It had been some kind of year for Kamal Bey (75 kg, Sunkist).
Following a solid 2-1 performance at the 2016 Junior World Championships, Bey started picking up the pace on his emerging Senior career, piling up win after win at nearly every event he entered. His first Senior gold came at the Bill Farrell Memorial in New York City. He then put together another strong showing under the bright lights of the World Wrestling Clubs Cup despite an intense stomach illness. Just a couple of weeks later, Bey defeated fellow young star Jesse Porter (NYAC-OTS) in stunningly-quick fashion to take his first Senior US Open title. Just over a month and a half later it was Porter again, this time in the finals of the 2017 Dave Schultz Memorial. Bey prevailed, though he was forced to make a comeback late in the second period to do so.
Things were running smoothly. A dominant win at the Austrian Open gave way to another first for Bey — a medal at a Senior tournament overseas the proceeding weekend. At just 19 years of age, the Illinois native was widely seen as a favorite to win the 75 kilogram spot on the 2017 US Senior World Team, but that is when his momentum was derailed. A frenetic opening bout in the best-of-three series with eventual champ Mason Manville (Army/WCAP) saw Bey endure a concussion. He came back the next round and Manville was all over him, cruising to an 8-0 technical fall win. Bey insists there is no excuse for the loss and eagerly credits Manville at every opportunity.
Even still, there were post-concussive symptoms that hung around, compounded all the more by Bey selflessly flying to Brazil for the 2017 Pan Am Championships just two days following the World Team Trials. This was not some leisurely trip. Unfit to compete, Bey still had to make the 75 kilogram limit so that the US could qualify the weight for the Senior World Championships. After he returned home, there were still plenty of cobwebs to shake out before another pressing assignment — a second-consecutive best-of-three final against Porter with a Junior World Team slot on the line. Bey, by virtue of his winning the Senior Open, enjoyed a bye to the decisive series and made good on it, defeating his gifted rival in two straight matches.
Although Bey has had himself a hectic month and quite the whirlwind of a year, he’s still grounded. There are objectives to achieve, after all, and the Junior World Championships in Finland have become Bey’s focus. He’s about what comes next, and how to make sure he is prepared for it. If he can fit some fun in while he’s busy plugging away at finding the podium come September, even better.
Kamal Bey — 75 kg, Sunkist
5PM: Making the Junior World Team again this year after having a couple of good matches at the Junior Worlds last year and scoring some points, is there a point you want to prove once you get there?
Kamal Bey: There isn’t necessarily a point to prove. I understand it’s not as big as the Senior World Team, it’s the Junior Worlds and has its own purpose. If it’s to be won, I want it, and I don’t care how small it is.
5PM: You say “small”, is that because you’re still in a mindframe where you are comparing it to the Senior Worlds, do you look at the two that differently?
KB: I say small because I’ve been on the Senior level and I have seen big Senior-level tournaments, so I am kind of looking back on it now instead of looking ahead of it like I did when it was my first Junior World Team, if that makes sense.
5PM: You were targeted as a favorite to win the Senior Trials and that didn’t go as planned. Does that make it feel like getting on the Junior team is sort of like a consolation prize?
KB: A little bit, to be honest. It does feel a little like a consolation prize. I know it’s not as big as the Senior World Team, but it’s a World Team nonetheless, so I am going to look forward to it and getting the experience. Of course I am going out there to win, but if you’re not looking to learn from it, then what’s the point of taking the journey?
5PM: Right, plus a lot of current Juniors are also big-time Senior competitors, too, especially internationally. The level of competition can’t be so drastically different.
KB: Exactly, that’s what I’m saying, because most of the younger guys are winning at both the Junior and Senior levels at the same time. Going here (to Finland), I’m still going to be getting good competition, I am still going to be wrestling good guys, young guys, and they are the ones I am going to have to beat, so I like it. Nothing at the World Championships is going to stop me. If they’re going to try to put me down, I’m trying to score, if I am on top, I’m trying to score. It’s just wrestling.
