Back in November, new NMU recruit Britton Holmes joined a sizable group of US Greco Roman athletes in Sweden on what must have been some kind of “coming of age” experience for the wrestler. On that trip, Holmes not only got to train with experienced international partners but also, beat them. You see, the Peyton, Colorado high schooler won the Malar Cupen while he was there, a particularly large and challenging tournament. Holmes had to navigate through two days of competition and defeat seven (!) opponents in order to claim gold. Needless to say, that did something for his confidence.
“I went through it one match at a time,” says Holmes. “I kept on wrestling and my confidence was building as I went on. I wrestled Alston Nutter in the third match. It was a close match but I beat him 6-4. It felt really good. I had a Sweden kid next who I lost to when we dueled Sweden earlier on the trip and I beat him 4-0 in the tournament. I felt like no one could stop me after that. It was just wrestling.”
Part of what makes Holmes’ Malar Cupen win all the more impressive is the approach that propelled him to the top of the podium. You might expect a Cadet-aged wrestler to work himself into a frenzy when dealing with international competition overseas but Holmes, ever the cool customer, maintained his poise. He knows where his strengths lie and only tried to control what he could — a mature directive, to say the least.
“With foreign guys you gotta be patient,” explains Holmes. “You know, the refs aren’t always going to be on your side. You just have to go out there and wrestle. Most of my matches were real close. The key was to definitely be patient.”
Since that jaunt overseas, Holmes has returned to his scholastic duties. The 2016 Colorado state champ at 138 lbs currently has his sights set on earning another title. But even with high school wrestling taking priority for the moment, Holmes has Greco on his mind, which is why he recently announced that he will be attending Northern Michigan University, home of the country’s premier collegiate Greco Roman development program. If you ask Holmes, the decision seems to have been a pragmatic one.
“Growing up, I’ve always wanted to do the NCAA,” Holmes says matter-of-factly. “But my sixth-grade year I got to go to a TC Dantzler camp, the Front Range Twisters. It was all Greco and I’ve loved Greco since then. During my junior year, I was at the Olympic Training Center and Matt Lindland was there. He talked to me about it and my decision was made.”
Holmes now finds himself part of a growing contingent of high school wrestlers switching over to Greco-Roman in lieu of pursuing traditional collegiate success. It’s a list that keeps growing. Kamal Bey, G’Angelo Hancock, Jordan Martinez, and the aforementioned Nutter are the most recent examples, with Nutter and Martinez even leaving high school competition early to train Greco. Tommy Brackett, the standout high school star who made waves at the US Senior Nationals in December, is also leaning towards a Greco collegiate career. So Holmes is in good company. And like the rest of his contemporaries, the lure of being able to focus on Greco without interruption stands as the biggest attraction. When asked what he is looking forward to the most, he answers without hesitation.
“Full-time Greco,” Holmes asserts. “I’ve been having to stop and go to folkstyle for my high school season. I’m excited to start taking it in stride. I’ve also had my dad as a coach since I started. It’s going to be cool to work with a different coach and see where that goes. I’m definitely looking forward to that, too.”
Until then, it’s all about finishing his high school career on a high note. There are still goals to be reached and points to be made. Holmes is a competitor, first and foremost. It’s in his DNA. While he is pumped about where his wrestling career will resume post-high school, his eyes are fixed on the present, a trait that will undoubtedly serve him well once he arrives in Marquette. “I want to win a second state title,” declares Holmes. “I’d like to see our team finish in the top five. Also, well this one isn’t for me but our 152 lber, Wyatt Lee, he has been my partner since we were five or six. I want to see him win a state title.”
It will all come and go pretty quickly. The high school year will end, graduation will come, and then it’s going to be all about Northern Michigan, new teammates, and new experiences. The kid can see it all unfolding. One step at a time, one foot in front of the other. Holmes is in a great position and he knows it. He’ll be the first to tell you.
“I’m excited. Go Greco.”