Although Dalton Roberts (NYAC/OTS) insists he hasn’t “accomplished much”, his resume would beg to differ.
When he takes the mat at the U23 World Championships later this month, it will mark the fifth year in a row Roberts has appeared in a World-level event. It’s a streak that began back in 2015, when the Northern Michigan standout was a fresh-faced Junior. In the time since, Roberts has not only continued to make World Teams, but he has also shined on the Senior circuit, coming away with a National crown and a spot on the Senior squad in ’18. Add in the variety of international medals that Roberts has also earned, and it’s a little difficult to agree with his hard-hitting assessment.
But at the same time, you get it.
Roberts, 23, holds himself to an extraordinarily high standard in terms of both workrate and competitive success. And the truth is, a World medal is still missing from his collection. Roberts is still young, of course; and is considered a serious contender for the US Olympic Team coming up in 2020. That being said, athletes can never take World tournaments for granted. Coveted places at the table are never guaranteed, and like any devoted competitor, Roberts wants to make the most of every opportunity that comes his way.
What that looks like this fall is a return to Budapest, where he suited up last year as a Senior World Teamer — but in a different weight class: 63 kilograms, or, three kilograms heavier than Roberts’ usual weight. It was a decision the Fowlerville, Michigan native made over the spring and the extra flexibility has offered a nice little wrinkle throughout the training block. Not like it matters much. Roberts is a lot to handle at any weight, and figures to be even more so with some extra calories running through his system.
The target date is Friday, November 1 and Roberts is ready to go. The hard part is over with. Now it’s about maintaining the edge before letting loose come match day. This kind of thing is his comfort zone. Roberts is only at peace when battle is near. And while he’ll have a whole lot more battles left after this one, it is this one for the moment he is looking forward to the most.
Dalton Roberts — 63 kg, NYAC/OTS
5PM: One of the things that have been different about the U23 Worlds is that there is a decent amount of distance between the Trials and the World tournament. How have you used your time throughout the summer insofar as camps, training, and then ramping things up more recently?
Dalton Roberts: I spent my summer working, and Austin Morrow and I road-tripped with Spencer Woods out to Colorado for the World Team camp. I thought it was important to get out there. Not only for myself; I wanted to help Ildar (Hafizov) and the other guys because they helped me last year. It’s just important to get out to those camps and train with the guys you don’t see often because you get a lot out of it. We’re all just trying to push each other and raise the standard in the US. That’s just the biggest goal, not just pushing ourselves, but others, as well.
I made it out to Colorado and made it back to Marquette, and I’ve been up here training ever since.
5PM: How is it maintaining a different weight? Has it been a little bit easier for you at 63?
Roberts: Yeah, I guess. I’m not usually worried about my weight. I don’t have to worry my weight much at 60 kilos, and definitely less so at 63. Right now, I’m relatively one or two kilos over everyday for 63, which I guess puts me on the smaller end of people who are also wrestling 63. But it doesn’t bother me. It just gives me another chip on my shoulder, like, Alright, you think you’re bigger than me? You might be bigger than me, but you’re not going to be better than me. You’re not going to be meaner than me, you’re not going to be badder than me. It’s another edge people might think they have, but they don’t.
Staying right around there, I haven’t really worried about it. Earlier in the summer I was trying to put on weight, but now I am just kind of enjoying what I eat. I am mindful of it and how it affects me, but my weight has been pretty good.
5PM: You wrestled in the U23 Worlds two years ago, and last year you were in the Senior World tournament. Going from U23 to Senior, and now back to U23, has that changed the way you view this event?
Roberts: You can’t underestimate anyone at U23 because the guys who aren’t Senior representatives yet are going to be in the following years. (Kenichiro) Fumita just won Worlds. Well, he beat (Sergey) Emelin the year I was there at 60 kilos. Both of those guys are now Senior World representatives. I treat it the same as Senior Worlds, and I treat it the same as any World Championship. You have to respect the guys because they’re good, but you can’t give them too much respect.
5PM: This is the fifth year in a row you’re competing at a Worlds. You’re too young to reflect back on your body of work, but as we move towards the end of a quad, do you think about your progress at all and the fact you are consistently in the argument and making strides?
Roberts: It means something, but it doesn’t mean a whole lot. I feel as though I haven’t accomplished much until I get a World Championship or a World medal, at the least. It’s cool to say you’re a National champ or whatever, but it doesn’t mean anything to anyone outside of the country, and it doesn’t mean anything to anyone inside the country. It’s just a cool little thing to say. But to say you’re the best in the world or one of the best in the world, that’s what I want. The steps to getting there? They are important, but they’re not everything.
5PM: This one is in Budapest, you were there last year. Does that do anything for you? A lot of people like Hungary.
Roberts: Yeah, I like Budapest. The people are really kind, the city is huge, and I’ve been there before, so there is a little familiarity. Last time, I learned not to eat the street kabobs from the sketchy dealers. After the Senior Worlds, I had a street kabob and that whole night I was puking. You can’t trust all of them. If I see that guy again, I’ll know (laughs).
5PM: You’re about two weeks out. What phase of training are you in now? Is this a tapering phase, or is there still some more work left?
Dalton Roberts: We went hard when Matt (Lindland) was up here. We had some tough and intense practices. This last week we had some short but hard go’s along with some practices off. That was more of a taper last week, and this week will be one last five or six-day-long push and then taper. That’s how it’s going to go.