Back in early February, just before the US delegation was set to take off for Croatia ahead of the Zagreb Grand Prix, G’Angelo Hancock (97 kg, Sunkist, world no. 3) casually laid out how he saw the trip unfolding.
“I’m looking at Croatia as the same thing as the Dave Schultz, as a warm-up tournament,” he said at the time. “I’m still getting warmed up with Croatia and I am going to use that to get a sense of feel. And then when I go to Hungary I am going to start getting more and more serious, start honing in.”
He couldn’t have been much more accurate when assessing the situation. At the first tournament in Zagreb, Hancock defeated Abolfazi Seyedmahdavi (IRI) and Lee Se-Yeol (KOR), lost a weird match to Ilya Borisov (RUS), and then downed Adam Varga (HUN) to come away with bronze. Two weeks of training in Hungary followed and then it was the Hungarian Grand Prix, the second straight United World Wrestling “Ranking Series” event of the tour.
However impressive Hancock was in Zagreb, he was even more so in Gyor. He had wrestled Lee again, only this time he blitzed the Korean via tech in the first. The dominoes just started falling after that. Next was a tough decision over Abudourexiti Alimujiang (CHN) — and an even tougher one opposite Hassan Ali Aryanezhad (IRI). In the weight class final, Hancock was forced to come back in the second period against Fatih Baskoy (TUR). A late takedown helped seal the criteria victory, as well as Hancock’s surge up UWW’s top-20.
He had the tour pegged correctly, if not exactly, but it also continued on longer than originally expected. For after one more camp in Germany once Hungary wrapped up, Hancock decided to compete in last weekend’s Thor Masters, where he finished third.
When you add it all up, it comes out to over seven weeks in Europe, three training camps, three tournaments, and three medals (including a gold). Hancock has stayed busy, which is something he relishes, especially when it involves prolonged stays overseas. With the current camp in Denmark nearly through and soon to be followed by his return home, now seemed like a great time for pulse check.
G’Angelo Hancock — 97 kg, Sunkist
5PM: After seven weeks of nonstop training and three big events, how does your body feel?
G’Angelo Hancock: I feel very strong. Sometimes wrestlers need a break. I feel so young that the last thing I need right now is a break. As tough as Greco-Roman is, and it is, I’m still feeling fresh after being over here for almost two months. Plus you know what? These guys (foreigners) have been doing this since they were children. This camp is insane, Hungary was insane, too. So the way I look at it is, these guys train like animals, so why shouldn’t I? They perform as well, if not better than we do, and they go hard. The next big target for me is Russia. I want to see how they train, see how they’re doing it. So, there’s no reason to take a break. If I want to win, I need to jump in any damn lions’ dens they’re in.
5PM: Three tournaments, three medals. Consistency has been a theme lately. Does that say anything to you, even though we know how you feel about being ranked?
GH: It doesn’t say much to me other than that I’m on the right track. There’s nothing really much else to say. Embracing the fight is a big part of it. These camps are grit, grind, and pain, and I don’t train this hard to give anything up. If I give up a fucking point it’s because I lack training in that area. When you’re in the US — and I don’t mean this in any way to downtalk — it is different than training with the best guys in the world. You can make the mistake of lowering your level at home. You cannot do that over here. There’s no give training overseas and you have to prepare that way. If you take something from me, you’re going to have to earn it. Before, it used to almost be okay. Now it’s not. When I am training over here, the flaws are becoming easier to point out. They weren’t before. But now that I am keying in, I know what to look for.
5PM: How has the Denmark camp been going for you? I ask because it’s the last one, you’ve been over there awhile, and know this trip is winding down.
GH: It was grinding and harder than other camps because it’s the last one. But at the same time, I didn’t want to miss any practices. I’ve just been telling myself, I want to keep it rolling, because when I get home it’s going to be back to the same old, same old. I’m not trying to downplay anything, it’s just different. I want to try to keep it going and roll right into Pan Am camp. Yesterday (Friday) was my last day. It was tough, it was just as much of a grind. But get what you can while you’re here, and that’s what I’m trying to do.
5PM: The NCAA D1 Championships are this weekend. Have you been paying attention to it at all?
G’Angelo Hancock: Here and there. I’ve watched a few guys, no one in particular. I’ll check out a crazy match if I hear about one. Sometimes it makes me think a little when I catch college wrestling, I imagine what might have been if I had went that route. It doesn’t necessarily affect me, but when you see some guys winning NCAA championships it does make you think. But I didn’t go that route, I chose a different path, a path I love. If anything, I actually try to avoid it. Keying in on the Olympics is much more important.