Tommy Brackett has never waivered. Even when he was a mere Cadet, the Tennessean made it abundantly clear to everyone — anyone — who would listen that he would pursue a full-time Greco-Roman career after high school. He’d tell coaches. He’d tell interviewers. He would tell his friends and the passer-by teammates that joined him on overseas trips. The United States currently boasts a healthy number of talented and motivated upstarts who are all unique in their own ways, but none of them have been more vocal about their desire to “go Greco” than Brackett.
Therefore, it should have come as no surprise that last night in Colorado Springs after wrapping up his final practice of a week-long camp, the curly-haired brawler made it official: starting in the fall, Brackett will be taking his considerable abilities and seeming undying love for the sport to Northern Michigan University.
A 2016 Fargo Junior National champ and runner-up at the U23 World Team Trials who has also competed a fair amount across the Atlantic, Brackett instantly becomes another one of NMU’s hot prospects to look out for. But this is all less about his credentials and much more about his approach. Brackett is an aggressive, hard-charging workhorse who demonstrates on-the-mat instincts (and maturity) that belies his years. It’s why the US program has been waiting for this news, and also, why the National Team coach is thrilled to know he’ll be continuing his Greco career.
“We need more athletes like Tommy, ‘Greco guys’ sticking with the path and giving themselves every chance to experience international success,” says US National Team head coach Matt Lindland. “Every year, we are going to have ten World Team members. What I want to see is those World Team members ready to take on the top talent in the world. The best way to do that is to get into the best Greco-Roman training environment that suits them, and Tommy will be in great hands with coaches Rob Hermann and Andy Bisek. If we can start keeping our best prospects on the Greco path, there is nothing that will stop USA Greco.”
For his part, the 19-year-old is equally excited. And confident. Brackett understands where his strengths reside and knows he can lean on substantial experience as he begins to take on a heavier workload. He also isn’t naive enough to believe that he has everything figured out yet. But that’s part of this decision, too. Brackett wants to begin the learning process immediately, even as he prepares for the Junior World Team Trials this spring. His summer will be busy no matter what happens. But for now, the focus is on the fact that Brackett is entering this next phase of development on his terms, as you will be able to tell in the poignant nature of his words.
Tommy Brackett — 82 kg, NMU/OTS
5PM: You’ve known for a few years now that you were going to pursue Greco right after high school. But was there ever a point throughout high school when you second-guessed what your ambitions were?
Tommy Brackett: No, no, nah, not at all. Not even a little bit. Ever since my freshman year of high school when I went up to Northern Michigan for Superior Camp I knew I wanted to do it, regardless of how long I continued my folkstyle career. I knew when my high school career was over that I was going to go full-time Greco.
5PM: You’ve wrestled overseas, you went in the ’16 Senior Nationals, you were a runner-up at the U23 Trials. What is it about the higher levels of competition that attracts you, and also, gives you confidence?
TB: After I won Fargo my sophomore year I knew the next goal was to make a World Team. I’m going to do whatever it takes to reach that goal, and I know that taking those overseas trips and competing against the best domestically we have to offer is going to help me.
5PM: How specifically has competing overseas affected your game when you’ve had the chance to do that?
TB: It has given me more confidence. Whenever I’ve been able to grab some wins over there or wrestle well in the practice room, it has been like, Wow, I can compete against guys outside of the US, I can compete against guys from other countries. Any practice room I go into I’m looking to learn as much as possible and see what works for my game. So when I do pick those things up overseas, and it’s just about paying really good attention whether it’s there or in Colorado Springs, it’s just developing my style, you know? It has become the underhooks, a real brawl-like style, and that’s where it has come from.
5PM: Everyone in the Greco community pretty much knew it was going to come down to either Northern or Williams Baptist. What turned the tide in Northern’s favor?
Tommy Brackett: The history of the program. Williams Baptist is a new program and maybe one day it will be on the same level as Northern, but it’s not right now. They don’t have the same number of partners that Northern does. Right now, I’d rather go with the program that is a proven success than the program that is just starting out.
5PM: The Junior World Team Trials are right around the corner and that is an event you are certainly targeted for. Going by your last year, which was successful all things considered and you wrestled a dynamite tournament at the U23 Trials, are you seeing the Juniors as a sort of rite of passage?
TB: It’s my number-one goal and has been for two years now, so it is something that I definitely go to sleep thinking about, wake up thinking about, and it’s what I’m training for. But a rite of passage as far as winning? No, because anything can happen. But I feel like it’s my time and I’m going to do the right things, and I have been doing the right things to make that team.
5PM: What is preparation going to look like for you leading to the Trials and what is your summer going to entail so far as you know right now?
TB: As for the near future, I’m going to the Bill Farrell at the end of the month and then the Open in April, obviously. But as far as training up until I graduate, I’ll be going to my local club and Williams Baptist on the weekends whenever I can. But as soon as I graduate I plan on going out to Colorado Springs and Northern as much as possible. And I hate to say it, but getting out of Memphis, Tennessee as much as possible, because I know it’s not the ideal place to become a World Team member and earn World medals.
5PM: You have become one of the more visible age-group athletes in the US over the past three years and your enthusiasm for Greco is equally as well known as your ability. Now that you’re finally at this point where you have committed to college, to NMU, does it feel like this is whirlwind ride that has gone by quickly?
TB: Yeah, it definitely does. I mean, everything, honestly, points back to winning Fargo my sophomore year. Ever since then, my Greco career has really picked up, and it just keeps going up. Making this decision it was, What is going to put me at the next level? What is going to get me even better? It has been a fast ride that escalated quickly.
5PM: What are you looking forward to most about getting started at NMU?
Tommy Brackett: Honestly, it’s training full-time Greco. It’s something I’ve never been able to do, train everyday Greco-Roman, especially in a room like that. That is really the number-one thing I’m looking forward to the most, being able to finally just train full-time Greco.