YOU HAVE TO REMIND YOURSELF that Cohlton Schultz (130 kg, NYAC) is only 17-years-old. He don’t look like it, he don’t talk like it. Schultz is, for what it’s worth, an acutely self-aware individual. Kind of an old soul. You hear it in that slight Coloradan country twang, the words uttered with a sense of wisdom that comes from having traveled the globe — and having his arm raised — while most in his age bracket are more worried about what’s being said about them on social media, or how many friends they can get together for an evening of Fortnite.
It’s not that Schultz believes he is above these things or these people. They just aren’t his concern.
He has won state high school titles. He is a Cadet Greco-Roman World Champion. Right now, most of the top collegiate folkstyle programs in the country are trying to get him to look at them. Schultz is a wanted (young) man. The USA Greco community feels like Schultz is beholden to an uncapped future on the Senior level, particularly if he sticks around as a full-time athlete following high school. College coaches are under the impression that if he should choose their more traditional passage route, Schultz will almost undoubtedly attain NCAA stardom. But again, these factors occupy the external. What others may desire is not immaterial to Schultz; but he is going to do what he wants. And right now, he wants to do both.
This degree of conviction, perennially lauded when discernible, is how Schultz earned that World gold a year ago and why he views that achievement as little more than solid evidence he knows what he’s doing. Maybe people should trust him. After wrapping up his high school season this past winter, Schultz hopped on a plane to Europe and won the Austrian Open. A few weeks later, the teen participated in a Swedish training camp and banged heads with 2012 Olympic bronze medalist Johan Euren (SWE), who at 33 is just about old enough to be his father.
So if we are to agree that Cohlton Schultz is unique on the mat, that agreement should invariably carry over to how he is able to conduct himself off of it. Yet, we keep going.
In April, Schultz returned to domestic Greco-Roman competition with a victory at the US Junior Nationals. June brought with it a pair of World Team Trials victories, the latter of which saw iron-tough Anthony Cassioppi (Ill) hand Schultz his first defeat on US turf in two years. That Match 1 loss shook everyone in attendance up a little. Say what you want, but it didn’t look like a fluke. But Schultz? He brushed it off as if he had stubbed his toe in the living room, and came back against the ever-game Cassioppi to take the next two bouts, thus cementing his spot on the Junior World Team for the second year in a row. Incidentally, the series triumph also represented Schultz’s fifth Trials victory in two years.
As it currently stands, and doesn’t figure to change, Schultz will be spending the summer preparing for two World Championships while also trying to decipher which college he’ll end up gracing with his presence. These are not normal circumstances, but the subject is not a normal high schooler. He can handle it. All of it. The calls, the questions, the whispers, the desires of others and the dreams that are his own. Cohlton Schultz doesn’t lose much sleep over what he can’t control. He’s too busy focusing on what he can, and for now, that’s working towards developing into an athlete and person everyone around him can be proud of. Even though, they already are.
5PM Interview with Cohlton Schultz
5PM: Did you happen to watch any of the Cadet Worlds this year?
Cohlton Schultz: I was a little bit distracted, I had some stuff going on, but I did watch (Jacob) Kaminski’s medal match. I watched a lot of the highlights and everything, I saw the results, but I didn’t get to watch as much as I had hoped.
5PM: Did it feel strange to watch it the year after winning that tournament, now that you’ve moved on to Junior?
CS: Yeah, I mean, it’s kind of exciting. It’s cool looking back and seeing it, like, Wow, last year I was able to pull off a big feat there. At the same time, looking back now it’s kind of like, Okay, I’m done with that. Onto the next thing.
5PM: The Cadet World Team from 2017 I thought performed really well, there were a lot of exciting matches. It was actually a solid showing considering the lack of foreign experience.
CS: I agree with that, for sure. They were all very competitive. There were a few what you’d call “heartbreaker” matches where they ended up giving up some leads, but it was definitely exciting and competitive last year. It was kind of unexpected just because most of those guys didn’t have much or any international experience.
5PM: The results for this year’s Team weren’t there until Sunday. Friday and Saturday were kind of a bummer, especially for the two athletes who got hosed. With Kaminski, his medal turned around the entire feeling almost regarding the Team performance. Your gold last year did the same thing. Even though your teammates competed well, there still weren’t any other medals. Did that add anything extra to it for you, how you were the one who put our country on the podium?
CS: Yeah, it definitely made it feel special, especially after having been on the 2016 Team where we didn’t have any medals. Just feeling that morale around the Team that year, and even going into 2017 a little bit, was down. But that just made it extra special, finally getting over that hump and getting us our first gold medal. I think it shows that it’s definitely possible.
5PM: True or false: it was good that you had someone like Anthony Cassioppi to face off with in the Junior Trial finals.
Cohlton Schultz: Yes, that’s true. It’s definitely good. That was kind of a first-time learning experience for me, going into a best-of-three situation. I definitely have to prepare myself a little better. After that first match, I could tell that I wasn’t ready either mentally or physically. It was a good experience for me to take that loss, have a quick turnaround, and then go get it done in the second and third matches. Cassioppi, he’s big, he’s strong, which is something I am going to be seeing a lot of, especially since they moved the weight class up to 130 (kilograms) for Juniors. I’ll be seeing those big, strong guys.
