It’s not so bad being Alex Sancho. At a mere 22 years of age, he has youth on his side. He is also tucked away up at Northern Michigan with a steady training environment he can rely on. To top it all off, he’s a two-time National Team member who is just starting to hit his stride. So it doesn’t seem like there is too much missing in this athlete’s young career. Sancho has opportunities waiting for him. Then again, that’s the issue — he wants more of them and they can’t come soon enough. Fortunately for him, business is about to pick up in a hurry.
Sancho is currently in the process of preparing for next month’s 2016 non-Olympic Weight World Team Trials in New York City. The Miami native, who normally competes at 66 kilograms, will be moving up to the non-Olympic 71 weight class in hopes of making his first Senior US World Team. He will then be flying out with the rest of Team USA to compete at the prestigious Golden Grand Prix in Baku, Azerbaijan two weeks later, also at 71 kg. But the weight itself has little to do with his aspirations. For now, Sancho just can’t wait to get back on the mat.
“I love having competition,” Sancho admits. “I want to get these matches in, especially against foreign opponents, and test my skills.” Sancho had originally qualified in early June to represent the US at the University World Championships, which take place this week in Corum, Turkey. Those plans were cut short when USA Wrestling declined to send its team as a security precaution. Now with one tournament after another potentially on the horizon, that gap in competition Sancho has been forced to deal with is going to get closed up pretty quickly.
“It’s going to be good for me to get all these matches in before the Open,” agrees Sancho. “It is going to be like a three-week training camp and then a competition.”
Sancho is similarly enthusiastic about wrestling up a weight, but not because his regular cut is so bothersome for him. It is simply due to the fact that it has allowed him some time to pack some muscle on while having a date to look forward to. 66 kilos is barely a cut at this point for Sancho, which means that 71 requires he pay a little extra attention to his frame. Even though, he still feels 66 is his home.
“This is going to be another challenge for me,” Sancho says. “I wanted to go up another weight class and just get stronger, and then come back down to 66 for the Open. 66 kilos is my go-to weight class, I’m good in that weight class, so I am just going to go up to 71 to get stronger and test myself at that bigger weight. There are going to be some good guys there (in NY), but I’m looking good and ready for that tournament.”
Perhaps another reason why Sancho is intent on returning to competition has to do with development. Despite his run of success over the past couple of years, this is an athlete who is constantly on the lookout for more chances to learn. It is part of his own personal training plan. Sancho, a Junior National Champion in 2012, knows that Greco Roman at the highest levels is wrestled in a different way. Now that he has established himself as a major player on the US scene, he can’t help but be reminded of the dues he had to pay every time new recruits show up at Northern Michigan.
“At Northern, they have a veteran like me now and I wrestle with the freshman who come in, and they feel me out so they know the level they should be for Greco,” explains Sancho. “When I first started up, I didn’t have someone like me, Kendrick (Sanders), and the other guys here. I traveled so much my freshman year and got my ass beat so many times, but I learned. You have to use your offense, your arm drags, your headlocks, and it’s all hand control.”
Times have certainly changed. No longer is Sancho a wide-eyed doe fawn wandering the woods. He has seen top competition in all of its forms and his own skills have skyrocketed along the way. Now it’s all about the goal to represent the United States at the World Championships, something he will try to do in a few weeks and then again next year. Progress, as always, is fluid.
“I am definitely going in to win and I have to step it up to make that World Team finally. There are some good guys who will be there, so it should be an exciting tournament. But I am just going in to win.”