It does not feel like it was over a year ago. If you ask Dominic Damon (67 kg), it feels like a whole lot longer than that. But in a good way.
Damon, a Cadet World Team member in 2018, officially committed to Northern Michigan University in December of that year and appeared on campus as soon as he could. The US always seems to have a few of these young wrestlers who wish they could hit the fast-forward button on their high school careers in order to start training Greco on a full-time basis. Damon was the same way, but first he wanted to win a state title for Nathan Hale High School in Washington. That chapter required conclusion, primarily because Damon likened it to unfinished business beforehand. There hadn’t been a state champ from his area and he wanted to get it over with for all involved. “I’m just trying to get through my last year and get a state title,” Damon said at the time.
That time has passed and now Damon is midway through his first year at NMU. The results have been a little mixed in limited action as the frosh has taken a step up in competition — though the narrative has stayed the same: Damon is thought of as a top-tier Greco-Roman prospect who projects as a fearsome Senior eventually. The main objective right now, according to him, is to qualify for the Olympic Trials and earn a spot on the Junior World Team. And one of the ways Damon is attempting to meet these objectives is by stepping up the competition even more.
On Tuesday, Damon, along with a group of other American athletes, will take the mat at the 2020 Granma Cup in Havana, Cuba. It’s a pretty serious Senior tournament that is expected to present some interesting obstacles for a wrestler occupying Damon’s station-in-life, but that’s precisely why he is going. He wants to experience the level, gain a better feel for what athletes from another region of the world have to offer. He is sure to get his wish.
There is no doubting Damon’s ability and improvements, naturally, are happening fast. He acknowledges the learning curve with gratuity. And just like his coach at NMU, does so while shirking any sense of self-importance despite being the subject of conversation.
Dominic Damon — 67 kg, NMU
5PM: Since you arrived at Northern, how long did it take for you to adjust and just kind of get your sea legs underneath you?
Dominic Damon: Probably a couple of months just getting used to the schedule and everything with school, but it has been pretty smooth sailing since then.
5PM: You had some experience with NMU before you began attending. As far as the dynamics in the room, the practices, and the partners, has it matched your expectations?
DD: Either matched or been even better. Because, a lot of times when I came up here to visit half the team would be gone. I was never up here when there was a full room. Now being up here when you’ve got all the partners you need, it is really good.
5PM: Your weight range is NMU’s wheelhouse. There are a lot of really good athletes between, let’s say, 60 and 70 kilos. Have the different looks in the room been enough for you to feel confident competitively?
DD: Oh yeah, definitely. It’s great, we have so many guys I guess you’d say in the middle weights. So, there are guys I can do really well against live, there are some guys to where it’s a pretty good scrap, and then obviously there are quite a few guys who just pound me into the ground whenever we wrestle. You get a good variety of all that.
5PM: As a first-year NMU athlete, or first year as a full-time Greco athlete I should say, are you constantly taking stock after practices and things like that, just finding ways to measure yourself?
Dominic Damon: Yeah, definitely. It is mostly when we’re going live, just keeping tabs on how I’m doing against different guys and how I feel. It is mostly based off of feel. I’m not really worried about scoring points, how many points I’m scoring, how many takedowns I gave up, or how many takedowns I got on each guy. It’s mostly just thinking after practice and keeping a note of how I felt in each live go, my pummeling, and how I felt about my attacks even if I’m not scoring anymore points. I’ll figure out if there’s one position where I’ll be moving little better. Just keeping notes on things like that, mostly.
5PM: This Cuban tournament is heavy with Pan Am type athletes, and even if it’s not crowded, the Cubans are one of the better programs in the world. What is it about this trip that attracted you to it?
DD: There were a few things that kind of drew me towards it. The first one is just that I knew it was a pretty short trip going in and missing a lot of school was not something that I really wanted to be doing right now. I knew it would be pretty short and sweet. Also, I knew there would be a good chance — and not necessarily a lot of it — I’d face tough competition and I’ve never wrestled any South Americans. That’s something new because all of my international experience has been Europe. So, it’ll be a different feel and that’s something I wanted to try out.
I was looking for a Senior event, too. There is obviously Austria, which is good, but I think going forward, Senior competition is something that I need just to get matches under my belt and to get a better feel for higher-level competition.
5PM: When you were entering this first year at NMU, did you have a list of goals, even if it was a short list? And if so, have those goals changed?
DD: I had a few main wrestling goals, the first one obviously is to qualify for the Olympic Trials. So far that hasn’t happened, I’m still working on that one. And then the Junior World Team is the other big one. Now that they are going to have Juniors and U23’s kind of going on simultaneously, I am still figuring out what I am going to do about maybe double bracketing. I have to figure that out, but as of right now, the main goal is the Junior Team as well as qualifying for the Olympic Trials. Those two, plus outside of wrestling just doing well in school and keeping good grades.
5PM: What has been your favorite thing thus far about this decision, about going to Northern and doing nothing but Greco as far as your wrestling career is concerned?
Dominic Damon: I love not having to wrestle bottom in folkstyle (laughs). That’s a big one. That was a killer back in high school. So, there’s that. And then you know, moving somewhere different. It’s not necessarily any nicer; if anything, it’s colder and a little more gloomy than back in Seattle. But it’s nice just being somewhere new, and meeting new people. That’s fun.