October was a tough month for the Buckeye wrestling program. When Captain America decided to take his talents from Columbus to the Pennsylvania backwoods, and the Captain Kerk realized he didn't in fact understand the meaning of the word commitment, it seemed like things were pretty bleak for the local team.
And then suddenly, it switched.
The biggest thing to happen in the past two weeks to sooth October's sting was the news that reigning Fargo champ (freestyle and Greco) Anthony Echemendia was not only committing to Ohio State, he planned to enroll in January and could potentially be in the lineup at 157 by season's end.
“He brings a lot of things,” Ryan said Thursday. “I think what he brings as much as anything besides his talent level and his love of the sport, his toughness… he brings gratitude. He’s from an area that you’re just not given much, so anything he gets he’s so grateful for, and that’s an attitude we want to run rampant in here.”
Echemendia will enroll in January; Ryan said his current plan is “to see how things roll” when his star recruit hits campus. One source close to the program indicated he could be settled in Columbus by mid-December, but it’s not yet clear how soon he’ll be able to train with the team.
Barely a day later, three-time NCAA Champion at two-time World Freestyle Champion J'Den Cox told Flo's Mark Bader that he would start training periodically at the Ohio Regional Training Center, co-located at the new Jennings Wrestling Facility with the Buckeye wrestling program.
Cox told Bader that he's spent the better part of the past two seasons training with the young wrestlers involved in the Olympic Training Center's Elite Accelerator Program at the OTC's Colorado Springs campus – young wrestlers with world-class talent such as Greg Kerkvliet and Anthony Echemendia who are potentially elite on an international level.
"I was just working with [Echemendia] this morning," Cox said. "It’s been awesome to pick his brain and watch him roll around with Josh Saunders – that was a Who’s Number One Match – so we’ve been getting to watch that every day."
(Saunders is a Top-10 commit heading to Cornell, and Echemendia teched him in that match at WNO in October, for what it's worth.)
As to his relationship with Ohio State, Cox said it was to his advantage to make Columbus another place he goes to get better in search of Olympic Gold:
Ohio State, they got the bodies. Don’t get me wrong, I love working with this program here with Colorado Springs with the OTC with the EAP guys, but I also know that I need to feel a senior-level athlete, I need to feel a man’s power, a man’s speed, a senior-level mindset on the mat. So, [Ohio State] opened a door for me to come in and work out with their guys. It can benefit me, because there are a lot of dead periods here. If I can continue to roll around with high-caliber athletes and continue to grow, then I’m going to take advantage of that.
Cox was clear that he is not moving to Columbus, and won't be training at the Jennings until after Christmas. He was extremely complimentary of Buckeye and RTC coach Tervel Dlagnev; the two worked together closely as 2016 Olympic teammates.
Tervel has been awesome. We were on the Olympic team in 2016 together, so I was able to pick his mind there and talk to him a lot. And throughout his career, he’s coached with Snyder so he’s always been around, so being able to still keep that friendship and talk things out, with technique and different situations. There was a camp this last year, and for 30-45 minutes we talked and worked on positions together that we thought were weird or funky and tried to work through them, and it was me, Tervel and Snyder.
For the Buckeye wrestlers – Chase Singletary, Kollin Moore and Gavin Hoffman in particular – having Cox in the room, even if only a few days at a time every month or so, is an obvious advantage and helps fill the void left by not having Snyder as a training partner any longer.
"I think it’s beneficial for both of us," Cox said, "both from a freestyle senior-level aspect and an NCAA aspect, because I’m going to be rolling with all the guys, anyone who is my size or is willing to roll around."