WRESTLING: U.S. Open champion Reece Humphrey focused on making first World Team Reece Humphrey stepped onto the mat in Minsk, Belarus, and immediately sensed something was wrong. His legs were shaky, He felt slow and sluggish. Humphrey scored a takedown in each period.
Reece Humphrey stepped onto the mat in Minsk, Belarus, and immediately sensed something was wrong.
His legs were shaky. He felt slow and sluggish.
Humphrey scored a takedown in each period, but came up short in a first-round loss to Amandyk Bakeev of Kazakhstan. He went 0-1 and failed to place in the Alexander Medved International in early March.
Shawn Bunch, Humphrey’s teammate at the Ohio Regional Training Center in Columbus, went on to win the tournament in the same freestyle weight class at 60 kg/132 lbs.
“That was a huge turning point for me,” Humphrey said. “Bunch is a great wrestler, but I knew there wasn’t that much of a gap between us. I knew I needed to make some changes. I went back home and changed my diet, changed my workouts and changed my intensity.”
And changed his fortunes.
A month after the disappointing showing in Minsk, Humphrey stormed back with one of the best performances of his career. He upset past World silver medalist Mike Zadick in the semifinals before knocking off Bunch in the finals to win the U.S. Open on April 9 in Cleveland.
“Those were huge wins for me,” Humphrey said. “Winning that tournament, it has given me a big boost. My training is better than ever and I’ve never been more focused.”
With his U.S. Open win, Humphrey clinches a berth in the best-of-3 finals series for June’s U.S. World Team Trials in Oklahoma City. He will face the winner of the Challenge Tournament in the finals of the Trials.
Humphrey, 24, a past NCAA runner-up for Ohio State, is a top young prospect in freestyle for the U.S. He is a past University World silver and bronze medalist.
Humphrey’s father, Jim, is a past World silver medalist and has coached his son for most of his career. Jim Humphrey is a past U.S. Olympic and World Team coach.
“My dad has pretty much taught me everything I know – in wrestling and in life,” Humphrey said. “He is one of the main reasons I’m the wrestler and the person I am right now.”
Humphrey and Bunch, a 2009 World Team member, continue to train together in Columbus.
“We still go at it 100 percent in practice,” Humphrey said. “We push each other and we are friends off the mat. Bunch is an awesome wrestler. He is way stronger than he looks and I haven’t wrestled anybody faster. He has the skills to explode and keep me off-balance even though I see him every day. I expect to see him in the finals of the Trials.”
Humphrey’s performance at the U.S. Open caught the attention of U.S. National Coach Zeke Jones.
“Reece has been coming along nicely,” Jones said. “We've been tracking him through age-group wrestling. He has medaled at every level, so his transition to be gold-medal ready is quicker for him than most Americans.