USA Greco

Listen for the ‘Thunder’: Getting Acquainted with Malcolm Allen

malcolm allen, 130 kg, minnesota storm
Malcolm Allen -- Photo: John Sachs

The only way you could have missed Malcolm Allen (130 kg, Minnesota Storm) this past year is if you had your head firmly stuck in the sand.

Virtually out of nowhere, Allen debuted on the Senior Greco-Roman scene at the 2016 US Nationals last year in Las Vegas. Once a state champ in his native New York, Allen later completed his collegiate career at Minnesota State, going out with a runner-up finish at the Division II Nationals. He may have been a name in that walk of life, but not here, not now. Allen entered the field in Vegas as an unknown commodity, just one of many new faces at an event the more experienced lot tend to crush back into anonymity.

A pin in his opening match didn’t gain a ton of notice, and a technical-fall loss next time out to 2011 Junior World bronze medalist and multiple-time National Team member Toby Erickson (Army/WCAP) figured to be par for the course. Until…

Until Allen came out like a ball of fire for his first bout in the consolation bracket, where he quickly dispatched fellow prospect Zack Wilcox (MWC). That win earned him a shot at a bronze medal, and he seized it in full. Allen defeated Marine Corps upstart Eric Fader in the consolation finals, good for third-place in his first Senior event. Just in case anyone thought that Open performance was a fluke, Allen quieted any remaining doubters six weeks later when he brushed past two foreign opponents en-route to a tournament victory at the Dave Schultz Memorial. Quite a way to introduce yourself to a sport which not too long before, had hardly appeared on your radar.

And that is the point. Allen, with his short but immensely powerful frame, arrived in Greco much the same way a booming clap of thunder can startle you awake from the midst of a peaceful slumber. Just check him out: his legs don’t look like legs, but rather, as if some scientist in a lab thought to him or herself, What would happen if we stacked two locomotive engines on top of one another? Then there is Allen’s top half, which is similarly wide and provides the battering ram necessary to break down the posture of his opponents just as he begins to settle into the fight. However green Allen might have come into Greco-Roman, he has quickly learned how to weaponize his body in a manner that has helped lead to early success.

But this is just the beginning phase. There will be more. More lessons learned on the job, more wins, more hope, and just maybe, more excitement for a sport that could use it at the moment. This is an athlete waiting for your discovery. We call Allen “Thunder Struck” just because it seems to sum up both his style and the blitzing fashion in which he established his presence. Now that he’s here, it is probably a good idea to make yourself familiar with what he’s capable of. Because why risk disrupting a good night’s sleep?

Malcolm Allen — 130 kg, Minnesota Storm

5PM: You were a New York state champ in high school, continued on at Nassau Community College, moved on to Iowa Central, and then finished up your scholastic career with a runner-up finish at the Division II Nationals wrestling for Minnesota State. How did you find your way into Senior Greco-Roman competition after all this?

Malcolm Allen: Honestly, I didn’t know Minnesota was actually so good at Greco. I went to Jim Makovsky, the head coach at Minnesota State-Mankato, and he and I are on really great terms. I can go to him and talk about anything. It was just one day where I was sitting in his office and telling him how I didn’t want to stop wrestling yet. He said, “Alright, well then don’t.” I just didn’t know how to get onto the Senior circuit and how all that works, so I asked him. I needed some guidance and he said he’d help me out. He knew some guys from the Minnesota Storm and I guess upon calling a few people, Dan Chandler felt that I would be best suited for some Greco-Roman.

5PM: He was correct, and then you immediately found yourself in a room with several talented big men and so you not only started training Greco, but I’m assuming you also realized pretty quickly how terrific of a team you’re actually with.

MA: Yeah, I do. From the very first practice I had in the room, I was like, Okay… I was introduced to everyone and after getting to know them, I remember driving home thinking to myself, We might have something going here, this is a good team I’m with, and it turned out to be true. I’m glad everything worked out and that I am on a team with these guys.

5PM: When you started becoming acclimated to how Greco works, the differences in positioning and the pace, so on and so forth, what did you initially find to be the biggest adjustments you had to make right off the bat?

