It’s not a bad time to be Tanner Farmer (130 kg, NYAC/IRTC, 5PM #10). Despite having only one Senior tournament under his belt, it was enough to make every other heavyweight around the country sit up and take notice. But the fourth-place finish wasn’t the sole excuse for chatter. During the tournament, Farmer went 1-1 against Donny Longendyke (Minnesota Storm, 5PM #8) and was edged in the semifinal by Cohlton Schultz (Sunkist, 5PM #2). Quite something else for a first-timer.
One tournament. One tournament is all that has been required for Greco newbie Farmer to become thought of as a potentially serious obstacle for his more-experienced contemporaries at the Olympic Trials.
Of course, Farmer has his own obstacle with which he must first contend. As of today, the former D1 lineman for Nebraska and NAIA National runner-up is not even entered into the Olympic Trials. Later next month, Farmer will toe the line in the Last Chance Qualifier with the objective of placing in the top-2. Should a Trials-clinching performance come to fruition, the talk will heat up even more. What type of run might he put together in Fort Worth? Is Farmer capable of generating shockwaves that steal the show? He certainly seems to think so.
Farmer has high expectations, though they are not without merit and he doesn’t apologize for them. In addition to that singular appearance in the Nationals, he has also enjoyed the opportunity to attend each and every domestic Senior training camp since the summer. When you factor in that at the Illinois Regional Training Center he gets to trade paint with ’20 Open runner-up West Cathcart (5PM #6) and ’18 Cadet World Teamer Luke Luffman (5PM #13), the relative hype surrounding his candidacy make more and more sense each day. He is like a 6’5″ sponge. Whatever the coaches say, whatever teammates and workout partners have to tell Farmer, he absorbs. That he is frighteningly strong and, more importantly, uniquely athletic for his size, don’t hurt, either.
One last pre-Last Chance Qualifier camp for Farmer is now in the books. Over the past two weeks in Arizona, he participated in yet another heavyweight-friendly camp with the likes of ’18 World silver Adam Coon (NYAC/Cliff Keen, world #6, 5PM #1), ’17 World bronze Yasmany Acosta Fernandez (CHL), Schultz, and Cathcart. Unsurprisingly, his confidence is soaring. That’s what top-level training will do for a guy. But for Farmer, it’s even more than that.
He has been paddling like mad dating back to the summer and is starting to spot the shoreline. Training doesn’t provide him with just technique and conditioning, it also brings forth a sense of validation. Which can be powerful. Farmer knows why he is on this journey, and the fact that it has only just begun has him more excited than anything else.
For good reason.
Tanner Farmer — 130 kg, NYAC/IRTC
5PM: When we last spoke, you talked about how you were so green during that very first camp and even during the US Nationals. Fast-forward all the way to now, and you are in Arizona at another camp featuring heavyweights, two of whom are World medalists. How do you feel about your development now compared to all the way back in the summer and fall?
Tanner Farmer: I definitely feel a lot more comfortable. The little things that I’m struggling with I am able to pick up a lot faster. Especially working with Yasmany (Acosta Fernandez) has been a eye-opener for me because this entire time I’ve been wrestling a lot like a football player, and the majority of that as an offensive lineman is push, push, push. I would do some pull, but it wasn’t something I really thought about in my matches. Like, Push to pull, push to pull, just constantly working back-and-forth to open things up to get guys tired.
But after wrestling with Yasmany, you can’t just push, push, push. He is a gigantic, strong human being and he will pull the crap out of you if you overcommit. It’s amazing. This has been my favorite camp thus far because I have been wrestling these high-level guys like (Adam) Coon, (Cohlton) Schultz, and West (Cathcart). Now that I have Yasmany, I’m also getting a little international experience. He especially has extended experience on the international level.
Like I said, it’s awesome. Everyday I am learning stuff and getting better. I didn’t start too long ago and I’m going against guys who have been wrestling their entire lives while I took a five-year hiatus to go play football. Some of these guys, like Yasmany, all they have done is train Greco for the last 20 years. Well, I trained Greco for two months in high school and I just started again. He has so much in his repertoire that it is really nice to be able to take some of that for my own now.
5PM: Now that you are focusing only on Greco, are your strength workouts and weight-lifting different from how they were in football? And also, how you are holding up physically in general these days given the grind of training?
