Northern Michigan

Black Ready to Work for Olympic Team Spot in 2024

max black, 2024 us olympic team trials, greco-roman, northern michigan
Max Black -- Photo: John Sachs

Oh, there is a lot that people tend to notice about Max Black (60 kg, NMU/NTS). They see the skill, the talent, the consistent climb up the Senior ranks. They watch the speed by which he operates, and the technical progression he has undergone since becoming a full-time Greco athlete roundabout two-and-a-half years ago. They see the results, the matches, the dogfights… They acknowledge how he made the US Open final right out of the gate, and the fact that he appeared on two consecutive U20 World Teams. All of the wrestling-related stats and biographical bullets, by now, are observed and understood.

not all roads lead to gold, parent edition, jim gruenwald

What they also witness is a brand of competitiveness that drips with so much intensity, it cannot be contained. Pours out of him. Black does not just want to win. Everyone wants to win. The difference with Black is that he thinks and believes he is going to win every time he walks — no, struts — onto a padded surface. And what’s more, he holds absolutely zero reservations when it comes to letting you, his opponents, and all who are in earshot know it.

The natural instinct is to just peg him as “brash” and keep it rolling. It’s not that simple. There is nothing arrogant about Black. There is no lack of respect for the opposition present in his candor. Black’s methods of communication are, to him, merely part of competition. The more important piece to that is this: humility is found in doing the actual work. Humility means training. Hard. Arrogance means doing the bare minimum under the misguided notion that anything else is unnecessary. Black might be bold, but his work ethic is driven, constant, and lauded by his teammates and coaches.

Yes, he is confident. Fiery, even. But the word that best describes his attitude, as well as the reason for his surge on the Senior level, is an easy one — committed.

It is that commitment to the cause that Black brought with him to Fort Worth, Texas earlier this month where he advanced to the challenge bracket final of the US Nationals and thus qualified for the 2024 Olympic Trials. Along the way, the native of Colorado defeated Peter Del Gallo (South Side WC), ’23 World Team member Brady Koontz (TMWC/Dubuque RTC), and familiar foe Randon Miranda (NYAC). Miranda, the longtime top Senior contender and multi-time age-group World rep, helped introduce Black to the Senior circuit back in the spring of ’22. The duo have been duking it out in nearly every meaningful event dating back to their maiden clash, with Miranda holding a slight series edge. But in the National semifinal two weeks ago, Black needed a score in the second period, got it, and prevailed to secure his first-ever opportunity to compete for an Olympic Team spot this coming April.

To Whom Belongs the Glory graphic

Black will be joined at the Trials by fellow NMU standouts David Stepanyan (67 kg), Payton Jacobson (77 kg), Benji Peak (77 kg), and George Sikes (97 kg). More might follow, depending on the results from the Last Chance OTT Qualifier. But for now, it is a solid stable of athletes who are all pulling for and pushing one another. This is what NMU is supposed to be at its best: a collection of young and hungry competitors who have the ability and fearlessness to dare fight for the biggest prize in this sport. That is what the institution has going on currently, which is why it is the most appropriate environment for a ferocious character like Black to build on what is, clearly, immense potential.

Max Black — 60 kg, NMU/NTS

5PM: You have had two full Senior seasons so far with this current one being your third. If you could, compare the first two in terms of your experience and what you have learned, along with the differences between the Senior level and Junior.

Max Black: I would say that Year 2 was different because during the first one I was younger (laughs). But I can call myself a “Senior wrestler” now because I’m wrestling Seniors. Last year, it was more of going out there, beating these older guys, and thinking, Oh, I’m going to do this now. And at this point, it’s like, I’m just chilling. It’s just another day in the books. It used to be, I don’t even know how old these guys are who I’m wrestling, whereas now it is just a number. Like last year, it was, Oh, I’ve got all these old guys now. I’m just going to beat them up and show them what young guys can do. It is not like that anymore. I know that I’m on their level now. I know that I can beat all of them.

The wins last year were… I don’t know. I wouldn’t say “better”. I didn’t really have any crazy wins last year other than against Alex Thomsen and Dylan Koontz. It is more about how I’ve matured from last year to this year, and I think that is honestly starting to show in my wrestling. I think it is actually just learning how to really wrestle Greco. Last year I think I was way too crazy. I wasn’t relaxed. This year, I’ve really relaxed and it’s just another day to me now. I’m seeing it now. Even though I am still young, it isn’t like last year when it was, I’m a young guy beating these older guys. That’s not the thing anymore. It is more like, I’m going to make this Olympic Team now and go win the Olympics. I can do it. That’s the main difference.

But I do still enjoy beating these guys. I still have a hit list. I still want to beat these guys like Ildar (Hafizov), Dalton Roberts, (Hayden) Tuma, Sammy (Jones), and all them. It’s still the same mindset. I just think now that it is more natural rather than me seeing it as being a younger guy who is trying to beat the older guys.

5PM: You’ve wrestled in two World Championship events and had another taste of foreign experience. What have you talked about when it comes to the difference between competing domestically and internationally? Do you just keep it all the same in your mind? Or do you think that you have to wrestle a different kind of match when against both types of opponents?