MA: The positioning was really big. It was pissing me off a lot, actually. My very first practice I went with Chad Johnson and we did some whatever-at-the-time I thought was Greco. I was pretty much just wrestling and not going for a shot. That was basically all I knew about Greco. And I did okay. But then I went and wrestled with Tony Nelson, and even though he’s not really known as a Greco wrestler, he did what he could with me and I quickly learned it was a whole nother ballgame. The first month, I really didn’t like Greco at all because I was getting beat up on and it was just mentally frustrating. I couldn’t get the stance or the positioning right. It was frustrating, to say the least.

5PM: It might have been frustrating, but there had to have been a turning point, whether this was recognized by you, Chandler, or Brandon Paulson, whomever, that you were ready for competition or at least on the path towards that. What was that point for you where you realized, Hey, I could do this, I understand what’s going on now?

MA: I was training with Jim Richardson down in Grand Meadow and he was really working with me a lot on the little things to introduce me to Greco. It was to a point where I was getting down my positioning, or in his words, getting down that “Greco feel”, getting that natural feel of where my hand placement needs to be, my footing, having my chest up, my head up, and once I got that down I was working on an arm drag and things like that. Once we got those down and I was using them in some live go’s and actually winning in the practice room, that was when we decided to give it a green light.

5PM: Your big debut at the Nationals in Vegas, knowing the scope of competition that was going to be present there, be that Toby (Erickson), Jacob Mitchell and others, what were your expectations going in?

MA: I didn’t have any expectations at all. I was really just going out there seeing what I’ve got for myself. You know, I can wrestle. I can wrestle. But I didn’t know how a Greco match would go and I just wanted to see how I would do, and so did the coaches. It was to go out and wrestle hard, those were really my expectations. To just go out there, wrestle hard, and let the chips fall where they may.

5PM: But you went in there and took third, defeating a guy (Eric Fader), who although young, had some experience on you, too. When you go ahead and take third, does your competitive standard just all of the sudden completely rise?

Malcolm Allen: No, but it came down to, and this is me talking, that we know I’m pretty good, so let’s see how far we can take this. So I would step up my individual workouts. I would work out on my own and really work on the Greco craft. I started watching more and more Greco matches and seeing how the World Team guys wrestle, and paying attention to their mentality when they go out on the mat.

I guess you could say my standard did go up, yeah (laughs). I guess it has to. It had to go up because I made a statement and I have to keep it going.

5PM: Then you make another statement, a bigger statement, by winning the Schultz. If you weren’t on people’s watchlists, you definitely were after that. And the best part is that you had to win that tournament by grinding your way through it and you also beat two foreign opponents. So if the standard was raised after the Open, I can only imagine how you felt after the Schultz. 

MA: Everyone was happy, we were all happy that I won and that big things would happen. But we also knew I would have to step up my conditioning and get that Greco-licious feel. It was more the fact that I know I could wrestle and to just keep things simple, wrestle, and things will work out in the end.

5PM: After that was the Hungarian Grand Prix, your first overseas experience. It was your first overseas tournament, your first overseas camp. Competitively, it wasn’t the same success you experienced right out of the gate, but I would have to think the most valuable part of that trip was probably the camp, right?

MA: Yes, that is right, and getting to learn new moves and just seeing how these other countries practice and their mentality. That was really big for me, seeing how other people do it, how they go about it, and where I need to step my game up. That was really what I gained from it.

But the tournament did take some wind out of my sails mentally because I don’t think I should have lost to that guy in my first match (Laszlo Balough). I knew I shouldn’t have and it put me down, because it was really the first time in awhile where I wrestled and felt like I had no control in my abilities for some reason. It just felt weird. And the matches were run differently. I was the very first match of the tournament and that has never happened to me, ever (laughs). I didn’t know if it was an American thing and they just wanted an American guy to go. I didn’t know what was going on. I like to get in my zone, you know? That’s why you see me bouncing around and dancing before matches, and I didn’t get the time to do that. That match was just different.

5PM: One of the things you always hear about, especially from athletes who are newer, is the feel of foreign opponents. In America, we play more of a grinding game. Overseas, they are a little more technical, a little looser, a little more open. You had the camp, but it’s not the same when the whistle blows. What was your first response to the “foreign feel” competitively?

