Photo by Tony Rotundo/Wrestlers are Warriors
By JEREMY HINES
When Reece Humphrey was in sixth grade he told his dad he wanted to try wrestling. He remembers his dad, Jim, having a big smile on his face when he learned the news.
Soon Jim started showing up to Reeceâ€™s practices. Then he started running the practices. Reece thought his dad running practice was a little odd, until he found out that his dad was a World silver medalist and a two time Olympic wrestling coach.
â€œI didnâ€™t go out for wrestling because of my dad,â€ Reece said. â€œI didnâ€™t even know about his career. I went out for wrestling because my friends talked me into it.â€
Now, over a decade later, Reece wrestles for a living. He is the United Statesâ€™ top 61kg freestyle grappler and will represent his country at the World Championships this week in Las Vegas.
Reece grew up in Indiana, where he was a three-time state champion representing Lawrence North High School. He then went to Ohio State where he earned All-American honors twice with the Buckeyes.
â€œI remember back in high school, a state championship meant everything to me,â€ Humphrey said. â€œThen in college I wanted to be an NCAA champion. I ended up finishing second. But now, the ultimate goal is to win the World Championships, and I really feel like this is my year to do it.â€
Humphrey advanced to the Worlds by beating Daniel Dennis 12-1, 4-1 in the qualifying round.
Now, at 29, heâ€™s the second oldest member on the US team. Humphrey is joined by Tony Ramos (57kg), Brent Metcalf (65kg), James Green (70kg), Jordan Burroughs (74kg), Jake Herbert (86kg), Kyle Snyder (97kg) and Tervel Diagnev (125kg).
â€œIâ€™ve been practicing twice a day, 11 times a week all year long for this,â€ Humphrey said. â€œI love what I do. Wrestling is 24-7 for me.â€
Humphrey has cut nearly 30 pounds to get down to his competition weight.
â€œThatâ€™s all Iâ€™m thinking about every second,â€ Humphrey said. â€œIâ€™m on a strict diet. Making this weight is very tough for me. Iâ€™m pretty lean around 160 pounds.â€
His class, 61kg, is 134 pounds.
This time at the World Championships Humphrey feels it is his time to take gold.
â€œThe first time I competed at World I didnâ€™t know what to expect,â€ he said. â€œThe second time I lost a close one to a two-time medalist. Now I know how to train, how to prepare. The competition is on home soil and Iâ€™m so ready to go out and do this.â€
Humphrey feels this is his last chance to win a World medal.
â€œIâ€™m anxious, nervous and excited,â€ he said. â€œI feel the pressure, but I love it. You donâ€™t get that many shots at winning a world title. You have to take each one seriously. This really could be my last chance. I want to go out on top.â€
Reece is proud of the fact he grew up in Indiana.
â€œIndiana isnâ€™t known as one of the best wrestling states,â€ he said. â€œBut when I was wrestling we had about 10 really tough kids that did really well at nationals. Angel Escobedo is my training partner. He was a four-time champ from Indiana.â€
Humphrey teaches at a lot of camps throughout the state as a way of giving back.
â€œI do a lot of camps,â€ he said. â€œI plan on opening a club (in Ohio, where he currently resides) when Iâ€™m done with the Olympics in Rio. Iâ€™m all around the country doing camps. I have no weekends, ever. But I love working with the kids and spreading my knowledge. Itâ€™s my way of giving back to the sport that has given me so many opportunities.â€
Wrestling allows Reece to be able to spend a lot of time with his family. He and his wife Meredith have two children â€“ Parker, 4 and Reace, 3.
â€œI am fortunate to be able to spend a lot of time at home with the kids,â€ Reace said. â€œAnd when they start school Iâ€™ll be retired. I get to be a huge part of their life.â€
This has been one of Humphreyâ€™s most successful wrestling years so far. He won the US Open, made the world team and is now competing for a title.
â€œAleksander Bogomoev (Russia) is very tough,â€ Humphrey said of the top ranked 61kg grappler. â€œBut I feel like I can go out and compete with anyone right now. Iâ€™m at the top of my game.â€