Perennial contender Alec Ortiz (77 kg, Minnesota Storm) has a reputation for providing entertainment. Big entertainment. Ortiz may be a wrestler, but he has much more in common with a throwback pugilist who knocks down opponents — and gets knocked down. A lot. He piles up points, he gives points up. Throws or gets thrown. This is practically an every-match occurrence. Ortiz is a skilled individual, there’s no question about it. But for some reason, the native Oregonian just can’t help himself when it comes to being dragged into slugfests, for better or worse.
Many have theorized that part of Ortiz’s approach to Greco and its accompanying pitfalls has to do with the landscape. Domestic opposition tends to be more…static. So Ortiz, full of pent-up aggression and not exactly a huge proponent of patience, often feels compelled to press the issue, sometimes to his own detriment. This has all delivered gripping theater for fans of the sport though it has yet to result in Ortiz achieving what he and every other US athlete is devoted to — earning a spot at the Senior World Championships with a chance to medal.
One element missing from Ortiz’s Senior career thus far has been overseas training. He’s had chances to compete and train with foreigners on home soil, but that’s about it. The last time Ortiz got to mix it up across the Atlantic came all the way back in 2010 as a member of the US Junior World Team in Budapest. Seven-plus years. We’re talking over seven years since one of the country’s most consistent Greco-Roman competitors has had the opportunity to further hone his skills internationally, tack on some European nuance, or compete against other like-minded scorers unafraid to take risks at the same breakneck pace as he. Quite a stretch.
But thankfully, that is all about to change. Ortiz is currently on his way to Denmark for this coming weekend’s Thor Masters Invitational and its subsequent training camp in Nykøbing Falster. He’ll be able to get some matches in on Saturday before spending the week banging heads with a substantial number of new partners in the name of improvement. If you are a fan of Ortiz, the Storm, or USA Greco in general, this is important news and it will be interesting to see what kind of impact the Denmark tour has on him going forward.
Of course, there are some questions in need of being answered before any of that is evident and Ortiz was happy to offer his perspective.
Alec Ortiz — 77 kg, Minnesota Storm
5PM: Do you harbor any bitterness that it has taken this long for you to get over to Europe as a Senior? I ask only because I know a lot of people have been waiting to see you get on a trip.
Alec Ortiz: I wouldn’t say so, I’m just more excited now to get the opportunity to do it. Every time I’ve had teammates go overseas, it has opened up space for me to train more one-on-one with my coaches here in town, so it hasn’t been a situation where I’ve felt left out in the cold. I’m more just excited that I was finally able to put it together. I am also thankful that my wife decided to give me a kick in the butt. She said, “Hey, we can afford this. If we’re going to send you over there, now would be a good time to do it.” So, I’m just happy it is happening.
5PM: Not as a critique, just an observation, but one line of thinking could be that going over there and training might serve to sort of balance your style out. Do you feel the same way?
Ortiz: I think so. I think that any time I can get exposed to different styles and pick up things that might fit into my odd of arsenal of weaponry, it’s going to be a good thing. Obviously, staying more basic and not opening myself up to getting thrown would be beneficial, but maybe being a little more offensive and picking up some foreign technique that maybe Americans don’t teach or aren’t comfortable teaching might fit in there with my crazy style a little bit.
5PM: When did you find out you were going and what kind of plans did you have to put in place to make it happen?
Ortiz: Let’s see… I want to say that the deadline to get names in was like, January 19th, and I was probably the first or second week of January. I was real close to the deadline because like I said, it was my wife who brought it up. She keeps a better eye on the schedule than I do, so I just try to show up and wrestle. She keeps an eye on logistics, so for the most part, I can do that. Especially today, this opportunity, we have the funds right now to do this. She said, “If you want to do this, you should probably figure it out now because spots are probably going to fill up.” So I had to get in touch with Coach (Matt) Lindland and see if there was still room. It was kind of one of those things where I asked if I could tag along.
5PM: If you had to put a percentage on it and split this trip up into a pie graph, how much of it is about learning/training, how much is about the competition, and how much is about embracing what is essentially in some ways, a new experience?
Ortiz: I don’t know, that’s a really good question. Obviously right now, the first thing to think about is making weight and the competition will come first. But then it’s nice that the training is on the back-end because otherwise, I might be thinking about keeping my weight down or thinking more about the competition if it was reversed. So I don’t know if I can necessarily put a percentage on it, I just know that it’s something I’m looking forward to because I will get a variety of looks. It’s not like I am just going for a quick trip where I compete and come back, or just going over there to train. I have a mix of both. So I don’t know, I don’t know if I could put a percentage on it. I’m pretty excited about every aspect of the trip.
5PM: The timing plays into this to a certain degree. It’s February and maybe you can’t answer this right now, but what kind of effect are you hoping this tour will have on your game and how do you plan to apply whatever it is you pick up and add it to your arsenal in time for the Open and the Trials, which are still a bit aways?
Ortiz: I think I am going to focus on the things that work well with my style. One thing I was definitely good at when I was younger was picking up something in practice and deciding that, This is what I’m going to do. Whether it was arm throws, headlocks, whatever it is, I would be like, Today, it’s going to be that. I would focus on that (move) and try to see if it worked with what I do. So I think if I find something that really works, whether it’s a move or just a way of preparing — whatever that is — I’m trying to emulate that as much as I can for the next couple of competitions and see how it goes.
Everything is a test run until we get to the World Team Trials, so I’m trying to look at it objectively. I plan to take as many notes as I can and ask my coaches. I’m going to have the opportunity to have a teammate there in Pat Smith. We’ve been wrestling together for, shoot, almost eight years now, so he knows my style pretty well. I can ask him, Hey, is this working? Does it fit? Kind of use him as a resource because this isn’t his first trip over there and he definitely knows a lot about wrestling, and he knows a lot about my style of wrestling.
5PM: What are you looking forward to most about the trip that isn’t wrestling-related?
Alec Ortiz: I’m looking forward to taking some pictures, actually. I brought my camera with me. Photography has always been something that takes a little bit of the edge off during competition. It gives me something else to focus on so I don’t get too wrapped up in it, taking pictures of the competition and then the scenery all over the place. When I was in Budapest, I honestly can’t remember much from that trip in terms of what I saw because so much of it was focused on the wrestling, and I don’t know how many opportunities I’ll get in life to go overseas. I’d kind of like to take it in and take some photos that way in a couple of years, it’ll kind of jog my memory, Oh, so that’s what that looked like. Because like I said, I don’t remember much from Budapest just because it was so long ago and I was so focused on the wrestling, and the wrestling was over quick. But then I was just distraught. It was like, Now what do I do? I don’t want to go exploring, I don’t want to sightsee, I just lost. So I would just say the whole experience, really.