MA: It’s like they are more passive but still stout, and that was weird to me. On the first contact, I’ll take a hard step and I’m ready to brace for contact right away. They’ll go in to step and move out of the way, and it just felt different. I kind of thought to myself, I didn’t learn this, I didn’t learn this piece of Greco yet. But it was fun to be a part of it and to get that experience, for sure. Even when we would do live go’s at the camp I would get frustrated because I’d get in the most perfect stance I could get into, and they would just dig in underhooks like it’s their job (laughs). I was getting so frustrated because I’m doing everything my coaches tell me to, I’m doing everything I am supposed to be doing, and they are just getting these underhooks like they’re nothing. And that would just piss me off the entire time. I would just be pissed because I didn’t know what the hell was going on (laughs).

5PM: It’s probably something you want a lot more of though.

MA: Oh yeah, for sure.

5PM: Is going overseas again in your plans for 2017-18?

Malcolm Allen: We have to see what the coaches want to do with that and go from there. I would love to go, but it’s all up to them.

5PM: The World Team Trials, another solid performance, though it probably didn’t turn out how you would have liked…

MA: No.

5PM: You just said “no”, so we’ll continue right there. What did you like about your performance at the Trials and what did you not like?

MA: I liked placing, it was nice to see where I fell. But the matches that I lost came down to mental hiccups. Especially against Toby Erickson, that was where maybe experience came into play. I’m going to take you through the match. It was like :15 into it and I’m on his fingers. The ref goes, “Off the fingers.” He comes up to smack the hands to break the lock. Most of the time, I don’t even realize the ref is there, you know? But for some odd reason, I looked the ref right in the eyes and that distracted me. That was what let Toby get the underhook, he threw it by, took me down, and rolled me. It was a mental hiccup, because I never even usually realize that the ref is there. But to get so distracted that I let what took place take place, it pissed me off. As he got the first takedown, it messed me up, it messed me up a lot, to be honest. I was more pissed at myself because I let myself lose instead of it just being me getting beat.

5PM: You said you don’t usually even realize the refs are there. Well one of the things with Greco is that often the refs make sure you know they are there. So did you have to just log this as another learning experience?

MA: Yeah, that was what I took it as. It was more of a learning experience that the ref is there. He’s going to get close at times and yell, and you can’t react to it. It just pissed me off. I’m still pissed about it, because I know I can roll with Toby. I can roll with that guy, man, and these past couple of meetings between he and I have just been disappointing because I know I can wrestle better than that. And it’s nothing like he’s in my head or anything like that. It’s just that I know I can roll with him.

5PM: Something I wanted to ask you is about your height. You obviously fall on the shorter side of heavyweight.

MA: (Laughs) Yeah.

5PM: Robby Smith is a shorter heavyweight and one of the things he has had to battle with is where his head is located so as to not get wrongfully accused of being passive even if he being crazy active. Is that something you are cognizant of, as well? 

MA: Yes, definitely. That is a big thing I am figuring out, also. Height actually does play a role in Greco because it is easier to get in on my head and sometimes, I will put myself in that situation to where I will let them get a front head so I can pick through. But as you get better and as people learn my style of wrestling, that window isn’t going to be there anymore. At practice, I am working on positioning with taller guys. I’ve been wrestling with (Donny) Longendyke now, and he’s like, what, 6’4? So he’s a good guy for me to be working with regarding this situation. I think being a shorter guy, the passivity calls are…it’s not that I’m being passive, but how am I supposed to stand up if he’s a foot taller than I am? You know what I mean? I’m not being passive, I’m trying to wrestle him, but he’s a foot taller, so what the hell am I supposed to do?

5PM: How have you spent your summer?

MA: I’ve spent my summer working. But I’ve been training, as well. After the World Team Camp, I moved up to Minneapolis to train full-time with the Storm because I was still down in Mankato. That was also one of the difficulties of last year. This year, not so much, so I am looking forward to what can happen this year with the more mat time I can get with the Storm guys, with my team.

5PM: Obviously, it is September and the Dave Schultz Memorial is in November. First and foremost, are you entering the Schultz to defend your title, as it were, and also, what is your plan competitively for the proceeding months after?

Malcolm Allen: I am going to wrestle at the Schultz. As for the months after, I’ll be wrestling at the Bill Farrell, but I don’t know what the coaching staff has in store for us between the Schultz and the Farrell. So I’ll just be training and going from there.

Follow Malcolm Allen on Instagram to keep up with his career and competitive schedule. 

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