Just having what I call a “higher Greco IQ” — understanding the rules a little bit, understanding what refs like to see, and knowing the score through the whole match and understanding criteria — I think that definitely came into play. I think it was all coming together pretty well for me because it was tough going into that second week. U23’s was tough, I was a little banged up. I was home for like a day or two and then I had to fly out to Indianapolis. It was a little tough.
5PM: Your opponent in the U23 final, David Tate Orndorff, he’s another up-and-coming heavyweight, too. They might not have been really close matches in Akron, but he is very promising. Look what he did at the Senior Trials.
CS: He is pretty tough. He took third at the Open and third at (Senior Trials). It definitely shows that he is legit. I could tell he knew some stuff. He’s a pretty solid dude.
5PM: When you entered competitions this year as a Greco athlete coming off of a World title — going into Austria, going into the Junior Nationals, the two Trials tournaments — did you carry any pressure around with you considering that there are and have been even more expectations surrounding your ability to perform?
CS: I know I have a lot of expectations on me from other people, but I also hold myself to some pretty high expectations. I have some lofty goals. But you can’t really let other people’s pressure get to you. The expectations of other people, I try not to think about that, I try not to worry about that. I try to do the right thing all the time. Just do the right things, being prepared to wrestle. And just having confidence in myself. Winning Worlds, I mean, it’s a great accomplishment, but I just see it as proof that what I’m doing are the right things. It shows myself that if I keep it up, I can beat anyone in the World so long as I am doing the right things and I perform well.
5PM: Next week is Fargo Greco and you haven’t been to that tournament in a couple of years. It represents something in our country, that event. It’s gigantic and it is viewed as a major coming-of-age competition. We make it a big deal. At the same time, the style of Greco is not the same as it is everywhere else in the world, it’s just not. What are the positives and negatives you see associated with Fargo?
CS: I think a big positive is that it at least opens people up to freestyle and Greco a whole lot more, having something giant like Fargo to look forward to. Negatively, I don’t think it’s necessarily good for guys who have goals of winning World Championships just because the reffing and the competition is actually so different than what you see overseas. I feel like that you might get some bad habits thinking you’re the top dog at Fargo. It’s a little different from being the top dog over in Europe. The styles are completely different in so many ways, it’s tough to gauge how well you do at Fargo compared to how well you might do at a World Championships. That’s probably the biggest negative, just how different it is.
5PM: You’re only 17 but you have acquired so much international experience, even prior to last year. And it keeps continuing, you were over in Austria and Sweden this spring, as well, and you have two World Championships still to go. How big of an impact has that international experience made on how you view your future in this sport, and also, did you expect foreign competition to be that different compared to the US?
Cohlton Schultz: I think I was in a lucky spot because when I first started taking Greco seriously, I was able to get out on a tour to Sweden pretty quickly, and I was able to see what real Greco over there is like. That was good for me, for sure, rather than just getting comfortable with US Greco. As far as my experience overseas, it makes me excited for the future knowing that I am able to compete with guys internationally. You also build so many great relationships all around the world through the sport of wrestling. Especially with Greco, I’ve met so many incredible people. It’s just more reasons why I want to stick with it. Being able to represent the US is an incredible thing when you sit back and think about it. All of that is just exciting to me and makes me want to stick with it, for sure.
5PM: It is very obvious that the Greco-Roman leadership in our country certainly wants you as a full-time athlete the moment you graduate from high school. But, you’re also one of the most coveted collegiate prospects in the nation with a lot of schools vying for your attention. It’s a big time in your life. Does this weigh on you at all, and if so, how do you reconcile it?
CS: I mean, yeah, there are times when it might get a little bit stressful, being pulled in so many different ways and whatnot. But, I have a great support system to thank. My family is always on board with whatever I want to do and whatever I think is best for my future. They support me pretty well and I appreciate them for that. I know it’s tough on them, too. My parents are taking all the calls that are trying to get me every which way.
Ultimately, I put myself in this situation and I’m not backing down. I want to be an NCAA champion and then I want to be a World and Olympic champion, too. I am willing to make it happen and I am willing to put in the work for it. If I just keep my head focused on my goals, I don’t get too stressed out by any of it. I don’t really let it weigh on me too much.
5PM: How do you look at this summer? You have a Worlds in September, another in November. There is going to be training, traveling, all of that. How are you doing as far as your scheduling?
CS: My parents, they talk to Coach (Matt) Lindland an awful lot, so I let them handle my scheduling. I feel like it’s important to have a good relationship with your coaches. You trust them, you trust that what they want is probably what is best for you. I listen to what Lindland and the other OTC (Olympic Training Center) coaches want me to do, what they think is best to help me win a World Championship. My family is there to help me in that this is the main time I have to start figuring out college. Being able to balance that with my family and my coaches is huge, and then I just show up wherever they need me to be.
5PM: You’ve become at a young age an extremely visible presence not only in our sport, but nationally when it comes to folkstyle. How do you manage to keep yourself grounded?
Cohlton Schultz: What I have achieved as far as rankings and all that, I was always taught from a young age that it’s not what you’ve done, it’s what you’re moving towards. Everything I’ve done, I see them as cool accomplishments but I still want to keep going, so I don’t get too caught up in what I’ve done, where I’ve been. I want to focus on continuing to prove myself as a wrestler and proving myself as a person, and making sure I can go win more. Winning one World Championship is cool, but I want to win two, I want to win three. I want to keep on winning. I want to keep on working. That’s just how I have always been taught and that is how I have always tried to carry myself.