Nick Tarpley biding his time in his Greco-Roman wrestling career – The Durango Herald

Durango wrestler now expects to win

After years of taking his bits in competitions and training, Nick Tarpley now thinks he can prove he’s the best Greco-Roman wrestler in the United States at 72 kilograms.

Courtesy of Nick Tarpley

Until last year, Nick Tarpley walked the wrestling mat without necessarily expecting to win. In May at the USA Wrestling Greco-Roman World Team Trials, Tarpley had a vision to win and be selected for the World Championships in Kazakhstan.

In April, the 23-year-old placed fifth at 72 kilograms (158.7 pounds) at the US Open tournament. It was his best result to date in the senior division. This result gave him confidence for the World Team Trials in Las Vegas. He qualified for the semi-finals and met Alex Mossing in the semi-finals, and he lost a heartbreaking match 13-11. Mossing won the championship against Michael Hooker.

Crushed by the loss, Tarpley eventually finished fifth. Although it was a hard loss to swallow, Tarpley has since found comfort in the fact that he was ultimately disappointed by a loss rather than expecting it.

“When I first moved to Colorado Springs and was wrestling in the senior division, the Olympic division, I was just trying to get experience in matches,” Tarpley said. “I expected to lose but I’m learning something. This year, especially, I kind of turned a corner. I don’t expect to lose anymore. I’m one of the best guys in the country. I think of the other guys. It’s really funny because for the first time this year they’re also thinking of me.

Tarpley’s turning point came earlier this year. He had moved to Colorado Springs to train full-time at the Olympic Training Center when he was just 17, forgoing his senior year at Durango High School while completing his online classes. For five years he achieved solid results, but competing in the senior division and hoping to place in tournaments such as the US Open or the World Team Trials was not on his mind.

In January, Tarpley was the only American to travel to an international tournament in Cuba. He placed third, but said he was struggling horribly and just didn’t know what to do. A friend of the France team, Tarpley was able to communicate with the France coach, who invited him to train with the team in Europe. Between international trips with USA Wrestling to Denmark and Estonia, Tarpley spent a few weeks working in France. With new tips, he returned home and placed fifth at the US Open.

Nick Tarpley learned to wrestle with the best in the country during the last six years of full-time training at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs.

Courtesy of Nick Tarpley

“I think that was a turning point for me,” he said. “I came back from Europe, and a few weeks later the next competition was the US Open and I just wrestled better at the US Open than I had ever wrestled before. It was really fun.

“Wrestling isn’t much fun when you’re losing, it’s not much fun when you’re not very good even in practice because you get beat all the time. I felt pretty bad about the whole wrestling project after several years of getting my head smashed. Taking this turn just before the World Team Trials was perfect timing.

Tarpley, son of Brad and Tracy Tarpley, had grown accustomed to getting beat up in practices after moving to Colorado Springs at a young age. But it was his ability to pick himself up and move on that impressed longtime U.S. wrestling coach Momir Petkovic, the 1976 Olympic gold medalist for the former Yugoslavia. It is this quality of Tarpley that has allowed him to continue training with the best wrestlers in the country for the past six years despite his rookie skills in the early years.

Since first moving to Colorado Springs, Tarpley has traveled the world and spent nearly two years in Zagreb, Croatia. All of his experiences turned into a chance to wrestle at this year’s world championships. He was two wins away from the crushing defeat.

He called the semifinal loss to Mossing, an Air Force wrestler he knows well from practice, a bizarre match.

After traveling the world, Nick Tarpley’s next tournament from Durango will likely be in Europe or maybe even Iran.

Courtesy of Nick Tarpley

“Just barely a guy I really think I should have beaten,” Tarpley said. “Now that RaVaughn Perkins, the No. 1 at 72 kilos for a long time, he got beat earlier in the tournament so I didn’t have to fight him. He’s the only guy I’m afraid of. He is now thinking of retiring. I really feel like other than RaVaughn, I’m the best wrestler in the United States at 72 kilos. He was eliminated earlier in the tournament. In my head, I was already the champion.

“All I had to do was beat Alex Mossing and then I had to beat Michael Hooker. I beat (Hooker) twice, he beat me twice. So perfect, I needed that tiebreaker against him. In my head, I’m better than Alex and Michael. I’m the champion. It couldn’t have gone better on my path to this point. Then I lost and I was heartbroken.

It will be some time before Tarpley can fight for the chance to prove he is the best in his weight class again. It is an Olympic year in 2020. In international Greco-Roman wrestling, there are 10 weight classes in which to compete. In the Olympics, there are only six, and 72 kilograms are not part of the weight categories. He will either have to go up and wrestle 77 kilograms (169.8 pounds) or go down to 67 kilograms (147.7 pounds) to compete in the Olympic year. He said 72 kilos was a perfect weight for him and he would be aiming for the 2021 US Open to try for his first victory in the senior division.

Nick Tarpley, bottom, competes in Greco-Roman wrestling, a style that does not allow a wrestler to grab an opponent by the legs. Instead, Greco-Roman emphasizes upper body and throws.

Courtesy of Nick Tarpley

“I’ve wrestled 77 kilos a few times over the past two years, but I was the smallest in the weight class,” Tarpley said. “For eight months I ate 6,000 calories a day, lifted four days a week and couldn’t get big enough. It was exhausting and horrible. It was another workout just to eat because it was constant and I couldn’t get big enough.

“The other option is 147 pounds, and I haven’t been this small since sophomore high school. I wrestled 152 my last two years in high school. I don’t know what I’m going to do. I’m not competitive at 77. If I crash I don’t starve, but it’s a strict diet. If you exercise enough, in a year you can lose 20 pounds.

With 2020 being an Olympic year, that made this year’s loss at the World Team Trials even harder to swallow. Instead of world championships, he will now consider tournaments either in foreign countries like Georgia, Germany, Iran, Poland or Romania. One travel destination he didn’t check off his bucket list is Iran, and he can’t wait to get to the country that deeply reveres the sport. Next, he will prepare for the 2020 US Open tournament, which will be held in December this year due to the staggered Olympic schedule.

But, for now, Tarpley enjoys being unhappy about losing and finding new expectations for success.

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Robert J. King