about anything else because that’s all the time you have to do. I thought I’d never say this, but playing video games got old. That’s all we’d do. Wake up, work out in the morning, come back and shower, eat and then we’d have three or four hours of downtime. You can only nap and read so much. It will be nice to actually have classwork and stuff to do. I hate to say it, but I’m excited for it (starting college this fall).”

Amos’ current plans are to head back to Madison, where he’ll remain for about a week. He’ll then be off to New Jersey for a few days of training camp and then make his way to Iowa to compete in the Junior World Team Trials.

“I think with everything I’ve been through this year it turned out pretty good,” he said. “I set myself up pretty good for making a national team. It definitely has its perks, especially with name image likeness, the thing with Congress about student-athletes profiting from their image. They can (soon) start marketing themselves and getting local sponsorship deals. It will be good.”

Amos has been more than good for quite a while and despite not making it to Tokyo, he’s definitely going to be a factor for years to come.

“There’s really nothing to be ashamed of. I went out there as the sixth seed, got second and made the national team and made my state and school proud,” he said.

Once he officially starts wrestling for the Badgers, Amos expects to compete in the 197-pound weight class.

“Right now I’m walking around 210 and 13 pounds is still a lot, but we have a great nutritionist, our coaches will hold me to it and our strength and conditioning guy will make sure I’m ready to go when I need to.

“I trust everybody else to make sure I’m doing the right things to get ready and I trust myself to do the right things as well. It’s not going to be fun, but I’ll do it and hopefully it will be fun winning a national title here in about a year.”

Amos, who also qualified in freestyle last weekend and was the only grappler in the country to do so, became just the fifth Mountain State wrestler to reach the Olympic Trials. He’s now joined Leland Merrill, Ken Chertow, Troy Owens and Pat Sole.

“Oh, man, it’s awesome,” Amos said of Wisconsin. “I love my team. I love my team. I love the other RTC guys and girls that are training. It’s an awesome place to be.

“I’ve been around other RTCs and I’ve been around other college teams and this one is just different. I can’t exactly put my finger on it. It’s going to be a really special place in a year or two when we surprise a lot of people.”

When it comes to Amos, not too much would surprise me.

Contact Jay Bennett at jbennett@newsandsentinel.com

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