MAX Talks Frustration, Motivation, Staying Hungry…& Golf

max nowry, summer update, 2020
Max Nowry -- Photo: Army/WCAP

Throughout the 2018-19 season, and even up until March of this year, Max Nowry (60 kg, Army/WCAP, world #3 at 55 kg) had been covered quite a bit on this platform. There was ample reason for the surge in Nowry-related content. The best run of his decade-plus Senior career was in full swing. Outside of a fourth-place finish at the ’18 Grand Prix of Germany and his fifth from the ’19 World Championships last September, Nowry wound up with an medal everywhere he went. Along the way, he earned consecutive titles at both the US Open and Pan-American Championships.

On the second day of 2020, Nowry and fellow ’19 World Team member G’Angelo Hancock (97 kg, Sunkist, world #8), the United States’ most prolific overseas performer this quadrennium, were voted 5PM Co-Athletes of the Year by our panel, representing the first time in our albeit brief history two wrestlers shared the award.

In February, Nowry went virtually untouched en-route to gold at the Armed Forces Championships. Three weeks later, he dominated the field in Ottawa to snare his third-career Pan-Ams gold. You already know what happened next. Shutdown. Chaos. No Olympic Trials, no Olympics, and even as we sit here in mid-August, no real idea of when or how wrestling will become normal again.

So, it has been a while.

Nowry was contacted for insights pertaining to our just-released feature on the challenges military Greco-Roman athletes are currently facing when it comes to training restrictions. Although we did use one Nowry quote in the article, he had actually provided way more on-the-record material than was presented. After parsing through the transcript, it seemed an appropriate catalyst to ask Nowry additional questions and throw together a complete Q&A, which is what we have here.

And it’s not just filler. Below, Nowry opens up about a topic that had irked him early last season. Following the World Championships, he checked in for the Bill Farrell Memorial (November) at 60 kilograms — the Olympic weight. It was the heaviest Nowry competed dating back to the ’17 World Team Trials and he officially finished second. He and teammate Ryan Mango both made the final. Instead of duking it out, they played rock-paper-scissors. Mango prevailed, everyone chuckled, and that was the extent of it.

But after the Farrell, Nowry went back down to 55 for the Haparanda Cup in Sweden, the Matteo Pellicone Memorial in Rome, Armed Forces, and the Pan-Ams. In the process, some wondered why, in an Olympic season, would Nowry still enter events in a non-Olympic weight category? The question rankled him. It still kind of does, but he is also happy to explain the reason behind that decision, as well as dive into a few other matters of particular interest nowadays.

Max Nowry — 60 kg, Army/WCAP

5PM: How about these past five months? Has it been as frustrating for you as other military Greco guys?

Max Nowry: If we’re starting at the beginning, it’s not so much about it being frustrating, it was about just trying to figure it out when this thing was at its rise. I was just getting back from Pan-Ams and the (Olympic) Trials were within a month. Then it was postponed, and that was the frustrating part. And then everything was shutting down so I looked at it like, I’m already small for 60 kilos, so this gives me more time to get bigger. After everything got postponed and we stopped trying to find ways into a tournament, I was at peace with it.

I also plan on hopefully going another two cycles. It sucks for people that this was postponed, but it sucks more for those who were thinking about retiring after this year because most people go cycle to cycle.

5PM: What have the workouts been like? Is it difficult to remain motivated in the absence of actually getting to wrestle in the room?

Nowry: We do workout in the morning. There are restrictions. We’re not allowed to have contact with each other physically, so that is kind of frustrating. But it has been pretty good. I enjoy seeing my teammates. It is hard to get motivated though when I don’t know what’s on my schedule. We have a lift or a bag workout or something going on, and it is hard for me to get motivated because I’ve spent the last two years going on a trip every month to either train or compete. I was so dialed in and focused on that mentality where I was always training for something. As soon as I would come home, there was always something I could train for. I would take two or three days off and then get right back to it.

When that all got put to a halt, it kind of sucked. The motivation is still there to compete. I’m still hungry. If anything,  it makes me more motivated to compete. I’m usually a person who has a bunch of energy, so my being cooped up and not able to do my job gets me a little crazy. I’m able to deal with that a little bit on the golf course and get some kind of competition. But as for motivation, it doesn’t stop me. I am looking at this from a positive standpoint. I can heal some things up. It is kind of a sh*tty time of year to get dinged up before the Olympic Team Trials, so that has been a positive factor for myself and others who have been a little dinged up. And I get to gain a little more weight and get a little bigger in size.

5PM: Is that the biggest bright spot, having more space to try and keep size on for 60 kilos?

Nowry: That has been my focus point, to look at the positive side where I have more time to fill into the Olympic weight. At the beginning of the year when they were having the ranking tournaments, there were all ten weight classes and people were hounding me and trying to figure out why I was doing the non-Olympic weight when there was no point if it’s an Olympic Year. But what they couldn’t understand until I explained it to them is that if I didn’t go to compete at the non-Olympic weight, then I wouldn’t have had those tournaments.

