USA Greco

Mueller’s Sights Zeroed In On Armed Forces — & Beyond

Brandon Mueller -- Photo: Armed Forces Sports

Most are familiar with Brandon Mueller (77 kg) by now. Mueller, originally from Wisconsin, didn’t begin competing in Senior Greco until after he had finished college and joined the Air Force. His first tournament was the 2015 Nationals/Olympic Trials Qualifier, and he wrestled sparingly throughout the next year. Though Mueller’s appearances were few and far between, and results mixed, he was immediately identified as a natural talent who might flourish in a full-time training environment.

Before last season, that’s finally what happened. Mueller was selected to become a member of Air Force’s own World Class Athletes Program, putting his military career as a satellite engineer on temporary pause. Rather than stick around in the non-Olympic category of 72 kilos, he opted to get an early jump at 77. In the United States’ deepest weight class for Greco, Mueller has remained in the mix — though heading into Saturday’s Armed Forces Championships, he is as of yet unqualified for the Olympic Trials in April. Should Mueller place in the top-2 at Armed Forces, he will ensure his spot in the quad’s most important event.

Mueller has bigger goals than simply “making” the Trials. He has tested himself against the nation’s best and is convinced he’s standing on even ground. His workrate already this season is proof of such belief. But what transpires on Saturday at Naval Base Kitsap is the pressing matter at hand, and served as the catalyst for a brief discussion following his training on Wednesday.

Brandon Mueller — 77 kg, Air Force

5PM: Between the Nationals in December and today, which is the span of two months, how has your training changed given the homestretch to the Trials is now here?

Brandon Mueller: I’m just trying to stay focused on getting qualified and going to work. I stayed in Colorado Springs during that whole time frame. I had two guys who I was working with, Joe Warren and Coach TC Dantzler. Of course, Mohamed (Abdelfatah) and Coach (Matt) Lindland, too. Just trying to stay focused. I got banged up a little bit and had to work around a few things; but between those injuries I made sure my conditioning was good, and worked on a few technical points from watching film and made corrections there.

5PM: Now we are in the Olympic Year and you had moved up to 77 (kilograms) early comparative to some other guys in some other weights. Has that proven to be an advantage at all, physically or physiologically? 

Mueller: Absolutely, plus now that I’ve had access to the cafeteria at the Olympic Training Center it is easier for me to get all of those calories. But at first, I was walking around pretty close to scratch (weight) so it was like, I’m a little small here. Now I’m a couple of days out from Armed Forces and I actually have to cut a decent amount of weight, so it feels good to actually know that I am going to be a big, solid 77 kilogram competitor, whereas other times it is maybe in the back of your mind, I’m a little small. In reality, one pound is not a big difference but it is good to have that confidence you’re a legit 77.

5PM: When I think of you, I think of the Armed Forces as where most of us who deal with this sport discovered you. Because of that, does this event carry any sentimental value for you?

Mueller: Historically, not so much. Coming back this year it has been like, It’s about time I get that gold medal. A couple of years ago I got two silvers (counting freestyle) so I was like, Okay, at least we’re getting medals. The first year I went 1-5, which is basically as bad as it can get. Normally at a tournament if you go 0-2, you’re going home. But this year, I am really looking forward to getting that gold medal and finally sealing the deal here.

5PM: It’s interesting to hear you say that because you have normally been self-deprecating to a fault. But do you finally view yourself as an elite-level Olympic Trials-quality contender for the spot? Do you see yourself in the realm of all of these other guys?

Mueller: Absolutely. You wrestle these guys enough times… I beat (Peyton) Walsh the first time I wrestled him. I throw most of the guys in the room, I can turn them in par terre. It’s just a matter of putting it all together on the same day and doing what I can do.

5PM: How has it been for you training alongside Alex Mossing, especially now that you’re both in the same weight?

Mueller: At first I was a little nervous and it was like, Oh, dang. But I actually think we help each other a lot. In preparation for Final X, I was able to serve as a workout partner for Alex so he could get ready for (Ray) Bunker. It is really nice to just have someone who you could go in the room and work with and is the same size as you. At the end of the day, if you want someone who is good enough to be your training partner, he is going to wind up becoming your competition, too. So, I mean, that’s just part of the sport we have to deal with.

5PM: What happens after Armed Forces? If you go ahead and get the job done this weekend, have you already set your course periodization-wise for peaking for the Trials?

Brandon Mueller: Yes, I think so. The whole train that I’ve been on this whole year, I feel like I have the baseline. I can raise the intensity right when I get back from Armed Forces for a couple of more weeks and then taper at the end. I actually don’t taper quite as long as some other athletes. I don’t know if it’s just better for me mentally, but I seem to do better with that than some of the longer tapers.

Listen to “5PM33: The Marine Corps’ Jamel Johnson” on Spreaker.

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