Prior to the U23 World Championships last month in Bydgoszcz, Poland, many pointed to NMU star Alex Sancho (66 kg) as one of the United States’ best hopes for a medal. It made sense. Sancho, 23, is known for being an adept international competitor, a fact highlighted by two performances he put in this year alone. First was a win at the Grand Prix Zagreb Open in March, then it was a silver at the stacked Tbilisi Grand Prix three months later. Sandwiched somewhere in between was a near-miss at a bronze in Denmark. That has been the deal. When it comes to wrestling foreigners, Sancho is a guy who just gets it.
Of course, as everyone knows by now, neither Sancho, or any of the other US athletes, managed to bust through in Poland. But since the native Miamian is widely recognized for his ability to turn it on against overseas foes, his performance has maybe been scrutinized the most. Whether that’s fair or not is immaterial. Such is the price paid for having a reputation.
Rather than continue to hypothesize “what went wrong” or speculate as to why Sancho didn’t have his fastball against Belarusian Yury Kankov, it seemed a much better idea to go to the man himself. Kinda. Sancho, normally as casual and laid-back of an individual as you could ever hope to encounter, was still very much in relative “chill mode” when this conversation took place. But — his voice dripped and dropped in disappointment, if not outright bewilderment, as he answered questions pertaining to Poland. For as tough and talented as this wrestler is, and however many of these grand tournaments he may participate in throughout his career, there is no question that this one meant something to him. And the fact that it did not go his way apparently still very much feels like a fresh wound, even some 20 days later.
Alex Sancho — 66 kg, NYAC/OTS
5PM: It has been a couple of weeks since the U23 Worlds. How do you see what happened as a whole now that there has been some distance from it?
Alex Sancho: I feel like I let a lot of people down, to tell you the truth. I talked to Matt (Lindland). I gave him my perspective on my performance, he gave me his, and I just feel like shit. I felt great coming in, I cut my weight great, but that last kilo messed me up. You weigh in and then you wrestle the next day, and I felt like I was going to recover fast enough. I felt like my mind was there, but I was hesitating every time I locked up with the Belarusian. I wasn’t getting to my positions, I was letting him get to his positions. I was playing his game instead of mine. And that kind of messed me up.
Did you see my match? I was being a little passive and then towards the end, I had two deep underhooks and I was about to push him out, and then he fell towards his back. There were about three seconds left and I kept on replaying the video, and I’m pretty sure I got those points. I should have told (Andy) Bisek or Matt to throw in the block, and I didn’t do that. The second period, I felt I needed to do something instead of just controlling the match. I got into that front headlock, I’m really good at it, and the guy was lanky, and he kind of wrapped his arms around me, and I went back. That was a mistake. I shouldn’t have done that. I should have just secured the front headlock and spun around. There were just things that I overlooked and that was dumb of me to do.
5PM: You mentioned the weight cut. Did that result in you feeling physically limited in any way during your match?
AS: I felt great. I ate a really big breakfast. Usually, I don’t really eat breakfast, just something small. I felt like my mindset was good. I don’t know. I don’t what happened.
5PM: You’re still very young, but even with your youth, you have been in a lot of high-profile matches, some in which didn’t go your way. Have you been replaying this one over and over and second-guessing yourself more than you usually have in the past?
AS: Of course I’ve been thinking a lot about this match and my mistakes. I’ve been thinking about it a lot, every day it has been like, I fucked up, I fucked up, I fucked up. What could I have done to win this match? And then I think about all of these scenarios where I could have easily won this match. But the past is the past and I lost, you know? I can’t go back.
5PM: That’s where I wanted to go next. Obviously, you’re disappointed. But at the same time, you just alluded to getting past it. Not to be trite, but how do you harness this in a positive way?
Alex Sancho: I think next time before one of these big tournaments, I’m going to dedicate more time overseas. Maybe get a tournament in or something. I feel like a month, a month and a half of just training wasn’t enough. I think I need to get some other matches in with a foreigner before this type of tournament. I don’t know, I felt really prepared for this tournament. I don’t know what to tell you. I fucked up, I let a lot of people down.
5PM: It was a rough tournament for all of the US athletes. I’m not making an excuse on anyone’s behalf, but the circumstances were bizarre. Six weeks between Trials and Worlds is a compressed period of time, so I happen to wonder how different things might have been if it were say, three months. It doesn’t matter now, but since that’s part of this, it seems worth discussing.
AS: Definitely. What I thought with the short period of time between the Trials and the Worlds was that it would be really good for us coming into the tournament. The Trials and then it’s the Worlds, and people were prepared physically and mentally. We had enough time to prepare ourselves and all this stuff, but I don’t know. I don’t know what happened.
5PM: I know you were on the roster for the Clubs Cup in Iran and it is kind of a downer that it was cancelled, certainly.
AS: Yeah, I was supposed to go. I went through a whole bunch of stuff, I had to buy another passport, so I have two passports now. I went through a whole bunch of stuff to get into this tournament and three days before I get a call from Matt saying, Due to some circumstances over there… The risks and stuff like that, you know. They were cancelling the trip. I don’t know what the deal is going on over there. I heard politics and whatever. But I would have been psyched to go to that event.
5PM: Was that something you were itching to do so you could kind of get the taste from Poland out of your mouth?
AS: Yes, I wanted to go over there and get some matches in to redeem myself. It was going to be a really big tournament, the best of the best from other countries were going to be there. I think this would have been a great opportunity for me to wrestle and it was canceled.
5PM: The camp at Northern next week, are you participating? And if so, why and what are you looking forward to about it?
Alex Sancho: I’m going to be there. It’s going to be like a camp with Northern Michigan guys and kids who want to come to this program will be here. It’s a great opportunity for the program to be seen. We’ll be there practicing.