The day after the 2019 Bill Farrell Memorial comes to an end, a contingent of USA Greco-Roman Seniors are flying to Tbilisi, Georgia for a much-talked-about two-week camp. One of the athletes in attendance will be Austin Morrow (67 kg, NYAC/OTS), the friendly-faced Northern Michigan product who has firmly established himself as viable contender for this Olympic Year.
Training alongside the Georgians is Morrow’s current priority, primarily because he is not competing on Friday. And since the stakes involved this season are exceptionally high, he is hoping to use the overseas jaunt as a catalyst for a successful showing at December’s Trials Qualifier and beyond.
There is more than enough solid evidence to support Morrow’s perceived candidacy. Over the past three years — and following a pair of injury-forced hiatuses — he has made considerable strides domestically, which is saying something considering the top-heavy field at 67 kilograms in the United States. Even last season, Morrow was in the argument at both the US Open and World Team Trials Challenge Tournament until his most recent domestic rival, former University World bronze and ’19 Final X runner-up Jamel Johnson (Marines), got in the way.
As was the case for every US wrestler who didn’t punch a ticket to Nur-Sultan, Morrow went back to the drawing board over the summer. He and his Marquette brethren such as Dalton Roberts (60 kg, NYAC/OTS), Colin Schubert (77 kg, NYAC/OTS), Khymba Johnson (87 kg, NYAC/OTS), and Sammy Jones (60 kg, NYAC/OTS) all have busy lives off the mat, so they have been compelled to maximize their time on it, often together. Morrow seems to find solace in these relationships personally, but they have also served as another source of motivation to power through the kinds of everyday struggles which come with living life as a full-time American athlete.
Morrow’s driven attitude is what helps him the most, and truth be told, that might be even more important right now than anything he is capable of technically. Few athletes have had to pick themselves up and dust themselves off as much as this one has — another piece of evidence pointing to why Morrow definitely shouldn’t be ignored once early-April finally hits.
Austin Morrow — 67 kg, NYAC/OTS
5PM: You’re going to the Farrell as a fan. So, as a fan, which weight class are you most interested in checking out, outside of your own?
Austin Morrow: (Laughs) Gosh, that’s a tough one! 60 and 77 probably right now, just because I want to see. Sammy (Jones) and I have been on a pretty strict diet plan, just getting our weight down the healthy way, and he has been looking really good lately. So, I’m excited to see how he does. At 77, you’re going to have Colin Schubert, Spencer Woods, and Tommy Brackett all cutting down. Plus, Ben (Provisor) is going to be there. It’s going to be a brawl. I’m most excited for 77, I think.
5PM: I know you can be a hard marker at times, but you showed a lot last season, especially since you haven’t had a full quad of competition. Even though you didn’t accomplish your ultimate goal of getting on the World Team, did you take any positives from your ability to compete last season?
AM: Yeah, big time. I think the biggest thing I took away wasn’t necessarily results or even skill-based, but more on the mental side of things. After the Trials, I got real down on myself, real hard on myself. I went to a bachelor party for one of my real good friends about ten days out. I’m not making an excuse, I trained, as well. But I felt like I didn’t do everything I could to prepare myself. So I was real hard on myself and real down. Then I took a couple of weeks off to kind of reflect.
This year especially, I feel good about preparation and doing the right things and I think I am in a better place mentally than I have ever been in terms of competition. If I’m doing everything I can, if I am making the right decisions, and if I compete my hardest — if I do all of the things that I can control — then I feel that I can win every match I’m in. In terms of mentality, it definitely helped for this year.
5PM: When the Trials did end last year, how long did it take you to bounce back? Also, how did you spend this interim throughout the summer leading up to now as far as training with a purpose-driven approach?
AM: It took about two or three weeks to bounce back to where I was 100% confident in myself again. After the Trials, I had $8 in my bank account. I traveled back to Marquette and I didn’t have a home. I was homeless, so I was couch-surfing the dorms. Dalton Roberts, I stayed on his couch for a little bit. I got real lucky, because my employer — I work at a bar and do a handyman service with Sammy Jones — the owner of the bar let me stay in their house. They are a married couple so they didn’t have to do that. They were really kind. I got back on my feet and started working a ton. I started doing a lot of lifts and technique with Dalton, Colin, Sammy, Spencer, and all of those guys. Just wrestling and brawling. I started saying to myself, Hey, I think I can really make the Olympic Team and win a medal.
We have had Joe Sade, who wrestled in the 1976 Olympics, coming in the room working with us and a lot the older guys, just mentality-wise and telling stories. I have been doing the mental training with Andy (Bisek) every other Wednesday, and Jake (Hunter) from Wrestling Mindset. Super cool dude. That has been helping a ton.
5PM: Is this the strongest group of athletes in the room at one time you’ve had at Northern since you’ve been there?
Austin Morrow: I would say yes, in terms of there are a lot of guys still here who were around when I first got here. The growth that I have seen is insane, we have a lot of really good young guys. Benji (Peak) and Alston (Nutter), they are two studs. They’re young, but they can compete on the Senior level well. In terms of overall, I would say yeah.
5PM: This camp for Tbilisi, everyone who is going is pumped about it. You’ve had some overseas camp over the past couple of years, why are you looking forward to this one so much?
AM: Sammy and I were talking about this at the Thor (Masters) camp, we were laughing to ourselves because we had gone to the Clubs Cup camp in Budapest (2016) together. We have gone to a lot of camps and tournaments (overseas) together and we always laugh because the first couple of years we were getting whooped up on, getting womp’ed (laughs). We were like, Wow, these guys are way better than us. But the Thor camp was the first camp at the Senior level where we were scoring a bunch of points and being competitive. It was more fun.
We were talking about this the other day, how we have a chance to go to this great Senior camp where we are going to be getting points scored on us while learning. So yeah, the length of the camp, but also just being at the level where you can compete and have fun with it is what I am looking most forward to.
5PM: How do you take a camp like this and use it to build yourself some momentum going into December?
AM: What I do is bring a little notebook and I write down three things I did well, and three things I need to work on. I try to improve on those, and then at the end of the camp I can look back at my notes and see, The first day I was attempting some stuff with a slide-by but it wasn’t working; the second day I changed it up and started scoring with it. Taking that and building confidence in what I’m doing for competition.
5PM: In your mind as an athlete, what makes 67 kilos such an attractive weight class worldwide?
Austin Morrow: I feel like it’s the perfect weight. You see the lighter weights being really quick, and the heavier weights are the big strong guys. 67, even 77, I feel like is that perfect middle ground where you are going to have great athletes who are going to be fast, and then there are guys who are going to be really strong and also fast. Every weight is going to be like that at the top level, but I feel like 67 is right in the middle. There are a lot of people all around the world at that weight. The pool you can pick from is almost endless.