MB: It’s honestly all the same. Comparing the US Seniors to foreign styles, there are differences here and there. But U20 guys? Like last year at the Open, I wrestled both U20 and Seniors. I had Seniors first and U20 after that. For that tournament, honestly, it was, Okay, whatever. Who cares? But I take every match the same. I drop that respect to every opponent but I don’t fear anyone. I’m going to go out there and treat every match the same — whether it’s in the wrestling room or at the World Championships. I’m going out there to beat you up and score points, and I’m going to win. I treat every match the same. It doesn’t matter.

With the Worlds? I don’t know. I don’t like making excuses because both of my Worlds were not good at all. You just have to be prepared. You have to be ready to go, and you have to have a good day. The most I learned when wrestling foreigners was at Thor Masters. It was my first time going to an international camp. I wrestled Georgi Tibilov, the World bronze from this year, in my first match and he messed me up bad, man. Then I beat Logan Savvy, and the next morning I was in the back cutting weight and he (Tibilov) wanted me to wrestle with him. “Play-wrestling”, he said. I was like, Okay… Now, I’m going full-on live and he’s just playing around. I’m like, This guy is seriously freaking good. What is going on? And I think just from play-wrestling with him for 30 minutes to get my weight off was one of the craziest learning experiences I’ve had. I still have scars on my arm from when he put me in a two-on-one. It was the tightest two-on-one I’ve ever been put in. We were just play-wrestling and in my head it was, This is a different level of wrestling right now. I had never seen anything like it.

Then the camp… The first three days of that camp, I don’t think I even got a takedown. I was just getting messed up. These dudes are so good. But then I started figuring it out. I took what I learned in Denmark and brought it back to the US, and kept doing that. The camp was a few weeks before the Open, and at the Open I turned up. I beat Randon (Miranda), Mason Hartshorn, I beat Koontz for third again, had a close match with Dalton Roberts… I think that my time in Denmark, which was my first international camp and tournament, was a really big learning experience for me. Especially just getting beat up by Georgi Tibilov, which was…crazy.

5PM: You mentioned Randon. When I write this material, previews or whatever, I’ve been putting in how you and Randon have this mini-rivalry going on because you guys keep meeting up in matches that matter. Most recently, he got you in New York, and then you got him back two weeks ago at the Nationals. But do you see it this way? That you and Miranda have some type of rivalry? Or do you just see it as “ah, this is just how it has worked out” when it comes to being paired together?

MB: Randon and I have a lot of respect for each other. After the match, we’ll go and shake each other’s hand. Like, 10 minutes after the match, 15 minutes after the match. After every match, I think, we have gone up to each other to shake each other’s hands and it’s all respect. But — there is definitely a little rivalry between us (laughs). 100%, man. I’m sick of losing to him. That’s just how it is.

5PM: What is your plan right now competitively, if there is anything, leading up to the Olympic Trials?

MB: I have a few ideas. I want to go to Armenia in January with a few of my friends but I just can’t afford that, so I’m thinking of hitting the tournament in Bulgaria that the Northern guys hit last year (Nikola Petrov Memorial). Then I am going to hopefully hit Armenia in March, and I’d like to go back to Denmark some time. I don’t know if that’s before the Trials.

5PM: Thor Masters is March 1 and 2, so the camp would be March 4-8. 

MB: Okay, then it would either be between the Bulgaria tournament and going to Armenia to train, or going back to Thor Masters for the tournament and camp. But other than that, just training at Northern, listening to Andy (Bisek), and doing what he tells me to do.

5PM: You have a full training block here before the Trials, and the best part is that you know what your bracket is basically going to look like. You are in Year 3 at Northern and this will be your first Olympic Trials and there have been guys who have made the Olympic Team on their first try. In your mind, what does it take for you to accomplish that insofar as training and periodization?

Max Black: Well, it is going to take a lot of hours. I’m taking a little time off right now, just coming off of a big tournament and stuff, but I’m already training again. I’m just going to look at it as another tournament. I’m going to listen to Andy. I know that he is going to make sure I’m ready to make this Team. I trust Andy. And I know that after all of the training is done that I will be ready to make this Team. I’ll just let my wrestling do the work. I’m not really worried about any training. I don’t even know what to expect yet. I mean, Andy could just run us through the wringer here this next few months. What I do know is that going into this Olympic Trials I will be ready. And I will be stepping on that mat 100%. I don’t even know what my training is going to look like. I think it will be the same as it usually is. But I just know that I will be prepared to go to war.

five point move podcast, latest episodes banner

Listen to “5PM56: Rich Carlson and Spencer Woods” on Spreaker.

Listen to “5PM55: Recapping Final X with Dennis Hall with words from Koontz, Braunagel and Hafizov” on Spreaker.

Listen to “5PM54: WCAP’s Ryan Epps and a Final X Greco-Roman Preview” on Spreaker.

iTunes | Stitcher | Spreaker | Google Play Music

Notice: Trying to get property 'term_id' of non-object in /home/fivepointwp/webapps/fivepointwp/wp-content/themes/flex-mag/functions.php on line 999

Recent Popular

To Top