2 Olympic hopefuls wrestle with life after the mat

Photo at top: Austin Trotman, left, tangles with Deron Winn in the 86kg championship at the Dave Schultz Memorial Tournament. (Adam Rossow/MEDILL)

By Adam Rossow

Wrestlers Austin Trotman and Deron Winn had been here before. But this time was different.
Friday’s 86kg title match at the 18th annual Dave Schultz Memorial International Wrestling Tournament in Colorado Springs was the first and likely the last time the two veteran wrestlers would tangle.

Trotman is 27 years old and Winn is seven months his junior. Neither is “old” by wrestling standards, but the Olympics and the dream of representing the United States is a once-in-four-years opportunity. The Rio Games this summer might be their last shot. Both wrestlers will be north of 30 when the chance to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics comes around.

The winner of the Dave Schultz qualifies for the 2016 Olympic Trials. The loser has to keep wrestling and win the Last Chance Olympic Trials Qualifier in April.

Trotman used a takedown and a four-point throw to take a 6-2 lead early in the second period before holding off Winn’s late flurry for a 9-8 decision. With the victory, Trotman goes to Iowa City and wrestles in the trials on April 10.

“It felt good to put it all together and finally go over the hump,” Trotman said.

Winn, speaking reflectively and with a somber tone, said his mistakes led to Trotman’s throw, which made the difference.

“This hurts really bad,” Winn said. “I’ve been so close here and I could have won that match.”

Following the match, Team USA Freestyle coach Bruce Burnett praised Trotman’s and Winn’s continued involvement with USA Wrestling and the process of improving themselves both on and off the mat. He also said it was clear their commitment to the sport was a product of their personal drive and dedication in their daily lives.

“Wrestling is a warrior sport and the guys that do it are all warriors,” Burnett said. “That’s what Deron Winn is and that’s what Austin Trotman is … and God bless them for it.”

Trotman did not say whether the trials would be his final attempt to make the Olympic team, but said he wants be a missionary with an emphasis on assisting children after his career on the mat ends.

“It might happen in India, it might happen here,” said Trotman, who was Appalachian State’s first four-time NCAA Championship qualifier during college. “I want to be the best missionary, just like I want to be the best wrestler, and that hasn’t changed over the years.”

After the match Winn said he is going to transition to being a mixed martial arts fighter later this year. He said he recently signed with Zinkin Entertainment and Sports Management, and will to move to California to concentrate on fighting, but added he might “drop in a few [wrestling] tournaments next year.”

Both the future missionary and the future fighter will channel the drive that made them elite wrestlers into the next phase of their lives.

“I’ll always have wrestling in my life.” Winn said. “I love it. I’ll always be a fan, and I want to stay true to wrestling as much as possible.”

For his part Trotman said, “I’ve been put in a leadership position for a purpose. Winning or losing I want to be setting an example for how you act regardless of my role.”

Photo at top: Austin Trotman, left, tangles with Deron Winn in the 86kg freestyle championship at the Dave Schultz Memorial International Wrestling Tournament. (Adam Rossow/MEDILL)