MAX Pre-Oslo: ‘Hungry to Get a Medal’

max nowry, 2021 world championships
Max Nowry -- Photo: Sam Janicki

For a wrestler to have finished “close” to a medal means that they had to have actually been in a medal match. This logic, it’s easy. It was also Max Nowry‘s (55 kg, Army/WCAP, 5Pm #1) story in 2019. At the World Championships that year in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan, Nowry defeated Fabian Schmitt (GER), lost a tight one to Khorlan Zhakansha (KAZ), and, in the repechage round, steamrolled Abdelkerim Fergat (ALG).

The win over Fergat provided Nowry with the chance to earn bronze opposed by then-reigning World champ Eldaniz Azizli (AZE). Things didn’t go Nowry’s way. Azizli capitalized quickly from par terre top and ran the string to come away victorious. With the Olympic Year by then just about to unfold, weight once again became an issue.

Nowry — who had been a University World gold and Olympic Trials runner-up, both in ’12 — struggled on and off following 55’s dissolution from the global Greco curriculum in ’14. “Struggled” is perhaps a relative term. He was still plenty viable, and National Team honors were part of the package eventually (’17). But 59 kilograms, with a day-before weigh-in, did not fit.

When 55 returned for the ’17/’18 season, Nowry was back to his old self. He finished second at the Pan-Am Championships and won his first National title. Later, a series loss to Sam Hazewinkel ruined his bid for a World Team spot, but there was no doubt that 55 was where Nowry belonged.

And, he proved it by coming “close” to a medal the next year.

Which is the reason for all of this context.

Nowry jumped up to 60 kilograms for the longer-than-expected journey to the Tokyo Olympic Trials that began in the fall ’19 and ended in the spring of ’21. He even looked like a 60 in Fort Worth, but the tournament ended for him in disappointment. That was almost okay, for the season kept moving along. By the end of the month, Nowry had his third National crown; and, of course, last month, he defeated Brady Koontz (TMWC/Ohio RTC) for the right to fight in Oslo coming up in just a couple of weeks.

Some of the above matters right now. Not all of it. Some of it. Nowry, 31, does not particularly enjoy dwelling on the past unless there are ways in which the lessons are worthy of revisiting. He considers his home weight class and its comfort. The only uncomfortable item pinging around his mind is the idea that, as an older athlete, he should somehow feel differently regarding his career objectives. Time away from 55, injuries, the pandemic’s disruption, the international landscape… To Nowry, there is nothing wrong with acknowledging challenges, so long as he can avoid blowing them out of proportion.

He simply wants to stick to the facts.

Ad fact is that he nearly stood on the Word podium two years ago, and is indeed convinced he will re-enter the conversation again early next month. He might be correct. He does not wish to settle for “close.”

Max Nowry — 55 kg, Army/WCAP

5PM: No matter what was going to happen at the Olympic Trials, the plan was always for you to go back down to 55 kilos. But then, there was over a year before you returned to 55, what with the postponement and all. You only stopped being at 60 in April. Did that matter? Or is it just automatic for you as far as how you manage your weight?

Max Nowry:  With 60, I just competed at my walk-around weight. I did get stronger. My strength-and-conditioning coach and I did a lot of things outside of the wrestling room. I would be on the mat during the day and then every afternoon I was with him. I was getting stronger, but I would still do the same routine whether it was 59, 60, or even 55. So, nothing changed there. 

5PM: It has been two years since your first Senior Worlds. Does it feel different now, considering you have already been through this once before?

MN: It’s very similar. Even before going to the Senior Worlds, I had been on the Junior and University stage, so I didn’t treat it as anything different. I did not want to get all anxious and stuff leading up to competition, so I just focused on it as, I’ve already been here, just now it’s the Senior level. It just has a different name to it, you know? It is definitely the hardest competition in the world, but I was trying to like, confuse myself that I had already been at this station, at this level. 

Plus, I had gone as Spenser’s (Mango) training partner. I had seen it for myself, the layout of it and how things go. So I felt comfortable there. Now this time around, I don’t think anything has changed. I am definitely hungry to get a medal. I fell short in 2019, so I guess that’s a difference. But I am also now a lot more comfortable in par terre. I had just started figuring some things out in 2018 after going to camp in Germany, except I wasn’t able to compete at the Worlds that year because I had lost in the Trial finals. Then I had hip surgery, and stuff that we were working on kind of went away. 

But then over the past couple of months, all of that stuff started becoming clear again. I had started clicking again. So, I am excited to get back on the World stage and I feel a lot more comfortable in par terre, especially combined with what I am able to do on my feet. 

I need to have a lot more scores in terms of on the feet. I feel comfortable on the feet and I like to push the pace. It is something that my coaches and I have talked about. Just a few more attempts here and there. I know what I’m doing. I can feel someone wearing down, even if that might not be visible to the refs. I need to make that more apparent. Whether it is slide-by attempts or direct attempts, they (opponents) are physically slowing, but that needs to be seen more. 

5PM: Do you consider adjusting what you think your style is based on potential opponents going into the Worlds?

MN: That’s one thing, I won’t watch film or anything like that because I don’t want to think about how someone else wrestles. I understand that some people have certain moves here and there. I’m aware of it, but I don’t ever change my style offensively or defensively. 

5PM: Do you think too many guys do that?

MN: I feel a lot of people do it. They think too much about it. Now they are taking away their own scores in a sense because they are so focused on defending an arm drag or a bodylock. They are now starting to take away from their own offense and how they are moving on the feet because they are so caught up in trying not to get taken down by that person in their dominant position. 

For instance, I know that if I get a two-on-one, it is a lot harder to score on me. If I have your arm and I’m heavy on it, that takes away a lot of opportunities for my opponent. So, I know that going into the match. I am not thinking about what they are doing. I am just thinking about getting a two-on-one and moving, looking for attempts. Because, if I am doing that, then that is taking away opportunities from my opponent to arm drag or throw, since I am hanging onto the arm and moving all over the place. 

5PM: 55 kilos was actually pretty decently-populated coming out of the Nationals. Do you see the weight class starting to mature it a little bit domestically?

MN: Yeah, but it is kind of tricky right now, too, because we just came off of an Olympic Year. Trying to wrestle overseas was a little difficult with the number of entries. I think after this World Championships that you will see it kind of repopulate a little bit more, with two or three years until the next Olympic Games. I think a lot of countries spent so much time to focus on those six (Olympic) weight classes, so the other weights kind of became shuffled to the side — especially the smallest weight. I think after this Worlds, you will see a good amount, more athletes and more entries. 

5PM: We’re talking about a Worlds, which means there is a camp, which is why we are here. Normally, there are months in between a Trials and a Worlds. This one is really short. You only have about 12 days as we sit. Do you use any of this time refine certain aspects? Or are you more concerned with just keeping your body moving?

Max Nowry: I think the key is management. You know, everyone sort of peaked at the Trials; and when you peak for the Trials, you get a couple of days off, or a week off, to rest. This time, we have a quick turnaround, so we were back in the wrestling room just a couple of days after Lincoln. The biggest thing in my mind is to manage. I have a few little bumps and bruises right now and I am kind of managing ways around it. I am still training because I am trying to peak for the World Championships. 

But — I like quick turnarounds. Especially after 2019, when we were bouncing all over the place, traveling every single month. Now, I am steadily staying in a state of readiness to where I can compete at any time. So for me, it is very comfortable having this kind of quick turnaround because I have my weight down. I had put on some weight after Trials but I was only a kilo over a couple of days ago. That’s falling off the wayside. It is just managing, making sure that I am starting to get the little reps I might need. And, like I said before, making more attempts. 

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