Farmer: Mostly I have been holding pretty well. Just some minor tweaks here and there, as is the life of a wrestler. As far as strength-training goes, my base is in the football realm. A lot of my lifting is similar to what I did while playing football, which has its upsides, but also its downsides because of very key areas that are important for wrestling.
I have actually started picking up some things. Like the other day at the pool, I was working with Tracy (G’Angelo) Hancock and we were doing these band exercises. I’ve seen wrestlers do them before but I had never really done them myself. So when I was getting done with this I was like, Holy crap. How it worked my shoulders and my back, even my legs… Moving up and down and going through these movements with a full range of motion worked me so much differently from what I’m used to. It was almost like I had just gotten done with a wrestling practice given how tired I was. These band workouts that I am starting to do I think are going to be another game-changing, level-changing aspect for me, personally. I did not incorporate this before and I am going to start, along with some other wrestling-specific exercises so as not to only be just a big, strong human being who was a football player, but also to be a big, strong wrestler.
5PM: Part of the theme around these camps with the heavyweights has been that there is a bond between all of you guys. Even still, you do have a very competitive mindset. Is there a balance you need to strike mentally where you have to absorb education while also comparing and contrasting in your own mind how you’re doing against guys in practice?
Farmer: There is some of that, but in my opinion you don’t need to worry about how you’re doing against people in camps. Just do you best to learn as much as you can and make yourself as good as you can be. If you get too caught up worrying about other people, you yourself are going to suffer. We have live matches and stuff like that, but how I wrestle live matches in camps is probably a little different than how I will wrestle a match at the Last Chance Qualifier, and if I do well there, the Olympic Trials. It is going to be different because at these camps I am working on developing the techniques that they are teaching me. Because, I have very short time and I don’t have a very strong base in the Greco world.
Right now, it is much more important for me to develop these moves and these skills in the moment, and get my butt kicked in a live match during camp; that way, when the competition comes, I can let loose more, wrestle how I actually wrestle, and incorporate these moves instead of just being a bulldozer. I can hang with a lot of guys just by being a bulldozer, pushing guys out and using my size and strength as an advantage. But — I want to be a great wrestler. I have the ability to be a bulldozer if I need it but I want to develop my wrestling skills, too.
So, I don’t worry about how I’m doing against guys during camp. Because, it’s not important. No one cares who is beating whom during camp right now, except maybe the coaches are a little interested in that. As far as the rest of the world is concerned, no one cares. We’re all just trying to get better and be the best that we can be. We ought to help each other be the best that we can be and lift each other up. I help lift up Adam Coon, I help lift up West, Yasmany… Guess what? If they are getting lifted up, then I’m getting lifted up. Then they lift me up. Then we’re all becoming better wrestlers at the end of the day.
And I, personally, would like to beat someone on their best day, not on any other day, because then it means that much more. So if we can all go train to become the best that we can be, then maybe one day in the future it is me and Yasmany in the finals of the Olympics or the Worlds. If we’re both at our best that day, whoever wins it will be that much sweeter, regardless of the result, because we had both gotten ourselves to be the best that we can be.
5PM: Your entire foray into full-time National-level Greco thus far is all driving towards the next month with the Last Chance Qualifier and the Olympic Trials. Now that these events are right around the corner, do you feel like they are only days away? Or do you feel like they are so far away as if you just can’t wait for them to get here?
Tanner Farmer: It’s a combination of both. I have so much to do that I feel like it could be as far away as possible, as though it’s coming up too fast because I have so much to learn. But at the same time, I’m confident in my ability to hang with these guys and beat a lot of these guys. So I am also excited to see how I will do against these guys in an actual competition scenario.
I am experiencing both feelings because I have very high expectations of myself and I believe this year is only the beginning of something much more, especially after wrestling Yasmany. Like I said, that guy has been training for 20 years and just Greco. And after training with him and being able to pick so much stuff up, and after just one week? That makes me feel so much better about myself and it excites me for my own future. It’s like, Well, I can train more with Yasmany, start going overseas to Europe, keep training with these guys and picking up even more stuff. I feel like the sky is the limit.
Obviously, I may be looking too far into the future when it comes to that. But like I’m saying, it excites me. It makes me want to do these competitions and get as much experience as I can, right now. I also know how much I still need to grow. Have I grown enough to hang with these guys yet? I think I have, but you’re always going to have doubts. You have to take those doubts in stride and not let them affect you.