Barrett Stanghill (87 kg, Minnesota Storm/OTS) is about done with knocking on the door.
Over the past three seasons, Stanghill has pushed himself to the top tier of his weight class domestically, first at 80 kilograms and most recently at 87. In 2017, he barely missed out on making the US National Team for the first time, and six months later earned a berth at the inaugural U23 World Championships.
Last year, Stanghill advanced to the semifinals of the World Team Trials mini tournament and fell in a close match to the bracket’s eventual runner-up, John Stefanowicz (Marines). But because of the arcane World Team Trials procedural stipulation that disqualifies wrestlers who lose to challenge tournament runner-ups from earning another crack at National Team spots via the consolation bracket, he exited the tournament, thus once again ending his season on the outside looking in.
But that’s in the past. Stanghill is much more concerned with his immediate future. After a frustrating loss to Army standout James Souza at the US Open just short three weeks ago, the native Montanan quickly regrouped and is now focused on the opportunity to finally break down the wall. The 87-kilogram class at the 2019 US World Team Trials is incredibly deep, but Stanghill’s presence is a big part of its depth. Known for his fiery on-the-mat demeanor and respected for his substantial experience as an established Senior athlete, Stanghill’s name is certainly going to be one to look out for when action begins on Friday from Raleigh, North Carolina.
Barrett Stanghill — 87 kg, Minnesota Storm/OTS
5PM: The Trials this year is really a three-stage process, with the Open as the first, this week’s Challenge Tournament as the second, and then the Final X. You didn’t win the Open, which would have given you the bye, but now that it’s in the past do you look back at the Open and kind of see it as almost a warm-up tournament for this week?
Barrett Stanghill: Yeah, absolutely. Because, I was planning on doing a tournament between Haparanda (Sweden) and the Nationals, but I went to an endocrinologist and came across a new way of dealing with diabetes. So, my plan was to just go to Nationals and try to have everything dialed in. For me, it was a solid run for the things I did right and the things I did wrong. Obviously as far as wrestling goes, I definitely sharpened up some aspects of my wrestling that I feel I could have done better with, so I am excited to try them out in Raleigh.
5PM: A lot has been made of the turnaround time between the tournaments in that it is really short. Other than the logistics, is the silver lining that at the very least, the last tournament is still fresh which would mean you’re competitively sharp?
Stanghill: 100%. I mean, it’s obviously an advantage for other people, too, but I felt like I went into the Nationals in really good shape and I didn’t lose any of it. I went right back to work, we tightened up a few things, and I didn’t change anything up drastically. I kind of liked that it was only two or three weeks away. We came back, we had finals, which was going to be off for most people anyway. We got our finals done and we got right back it. We had a really good week this week, and I don’t mind that it’s not like, a month and a half away. It’s right away, so let’s get after it.
5PM: With the rule-set having been in place since last January with the two passive/par terres, par terre bottom starting on the stomach, and the new wrinkle with the step-outs, do you think these changes are for the better?
Stanghill: Having par terre is definitely a step in the right direction. I think Greco especially should always have par terre because that’s where all of the points are really scored. When you have two physically superior men going at it, it’s hard to get a guy down on the ground all the time, especially at the Senior level. I really like that they brought back par terre, and I wouldn’t mind if they added more par terre. I have to get better at par terre, too, though (laughs). It’s kind of a double-edged sword.
I like the rules but I don’t necessarily like that you get a point for passivity. I think the reward should be that you get a chance on top and that’s it.
5PM: Do you think that this generation of athletes need to be stimulated by the officials to create action?
Stanghill: I don’t think the refs should be as involved as they are when it comes to passivities. I understand why the rules are in place, but here’s how I’ll say it: I think if the refs weren’t as involved that there would be more scoring. If the refs didn’t stop us a minute into a match and put us in par terre, I think there would be more scoring, because like I was saying earlier, when you have two guys who know Greco and they know positions, it’s very difficult to take a man down who trains not to be taken down and then take him down; so if you give us a little time — say two minutes, two and a half minutes — you’re going to see more scoring on the feet, which is what they really want.
But when you’re stopping a match every minute, every thirty seconds, every other minute, and then again and again and it’s stop, stop, stop, you totally mess up what you tried to do with the three-minute period. Let us wrestle longer and you’ll see more scoring on the feet. In my opinion.
5PM: North Carolina is a different place for a Trials tournament but NC State has a tough college program and an RTC. But it’s a little outside the box for Greco. You looking forward to getting out there?
Barrett Stanghill: Yeah, it does, it seems a little outside the box, but I’m excited for it. I’ve never been to North Carolina, so I am excited to see what it’s all about. Watching hockey, those fans love cheering it on so we’ll see how it goes (laughs).
5PM: I’ve heard it both ways regarding the Trials, or any other important tournament: ‘take it one match at a time’ or ‘momentum builds at these things’. At a Trials where virtually everyone in the bracket is either a full-time athlete or an absolute elite competitor, each match is likely going to be a tough one. Even still, can an athlete build momentum and use that to carry them all the way through? Or is only one of the two concepts valid?
Stanghill: It’s a little bit of both. I think when you have a smaller bracket that momentum plays a bigger role. But like you said, you have to take it one match at a time, don’t get too high and don’t get too low. But it’s hard, too, because in order to make National Team — obviously the goal is to win it and be in the Final X — but to make National Team you essentially have to be in the finals of this tournament, so there’s a little pressure there. I think momentum will definitely play a role in a smaller bracket like this compared to Nationals. And if someone figures out how to not get too high or too low, they can definitely let me know (laughs).
5PM: You do have a tendency to get fired up on the mat, be it over a positive result or a situation in which you feel you’ve been wronged.
Stanghill: Absolutely (laughs).
5PM: Yeah, but do you think that affects you negatively? If anything, doesn’t it at least suggest you’re in the moment?
Stanghill: I’ve had hour-long conversations with my father about this. Sometimes I’ll get mad and destroy the guy I’m wrestling. I’ll get mad in a good way and then go out there and take care of business. Other times, I get mad and unravel, and I won’t do anything that I trained or wind up doing something stupid that is uncharacteristic of me. It’s a fine line of not going too far with your emotions. You have to channel them. If you can channel them in a positive way, that’s great, but I have a tendency to hit that red line and go too far.
5PM: You’re a Minnesota Storm athlete, that’s your club sponsor and you trained in Minnesota for two years before returning to NMU this season. Is this a best of both worlds situation given the coaching and training environments for you right now?
Stanghill: It has been great. I get to train here and receive my degree, which is the main reason I came back. It is an awesome situation. I am getting compensated to go to these tournaments from Minnesota Storm and I have Dan Chandler in my corner, which is amazing. Even though I am not fully training with him, I spent two years with him everyday and he understands me and how I wrestle. He is a calming factor for me in the corner. And when (Andy) Bisek or Coach Rob (Hermann) is in my corner, it’s great because they train me everyday. It is kind of the best of both worlds because I get to work with a lot great training partners up here, and then when I go back to Minnesota I have a place to train with those guys. It’s pretty perfect.