February 19, 2010

Carlson prepares for final shot at NCAA triumph

Fourth-year Troy Carlson is easily the most decorated wrestler on the Chicago squad, yet the four-time UAA Champion is no stranger to the disappointment of defeat. Last year at the NCAA Championships, Carlson was knocked out early, deferring his dream of being an All-American. His shot at redemption begins this weekend with the Great Lakes Regional Championship, where he is predicted to qualify for the national tournament and a shot at being an All-American—or even a national champion.

“Mentally, I am going into this weekend knowing that this is it for me. I don’t have another wrestling season after this one to rely on or look forward to,” Carlson said.

Carlson is having a standout season, especially considering the fact that he has jumped up from his previous season’s 174-pound weight division to the 197-pound weight division. He began his Chicago career wrestling at 157 pounds and has moved up in weight each season, but as this season’s UAA Most Outstanding Wrestler, this has clearly had little effect on his productivity or his wrestling style.

“It seems the higher the weight he has wrestled, the harder time opponents have dealing with him,” head coach Leo Kocher said.

Part of Troy’s increased success could be attributed to his experience in the lower weight divisions. Wrestlers in the lower weight divisions are known for their speed, movement, and agility, while the upper weight classes tend to be more based in strength and leverage. Yet Carlson has been able to add the strength over the years without losing his speed, athleticism, and technique.

“He is, in general, more athletic and quicker than even the best in his weight class. If he keeps from getting too tied up with slower and stouter opponents and forces them out of their style, he has an advantage,” Kocher said.

Carlson suggests another reason for his increased success as he moves up in weight: happiness. He admits that he has “hated” having to cut weight for wrestling.

“With each year and each new weight class, I have become progressively happier and more pleasant,” he said.

While Carlson has certainly accomplished an incredible amount already, Carlson has yet to achieve one of his long-standing dreams: becoming an All-American.

“Becoming an All-American this year would be the perfect finish to my college wrestling career,” Carlson said.

With his eyes on a top finish this year, Carlson still feels the sting of his early exit a season ago.

“I had really expected more from myself…. The highlight of my career was qualifying for nationals and the low point was losing at nationals,” he said.

Before Carlson makes it back to the national tournament he will have to qualify this Saturday in Minneapolis. The top two wrestlers from each weight division get a bid to nationals, along with eight wild cards. Carlson is currently ranked third in the nation and is expected to qualify for NCAAs.

Should Saturday’s tournament go as is expected, Carlson will have the opportunity to wrestle the top-ranked wrestler in his weight class, Augsburg’s Jared Massey, the reigning national champion. While Carlson is favored to be an All-American, which requires finishing in the top eight at nationals, it would take a few upsets for him to win the national title. That said, Carlson believes a national championship, which no Chicago wrestler has won since Peter Wang in 1991 and 1992, is within the realm of possibility.

“I think if I wrestle the way I know I can, a national championship is definitely possible,” Carlson said.

Carlson recognizes that his career is approaching its finish, and that these final tournaments will be his final opportunity to achieve his lofty goals.

“As cliché as it sounds,” he said, “I have to leave everything on the mat.”