NEW YORK, NEW YORK — Lucas Sheridan (Army/WCAP) just wanted to get back out on the mat. To feel the excitement again, to test himself in ways the practice room never could. It had been a while, just long enough for him to de-prioritize winning, and instead, embrace the opportunity to compete. That’s what often happens when high-level athletes return to their occupation following a long layoff due to injury. They never stop chasing victory. But since they now understand how precious and fleeting their careers actually are, the burden of competitive pressure takes a backseat to the gift of simply being capable.
Yesterday at the 2018 Bill Farrell Memorial, hosted annually at the New York Athletic Club right across the street from Central Park, Sheridan returned to Senior Greco-Roman competition for the first time in 11 months in a new weight class and with a new perspective. Despite putting in a more-than-impressive fourth-place showing at the 2017 World Team Trials, Sheridan was forced to close out last year with a torn up arm. He healed in time for the summer and then right before the serious training phase ahead of the CISM Military World Championships kicked in, another freak injury betrayed itself. During a practice session, Sheridan cracked his sternum. Next thing you knew, there was no Military Worlds, or anything else to look forward to, for that matter.
So he remained patient and did what wrestlers in his position are called upon to do: actively heal. Sheridan stayed on the sidelines the requisite amount of time to allow those little bones in his chest to mend themselves. That actually didn’t take as long as he had originally feared. But with the Senior domestic schedule in the US barren of many chances for a proper re-launch, Sheridan had to wait it out longer than maybe he expected. Until yesterday.
Wrestling at 97 kilograms, a full 12 kilos higher than he ever had previously, Sheridan every bit looked the part in the new landscape of monsters as he marched his way to the finals of this all-of-the-sudden extremely important event. He hammered Phillip Barreiro (CAN) with his patented headlock to start the day. Next came a testy but well-controlled decision over crossover talent Enock Francois (NYAC). Sheridan saved his best for last, however. Operating in the 97-kilogram finals against Korea’s Park Jae-woo, the WCAP representative was like a buzzsaw. The first par terre saw Sheridan roll out two gutwrenches before ending it a short time later with a takedown and another gut. This sparkling performance was more than just a nice way to welcome himself back to competition at a new weight. Sheridan’s gold yesterday was also his first from a Senior international tournament.
Afterwards, Sheridan spoke about the expectations he had entering the 2018 Bill Farrell, how he felt, and what adjustments he had to make to account for the jump in weight class.
Lucas Sheridan — 97 kg, Army/WCAP
5PM: Did you have expectations coming in considering both your time off and the new weight class?
Lucas Sheridan: I really didn’t have any expectations at all. Of course, I wanted to come in and do well, but I think my mind was just so much more focused on the excitement of being back in competition, the excitement of pulling up my straps again, and the excitement of going out there. I think that really kind of took over. When I think about expectations, I mean, I didn’t really come in here thinking, Oh man, I need to take top-three, I really need to win, I really need to do this or that. I was just more focused on the concept of being back on the mat.
5PM: Do you think that was an advantage for you, not throwing any undue pressure on yourself?
Sheridan: I definitely do. It’s very similar to last year at World Team Trials. I got off the mat against Provisor and I was wrestling with one arm. I stopped listening to my pump-up music, I stopped trying to get into that super-zone I would get in. And I kind of looked at my buddy Stevie Gee, who is one of the CYC (Community Youth Center) coaches, and they said on the speaker, “Sheridan, Mat 3”, and I was just like, Okay, here we go again, time to throw the kitchen sink at ’em. I noticed how much better I wrestled relax as opposed to pumping myself up. I’m not sure if it’s conserving energy and I’m not sure if it’s the mental side of things, but I definitely think it made a big impact at Trials and today was kind of my test date for that again. It made a huge difference today, too.
5PM: I remember you remarking how you didn’t get a chance to train a lot for this tournament and how you haven’t been in the weight room in a few months. But you’re also healthy and healed. That overall physical freshness had to play a role in how sharp you looked, I would imagine.
Sheridan: True. Yeah, that was definitely a huge difference. Like I said, I think that goes hand-in-hand with me talking about being excited to be back on the mat. Being allowed to compete and do so healthy, it kind of follows this excitement. I just wanted to get back out there. I know the first match was not very long, but I remember getting off the mat and calling my dad telling him, Man, that felt freaking awesome. Honestly though, if I would’ve lost I would have said the same thing. I missed competing, I missed going out there, and I missed hearing that whistle. I missed the intensity of it. It was definitely something special and dear to my heart, that’s why I do what I do and why it’s the way I compete and make sacrifices.
But yeah, being healthy, I can’t tell you the last time I competed 100% healthy, and today was that day, thankfully.
5PM: I know you move around with a lot of big guys in your room, but I’m sure it’s different when you’re going against adrenalized, intense, live opponents in competition. Were there any major adjustments you had to make? At that first point of contact, was it like, Oh, this feels different? Or did you assimilate naturally right away?
Sheridan: No, there are definitely adjustments that need to be made. Coach (Bruce) Robinson and I went over this. When I was at 85 kilos, I was one of the taller 85’s. If I got an underhook, I usually had to pull them up to my height because I didn’t want to be bent over with my hips out. Now at 97, I’m a little bit on the shorter side, so I need to keep my weight underneath me and keep my legs underneath me, and then kind of slowly drive and push them (opponents). So it is a completely different style. I didn’t really know how it would feel coming into it, but Coach Robinson and I discussed multiple times how, Hey, it’s going to be a little bit different, I’m going from being the tall guy at the weight class to being a short guy at the weight class.
5PM: The Open is the Open. You have about three and a half weeks before that event in Vegas. Is there such a thing as momentum coming off of a performance like this?
Lucas Sheridan: There is and there isn’t. My first Senior tournament was the NYAC two years ago. I remember Coach (Shon) Lewis talking to me and the team afterwards. It was a similar situation. The NYAC was in November and then the US Open was in December. He looked at us and said, “Listen, the wrestler you were today, you should not be that same wrestler three weeks from now at the Open. You should be a completely different animal, a completely new monster.” I was telling my dad that today, too. I expect to be leaps and bounds better at the Open once I get a little more training in me, a little more lifting, a little more everything. I should not be anywhere near the wrestler I was today regardless if I had won, lost, or went 0-2. That shouldn’t come into play. I should always be improving and making gains constantly.