I got two or three more trips between the World Championships and the time everything was shutting down because I was wrestling at 55 kilos. If I was wrestling at 60 kilos, the trip to Italy wouldn’t have been funded, the trip to Sweden wouldn’t have been funded. The trip to Pan-Ams wasn’t funded. That was paid for by the Illinois RTC (Regional Training Center).

5PM: The Senior Nationals are scheduled for October. Some have questioned the timing. We know that Army/WCAP still isn’t cleared for full practices, making this a down-to-the-wire situation at best it looks like. 

Nowry: I don’t want to have a negative attitude in my thought process as to how things are going to work out. But I just don’t see things working out as far as tournaments getting put on. Even still, I am using it as a positive thing because I’ve needed more time to get bigger. I was still competing at both weight classes. I did wrestle 60 in New York but I wrestled 55 the trip after it. People were on my ass for going 55, but if I don’t go 55 then I’m not competing.

People were up my ass but then I got to New York and did pretty good for not training before that. So then it’s like, I don’t know what else you guys want. I wrestled 55 before here, now I just wrestled 60 and did alright. I wasn’t going to even wrestle in that tournament until the day before final registration. I was like, Screw it. Bruce (Robinson), I am already here. Sign me up. 

5PM: Would you look forward to entering this thing if it happens? How much time would you need to prepare, what would be the cut-off, if there is one?

Nowry: That depends on the circumstances. It would be nice, but the first thing that would have to fall in place is that we would have to be able to train. It would be awesome, especially for someone like me. This has been my life for 23 years. After doing this for so long, I was joking with people saying, I’m not sure I even know how to arm drag anymore. It has been so long, but it would be nice to have a competition. I also wouldn’t enter a competition without proper training.

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5PM: What’s weird about a lot of this is that the lightweights at Army, the “Ninja Squad”, is adding new members and yet you all haven’t even been able to practice together yet. Does that matter? Or not really?

Nowry: I think when we first started this whole Ninja Squad thing and the concept that we had, at that time, 59 (kilos) merged into three different weight classes: 55, 60, and 63. So, we embraced that and I think a lot of people saw that. Usually for people from Northern Michigan, their first move after they graduate is to either go to the OTC (Olympic and Paralympic Training Center) or the Army. But we had developed such a good reputation with regards to our work ethic and results — especially with the camaraderie that we’ve had. I think it really kicked off in 2018 when we took the first four weight classes and were going to have a good showing at the Trials.

We were then at the 2018 World Team camp and helping out those guys the whole time. Helping Dalton (Roberts) out. Whatever he and Sam (Hazewinkel) needed, we were there for them. I think that our mindset and the way we were approaching things… I mean, we weren’t hiding anything from anyone. We wrestle each other all the time. Even if we’re across the country. We train with each other frequently throughout the year and then there are the tournaments. A guy like Dalton Roberts trusted us. He sought us out immediately in the practice room and liked the looks we were giving him and the info we were giving him as he prepared for the biggest tournament of his life.

I had a good relationship with Dalton that summer, and then guys like him started wanting to matriculate into the program. That’s awesome for us because we don’t want just the four or five original members of the Ninja Squad. We want to make it bigger. We want to keep this rolling and have the best room. So it’s not surprising that these guys are coming in. And fortunately for them, they didn’t have to miss the Olympic Team Trials.

5PM: You have become very associated with golf, you even mentioned it above. Given the tenuous nature of the current situation and so on, how good has it been since you’ve at least had golf to take your mind off of some of this?

Max Nowry: It’s funny that you’re asking this because I was just explaining it to someone else. I need competition in my life, one way or the other. Even if just it’s me, Luke Sheridan, and Ryan (Mango) playing darts in my garage. We crave competition and we’re not able to get that right now. We’re not able to get that in live competitions, we’re not able to get that in practices. Golf has been my outlet for the last two years now. It has been my nice, peaceful retreat. I go to practice and I work hard, and then I go to the golf course. I’m still out and about, walking the course and going up and down hills. It kind of frees my mind.

As I’ve been getting older, it clears my mind away from wrestling when I’m not fully training, and that has bettered my attitude in a way. I’ve always loved wrestling, but having that mental break has been huge for me. I have put some thought into this. I want to be really good at golf, and to be really good at golf you have to become really disciplined with the little things. That translates right over to wrestling, being good at the little things, taking those little technical details. When you are golfing, keeping your head down is a big thing. If you lift your head up, now you are topping the ball, shaking it, and then you’re getting pissed at yourself. When I get ready for every shot, I am reminding myself of all of the little things, like to keep my head down and swing through the ball.

I am training myself in another sport but I am using the same mental approach I use in wrestling. I’m focusing on the little things. Like if I am gripping a two-on-one; if I grip it higher, I’ve got it tighter, and if I move an inch lower now I can move the guy. Those little things transfer back-and-forth between golf and wrestling. I think I’ve been able to correlate those things with each other, and now I am getting into some of the competitions with golf. It keeps me sane for the most part, having some kind of competition in my life.

Listen to “5PM38: MWC Wrestling Academy’s Zac Dominguez” on Spreaker.

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