5PM: You won a lot this past year. The NYAC tournament, your first Senior gold. The Open, Schultz, Austria, and then earned a bronze medals overseas at Zagreb. What has been your measuring stick as the months have gone by with you getting high-level Senior competition?
KB: Pretty much, I’ve been using good opponents as my measuring stick. The only reason why I went up a weight at Zagreb is because I heard there was an Olympian at that weight class. I know we’re not just chasing Olympians, we also want Olympic gold medalists. But if there is a set opponent, I want to measure myself against them and that’s the whole reason I wrestled 80 kilos at Zagreb.
5PM: You also wrestled up in Austria the week before that. Is that what we’re going to see from you more often going forward, switching between 75 and 80, or are you looking to go up permanently eventually?
KB: It’s kind of like 75 and 80, because I can make the 75 weight class easy. It’s 74 for Juniors that is hard. So yeah, my Senior weight is 75, 80.
5PM: Do you feel a difference in size and strength at 80?
LB: Yes, when I am wrestling 80 kilos I’m eating, I’m healthy, and I am having fun. It feels natural. I practice at around 80 kilos and then I lose the weight come tournament time a couple of weeks out because I’m cutting down on what I eat, carbs and what not.
5PM: What about the opponents? On the couple of occasions you wrestled up, did you notice the difference there?
Kamal Bey: Oh yes, I definitely noticed the difference. You can feel the difference in strength and weight between 75 and 80. One of the things about 75 is that the guys are strong, but they are also fast, real fast. You have to have the cardio and the strength to deal with them. 80 kilos is strong because my eyes and my body are used to wrestling 75 kilo guys.
5PM: So what you’re saying is that you are able to parlay that into an advantage?
KB: Yup, that’s exactly what I’m saying.
5PM: What does your training look like currently on a day-to-day basis?
KB: A day of training is pretty much the same thing as when we are preparing for tournaments. At the moment, we have morning practice at 9:00am and then afternoon practice. We’re on the mat in the morning and then we lift weights at 4:00. In between if I want to do a little recovery, eat some food…it’s pretty basic (laughs). It isn’t that serious until we get to a month before and then we start going hard. Two weeks out we start letting up a little bit and we just train technique and condition.
5PM: When we talked at length last year, I asked how you like Colorado Springs. Now you’re there a good while now. Do you still feel like the routine and environment around you agrees with your personality?
KB: Yeah, I feel it agrees with my personality. I have the type of personality to where I can get along with anybody, so it’s never boring or weird or anything (laughs). Plus, we have new people staying here for the summer, so there are new faces. I’m a pretty chill person, so. You could just knock on my door and I’ll hang out. That’s the kind of atmosphere here at the OTC.
5PM: You received your scholarship for Daymar College earlier this year. How have you fit the coursework into your general routine? What has it been like and how have you been handling being a college athlete via proxy?
Kamal Bey: It’s a struggle with school like it has always been. You have to do the work and the work is always there. I get done with practice and yeah, you know, my bed is tempting and I want to go take a nap. But if I have an assignment I try to do tidbits of it. When we go overseas, I do tidbits of it so when the time comes there isn’t that much work to do, it’s not like a full assignment.
5PM: You chip away at it.
KB: Yup, that’s what is going on here. Especially if I don’t get it, that’s when I usually call one of my sisters, Tracy (G’Angelo Hancock) or another friend. I’ll be like, You guys have to get over here now and teach me how to do this!
5PM: Finland is next. You’re someone who likes to travel, so what are you looking forward to most about going over there aside from the competition?
KB: That’s a good question. I have to do my research about what’s cool in Finland. I like to explore. Maybe when we get out there and we have the time, I’ll go out and explore, mess around with the people and stuff. It’s funny, meeting these people in other places and trying to communicate with them.
5PM: You’re one of those who likes to try and talk to these people in their language, right?
KB: Yes, I always do it and they just laugh at me because I’m never right with what I’m saying. I just hope I’m not saying anything rude, that’s pretty much it (laughs).