IOWA CITY — Joe Colon considers it an honor to be grouped among the country’s best wrestlers.
The experience is even better, considering he gets to represent Team USA in his home state and within hours of where he earned two state titles for Clear Lake, a JUCO national title at Iowa Central and All-American honors at University of Northern Iowa.
“I’ve always dreamed of these things coming true,” Colon said. “They are slowly coming together and hopefully they keep coming together. This is just another step forward in the right direction.”
Colon is the 134-pound alternate for Team USA at the United World Wrestling Men’s Freestyle World Cup on Saturday and Sunday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Competition for the dual-meet event begins at 10 a.m. both days. Team USA is in a pool with Japan, Georgia and India, which is the opening-round opponent for the U.S.
U.S. National Team member and 2017 U.S. Open champion Kendric Maple is the 134 starter. Colon was a member of the 2015 U.S. National team and has claimed medals at multiple international events.
He is ready to compete for Team USA and then work toward making the 2018 U.S. World Team, starting with the upcoming U.S. Open.
“The goal is to go out and do the best I can for the United States,” Colon said. “Go out and win every match that I get put out there. Do what I am asked here and then I have the U.S. Open moving forward from here.”
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Colon is currently the volunteer assistant for Fresno State head coach and former Hawkeye Troy Steiner. The Bulldogs have resurrected their program, finishing their first season in 12 years in March.
The 27-year-old is one of six regulars of the program’s Valley Regional Training Center. He said Steiner hired him to work out and push the wrestlers, filling a leadership role for the young Bulldogs. Not only has he benefited from the rigorous training, but he said he was motivated to do his best at a recent competition as an example for his athletes.
“I wanted to go out and show them I can compete with all these guys,” Colon said. “Obviously, they’ve seen I could. I wanted to kind of set the tone for them.”
Coaching has helped him become more of a student of the sport, breaking things down and identifying the details. He has to think things through and be able to clearly communicate to athletes. Colon has to dissect things more than relying on feel and mat sense.
“I think I’ve become more patient,” Colon said. “Patient and aggressive is something I tell myself. They contradict each other, but I have to be patient and I have to be aggressive.
“(USA Wrestling National Freestyle Coach) Bill (Zadick) always says you have to be smart out there. Those are three big words I live by right now, where I zone in on my opponents and my style.”
Colon is one of three wrestlers with Iowa ties. Former Iowa State NCAA champion and Waterloo East prep Kyven Gadson is an alternate at 213 behind Olympic and World champion Kyle Snyder. University of Iowa’s Thomas Gilman is the lone starter, serving as Team USA’s top 125.5-pounder.
The lineup could depend upon matchups and will be decided by Zadick and his staff.
“We’re just kind of looking at the matchups and we’ll see as we get through the competition,” Zadick said. “The World Cup is an important event for Team USA, so we’ll do what we think is best on selecting our representatives to give Team USA the best chance to win.”
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Colon will have friends and family, coming from the Mason City and Clear Lake area, Des Moines and even from Missouri to see if he takes the mat. Either way, he’ll don the country’s colors and represent Team USA.
“It’s going to be a great time,” Colon said. “I’m excited for it. I’m ecstatic about the opportunity I have in front of me.”
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