When you look around the landscape at 72 kilograms in the United States, there are several high-profile names that likely pop in your head. It’s easy to just rattle a few off. You’ve got a pair of Senior World Teamers — Patrick Smith (2017, Minnesota Storm) and Chris Gonzalez (2016, NYAC). Right in lockstep with both of those guys is RaVaughn Perkins (NYAC), the elegantly violent yet soft-spoken Greco athlete who has actually emerged victorious at two Trials tournaments but is still waiting for his chance on the big stage. 2017 U23 World Team member Alex Mossing (Air Force) established himself with a flourish a season ago. Jamel Johnson (Marines) is back on the scene after taking some time off and has resumed his standing among the elite. Not to be outshined are the very-different-but-equally-effective approaches of Cody Pack (LOG) and Brandon Mueller (Air Force), two wrestlers who might be a pinky nail away from pushing any (or all) of the above off of their pedestals.
But one name that hasn’t been mentioned enough recently belongs to Anthonie Linares (NYAC/OTS). A University National champ in 2015, Linares put in his fair share of work at (the former) 71 kilos throughout the start to his career before hopping down a weight class for the World Team Trials last April. It was an inspired run. Linares won his first bout in Las Vegas, was turned back by eventual runner-up Alex Sancho (NYAC) in the semis, and then rebounded to earn a spot in the third place/National Team match where he dropped a close decision to Brian Graham (Minnesota Storm).
Linares didn’t stay down for long. He gathered himself for the University Nationals and advanced to the finals against Mossing, who got hot early on in the tournament and managed to stay that way. Then there was the Dave Schultz Memorial in November. Last month, Linares traveled over to Denmark with over a dozen other US Seniors for the Thor Masters Invitational and its accompanying training camp. The point is, Linares has kept busy. He’s had to. There’s too much at stake, too much growth ahead, too many adjustments to account for. At only 24 years of age, Linares has his best days in front of him, but he is doing all he can to speed up the process.
With the 2018 Bill Farrell Memorial set to take place tomorrow, it felt like a good time to see how Linares is viewing the tournament in relationship to the marquee events that await later in the spring, as well as hear about his experience in Denmark and what preparation for him will look like leading up to the US Nationals next month.
Anthonie Linares — 72 kg, NYAC
5PM: Just to make it clear, are you committed to 72 kilos, or is there a shot you go back down to 67?
Anthonie Linares: For the most part, I’ll be wrestling 72. There could be a possibility I go 67 down the line, but that’s up in the air, I would say. I feel comfortable making 72 because it’s not really much of a weight cut, while going down to 67 takes a little more effort and a lot more dieting. That plays a factor.
5PM: I imagine the weigh-ins do, too, right?
Linares: That is another factor I’ve had to consider. 72 has been a lot more convenient for me to make with the same-day weigh-ins and not worrying about recovery as much as I would dropping to 67.
5PM: For a guy like you who has been able to get some matches in this season, does the NYAC tournament taking place three weeks before the Open fit nicely in your schedule as a tune-up?
Linares: Yeah, for sure. Coming back from Denmark with the tournament and the international training camp, I definitely learned a lot more about things that I need to work on in order to reach that potential National spot and all that other good stuff. Especially with the rule change in par terre, that definitely plays a big factor in match setup. I wouldn’t necessarily say because it leaves it in the referee’s hands, but at times passivity can be called whenever past a certain point in the first and second period. Either one of the wrestlers gets forced into par terre and that can make or break a match, getting turned or not getting turned. It could potentially change the momentum of a match in regard to being up or down on points, I feel like.
During the international training camp we had a lot of live wrestling sessions that helped out with those particular areas of par terre that I was struggling in earlier this season. But now that we’ve been wrestling a lot more technique, a lot more live on our feet and from par terre, it is helping me get ready for competition gearing towards the US Open.
5PM: What was behind your decision to go to Denmark? Why did you choose that trip over others?
Linares: It being a Greco-Roman-only tournament was an experience that I wanted to be a part of. Also, because of the international training camp that was available following the competition. I felt that it would be very beneficial to train with opponents and teammates of opponents from different countries. To get a good feel of the European style of wrestling and not only wrestling the US guys, but instead, having a more diverse look at opponents in different positions. A lot of the guys from Europe, whether they were from Germany, Denmark, or Sweden, weren’t afraid to get out of their comfort zones to throw. From par terre, they weren’t afraid to attempt lifts, so that definitely helped me out to get a different look in various positions. I hadn’t been overseas since 2014, so it has been a few years since I was able to financially afford an international trip and be a part of a training camp, as well. Going out there was a full-packaged deal for me to participate in.
5PM: Following this weekend, what is the general training phase going to look like for you ahead of the Open and the Trials? Do you have to abide only by what your coaches say? Or do you have individual items you like to work on yourself?
Anthonie Linares: Of course. Andy Bisek has been implementing a good training program out at Northern with the strength and conditioning workouts on top of the wrestling workouts. We’ve been using a lot of the Suples gear. For example, with the Bulgarian Bags, we’ll do bag matches weekly. We’ll do different bag workouts, different dummy workouts. We use a lot of the resistance bands for back-step throws. There is also a lot of breaking down technique and fine-tuning things going into the competition.
For me individually, I like to keep up my footspeed, balance, and minor things you can work on by yourself. Runs, cardio, getting some extra mat time in for drilling and not necessarily live wrestling. In a practice room with 50 or so guys, there is a lot of competition that leads to a lot of live wrestling for a good majority of the time when we get broken up into groups. So it’s always good to go in on the weekends, bring a drilling partner in, and get in a good hour drilling on our feet, par terre, and breaking down the techniques. We’re working on all of the little positions that I would have to work on individually.
After coming back from Schultz and Denmark, I have been working on mistakes that cost me matches, just breaking it down that way and figuring things out so I can improve my wrestling technique as we go. But I would definitely say following Bisek’s training regiment at Northern has been very beneficial on the mat and you can see in competitions how things have been changing up.