IOWA CITY — Joe Colon was named to USA Wrestling’s World Cup team as an alternate.
The former two-time Clear Lake state champion and University of Northern Iowa All-American didn’t know how many, if any, matches he might get to wrestle. His focus, however, was doing his best when, and if, he got the nod at 134 pounds.
Colon took advantage of the opportunity to compete in Team USA’s first contested match at United World Wrestling’s 2018 World Cup of men’s freestyle Saturday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Colon stepped in for starter Kendric Maple and posted a come-from-behind, 6-4, victory over Sandeep Tomar, helping Team USA to the 10-0 sweep over India in the opener.
Colon found out about 45 minutes before the start that he would take the mat, which came after former Iowa Hawkeye Thomas Gilman received a forfeit at 125.5.
“I watched duals when I was younger here,” Colon said. “Now, I’m on like the biggest stage you can be on for wrestling besides like Olympics and stuff. It’s the World Cup.
“It feels amazing. Words can’t even describe it.”
Tomar was a 2016 Olympian for India, winning two matches and placing seventh at the World Championships in August. He jumped to a 4-0 lead with a pair of takedowns. Colon battled back after the break of the six-minute match.
Colon scored a takedown and tied the match with two points for back exposure, hitting a gut wrench on the edge and owning tiebreaker with the latest score. He added a takedown off a counter, fending off Tomar the final 14 seconds.
Colon remained confident and knew what was needed to turn the match into his favor.
“It’s a dual, so you’ve got to win,” Colon said. “Going in there I knew I had to get a takedown (and) turn.
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“Once I got that takedown, we were close to going out of bounds but I had to stick with the gut. My shoulder started to slip. I wanted to adjust, but I knew if I would have adjusted the ref might have blew us back up, so I stayed with it. Got it, popped my hips and got the turn.”
Not only did he get a chance to represent the country in a world-level event, but Colon notched the notable victory in the state where he was born and raised and competed in from youth level through college. He heard the crowd’s roar as he stormed back from the deficit.
“It was huge,” said Colon, a volunteer assistant at Fresno State for former Hawkeye Troy Steiner and member of that program’s Valley RTC.
Colon was one of three alternates that wrestled in the 10-0 win over India. Hayden Zillmer wrestled at 202.5 for World medalist J’Den Cox, recording a 7-0 decision. Dom Bradley replaced Nick Gwiazdowski at 275, posting a 10-0 technical superiority victory.
“Some of them are local guys and some of them have connection to where we are geographically,” USA Wrestling National Freestyle Coach Bill Zadick said about wrestling alternates. “The reality is we’re going to do what we have to do to win the matches and put ourselves in the best position to be most successful.
“We felt that was the best decision and our guys represented themselves well.”
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