MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — In just over a week, 2020 Parkersburg South High School graduate Braxton Amos went from a last chance to the next man up.
Amos caused quite a commotion in USA Wrestling circles by advancing to the final round at the U.S. Olympic Trials in Fort Worth, Texas last Saturday in the 97 kg class of Greco-Roman wrestling. By making his way to the championship round, the 19-year-old is now an alternate for Team USA in this summer’s Tokyo Olympic Games.
“I just wanted to have fun, just for the story and for the exposure that being in the trials gets you,” Amos said. “Going in, I really didn’t think I had any shot or really any business being there. So going in, it was more like, ‘Hey it is great to be here. Hopefully I can win a match’. Fast forward a couple hours and I was like, ‘Oh my God, I can do this’.”
To qualify for the U.S. Olympic trials, Amos had to make his way through the bracket at the ‘Last Chance Qualifier’ a week earlier. He did so in both the freestyle and Greco-Roman disciplines.
“I didn’t wrestle in the NCAA season so I couldn’t qualify by winning a national championship. They have one ‘Last Chance Qualifier’ every year. Whoever places in the top two there gets a spot at the trials. We went there the weekend before the Olympic trials and qualified in both styles. I flew home long enough to do laundry and sit in an ice bath for a little bit. Two days later, we flew down and did it all over again.”
Amos was seeded sixth in the 97 kg Greco-Roman bracket and upset the No. 2 and No. 4 seeds en route to the championship round. Awaiting Amos in the final was G’Angelo Hancock. He is a three-time Senior World Team Member, two-time U23 World Team Member and 2019 Pan Am Silver Medalist. Amos met Hancock three years earlier.
“G’Angelo is a super nice guy. He took me under his wing when I got to the training center. I went out there the summer after my sophomore year. He started teaching me the ropes of Greco, how a lot of the foreigners wrestle and teaching me little tricks to help get better.”
The championship series of Olympic trials features a best-of-three format. Amos was defeated by Hancock in both matches but he earned the respect of his opponent.
“In the tunnel after the first match, he tapped me on the shoulder and said, ‘Hey, congrats on making it this far. You are in the big leagues now. Keep it up kid’. A few minutes later, he was throwing me on my head. But it felt good to finally realize I am taking to steps to make a (Olympic) team in the future.”
Freestyle wrestling is the dominant discipline in the United States. Greco-Roman style is less frequently seen at the amateur levels. The main difference is that Greco-Roman does not allow scoring below the waist via leg attacks or trips.
“It is a very small, exclusive group of people that do it. It is hard to find training partners and coaches. But I lucked out. Team West Virginia has a good Greco coach who kind of took me under his wing and helped me get the basics down. Between trips to the Olympic training center, and in Wisconsin we have a good Greco coach and training partners. Between all that and how deep freestyle is right now, I just kind of fell in love with Greco.”
Amos, a three-time state champion at Parkersburg South, is in the middle of a ‘gap year’ before he officially joins the wrestling team at the University of Wisconsin. He is currently training with Wisconsin RTC and will become a Badger this fall.
“After Christmas is really the time I got better. I started working out with the college guys more and started getting access to nutritionists and college strength and conditioning coaches. I just went from a high school mindset of this is fun and it is fun to be here at a Division I program to it is time to try to make an Olympic team.”