Prep wrestling: Roy Nash progresses on time line of success
From outside the ring, it looked as though Taylorsville's Roy Nash was letting the match slip away.
It was an unfamiliar situation to the state champion, the only prep wrestler to go undefeated this season. Nash already had mounted two comebacks to keep alive the match, but time was running out.
Even as the match clock ticked down to 10 seconds, Nash and his coach, Brandon Ruiz, remained focused. And in a moment when many would have conceded, Nash forced his opponent out of bounds with seconds to spare to win the Greco-Roman title at 100 kilograms at the FILA Cadet Nationals.
It wasn't pretty. It didn't have to be.
"He stayed in there and never gave up," Ruiz said. "I think we both would have liked to see him win more convincingly, but a win is a win. He's on the world team. Now he knows it's time to go bring home another medal, and he's intent on doing that."
The win earned him a spot in the 2013 World Championships in Serbia this August. Four other Utahans, all from Maple Mountain, made the junior world team, marking an unprecedented presence for Utah on the international scene.
Ruiz, the defending grappling world champion, also qualified again for the World Championships, marking the first time in history a coach and athlete combo have made the world team in the same year.
"From here on, every match is tough," Nash said. "Everyone is a champion, and there is no room for error."
This is all part of Nash's 20-year plan.
It's a time line punctuated by huge milestones: an undefeated prep season, two national titles in 2012, another title in 2013 and, most important, a spot in international competition. The unmarked spaces between are filled with injuries, comebacks, countless hours in the gym and mental focus.
Thinking big picture has paid off.
Nash didn't take up the sport until seventh grade, and he quickly rose to the upper echelon of wrestlers in the state under the guidance of Jeremy Hunt Loveless and now Ruiz. He wasn't an instant star, but work ethic led the way, and his technique evolved to match his mental strategy.
"I think I've been able to show him what it takes to be on a world team," Ruiz said. "You've got to think bigger than your goals. When you look at it through a different set of glasses, it changes your perspective."
Nash also has learned there are some things you can't control.
The International Olympic Committee announced last year the removal of wrestling, one of the official sports of the ancient Olympic Games, after the 2016 games in Rio.
The announcement ripped through the wrestling community, sparking protests, petitions and anger.
"When I heard, my heart just dropped," Nash said. "The Olympics have always been part of my plan, and they just took it away."
Last month offered some hope, when the IOC named wrestling as one of three sports, along with baseball/softball and squash, vying for a single spot in the 2020 Games.
"I'm still hopeful that they will put it back on the schedule," Nash said.
Ruiz is less optimistic. "You have to wonder how long it will be before we're on the chopping block again," he said. "I'm totally unimpressed with the IOC. They're a corrupt organization, as we saw here in Utah in 1998 to 2000. Unfortunately, it kind of is what it is. Wrestling, as a sport, needs to do something to be prepared for that and be self-sustaining."
For now, Nash is focused on the fight at hand. He'll head to Michigan in early August to prepare for the World Championships with his teammates. From there, it's all about the next point on the time line.
"I didn't think I'd ever be able to make it this far," Nash said. "Now I'm going to give it my best shot."