Episode 54 centers mainly around a singular topic, which is Final X: Newark on June 10. Each weight category is subject to a verbal preview, some lengthier than others, and the “true third”/National Team placement bouts are discussed in similar fashion. There is no deviation. Just like E32, which was entirely focused on the 2019 World Team Trials Challenge Tournament in Raleigh, E54 sticks with one directive throughout the first segment.
After that is one of the competitors who will be attempting to summit the mountaintop at Final X: Newark — Ryan Epps (82 kg). Epps — a two-time Division III National champ prior to his full-time Greco career — joined Army’s World Class Athletes Program this year and, due to basic training and the like, had to bypass the US Open in April. He then entered the aforementioned Trials as the sixth seed and proceeded to defeat each of the bracket’s top athletes, namely Tommy Brackett (NYAC), Andrew Berreyesa (NYAC), and, of course, two-time Olympian Ben Provisor (NYAC/Viking WC) in the final. It was a hallmark performance for the power-charged Epps and one that has put him on the precipice of a potential World Team spot.
The conversation with Epps naturally touches on his decision to say goodbye to his home club, the Minnesota Storm, and the timing that was attached to the move. In addition, Epps shares thoughts on having to face the man who repped the US in this weight at the Worlds in ’22, Spencer Woods, who is also now one of the Minnesotan’s teammates. And to close out, there is talk regarding the environment Final X brings to the table, and how Epps views performing on such a grand stage with high stakes on the line.
A Few Highlights
Epps on if missing the US Open was a positive instead of a negative
“I would say ‘negative’ because I was watching it on FLO and was like, Man, I should be there, I want to try and wrestle, and get as much mat time as I can. But at the same time, I guess it was a positive because it made me even hungrier to get back on the mat and visualize what I need to do against some of these guys to beat them. Really just creating that hunger to get back on the mat. Not that I really lose it, but just wanting to get out of the training and get back to competing again.”
Epps on competing against Spencer Woods at Final X now that they are teammates on Army/WCAP
“Obviously, I’ve wrestled Spencer before. I know that he is very skilled, technical, and has high endurance. He’s a good opponent and I’m excited to wrestle him again. Obviously now that we’re teammates, it’s cool. Either way, it is going to be a WCAP person representing the US in the World Championships (at 82 kg). It was kind of funny, after the tournament (World Team Trials), I stayed out a week and trained with WCAP and actually stayed at his house. So, there’s no bad blood or anything. We just know that it’s part of the sport that once you get to this high of a level, you’ll probably face some of your teammates. Because, if you’re all wrestling well, it is kind of what happens. There has to be one winner. Either way, I know that we’re both excited and ready to put on a show for Final X.”
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