Some, they like to talk about college. What happened, what didn’t. A bunch of “why’s” and “how’s”, as if every conversation in American wrestling absolutely must revolve around headgears and red or green anklets. Burke Paddock (77 kg, NYAC) is used to it. He is accustomed to the interest, the curiosity, on the part of others. Scholastic competition is no longer the focus of Paddock’s aspirations, but he is okay with touching on the past even if it would be nicer if more were content to discuss his present and potential future.
Paddock, once a New York state high school champion and top collegiate prospect, is never far from folkstyle banter. If anything, it is quite the opposite. When not mired in Greco practices in Colorado Springs, Paddock serves as an assistant coach for nearby Sand Creek High, home of the Scorpions. He loves coaching. It is an opportunity to help the next generation navigate one of the most tumultuous times in their lives. The role comes naturally, you might presume. Paddock’s father Brad, who passed away in 2015, was beholden to a far-reaching reputation as a coach and team leader. Burke isn’t on that level yet. Maybe some day. But for now, he is still an athlete first and foremost.
And it was Brad who first planted the Greco seed for Burke. Paddock says he was taught that “you are only half a wrestler if you don’t wrestle Greco”. Plenty of wrestling types make similar claims, but too few actually put their money where their mouths are. Paddock is. He is also actively encouraging the youths with whom he works to at least give the classical style a closer look.
One way they can do so is by watching how their coach competes. Paddock — who had begun his collegiate career at the University of Iowa before choosing a different path — has become a for-real contender on the Senior circuit as the US prepares for the Paris ’24 selection gauntlet. ‘Insistent movement’, or ‘movement with a purpose’, is what Paddock employs against each opponent. Tis an aggressive, grinding methodology. Simply put, Paddock wants to score from the feet and realizes that using his body as a relative battering ram is an apt strategy towards achieving the objective.
But there is speed to his game. Craftiness, too. Paddock does have the ability to cut angles in an effort to open up body attacks. He can level-change, and dictate the pace. All are attributes. Paddock has the foundation, stretching back to his age-group days, to make a serious run. He is sufficiently shrewd in understanding that such a thing might not occur unless given the proverbial “foreign feel”, as well.
The US delegation bolted for the Balkans ten days ago, and it is Paddock’s first major Senior trip following a stay in Sweden back in ’18. He was there last weekend in the Zagreb tournament, where he drew RaVaughn Perkins (NYAC, 5PM #4) in the round-of-16. It was his lone match, but it was also not important. Paddock — and just about everyone else, including Perkins — would have preferred an international opponent. But the Grand Prix was only window dressing. The point of the trek to Croatia has not much to do with competition, and nearly everything to do with training. Those are the wheels that spin the fastest in Paddock’s mind. He is identifying the areas most in need of attention and is doing the responsible thing: adding reinforcements.
Leave no stone… It’s like that. Just a challenge. Just a journey. It’s never the same for any two wrestlers. Separation is defined by the reasons for continuing. The only “why’s” and “how’s” worth mentioning. Paddock knows why he is doing this, what it takes, and how to maximize new opportunities earned.
Burke Paddock — 77 kg, NYAC
5PM: Throughout the annals of time in this country, about 98% of the guys who have made World Teams have had collegiate folkstyle backgrounds. That used to not be an issue success-wise. Many believe it is now developmentally. But since folkstyle isn’t going anywhere, how in your mind should the US leverage it more to their advantage?
Burke Paddock: For me, at least the way my dad taught and explained it to me, is that not enough people give Greco the time of day as they are learning. As they improve and grow older, a lot of wrestlers might try it once, or they might not try it at all. And my old man always said that you are only half a wrestler if you don’t wrestle Greco.
The amount of freestyle and folkstyle matches that I won off of using Greco “moves” is a lot of matches, whether it was from a belly-to-belly throw or an arm spin. I think people just need to treat Greco the same as they do freestyle and folkstyle from a young age. That was one of the big things for me. We always practiced Greco as much as we did freestyle in the offseason. It then becomes part of your everyday offense in folkstyle and freestyle. If the guy doesn’t know how to wrestle upper-body, then go upper-body with him. It’s pretty easy (laughs).
5PM: You wrestled in the Junior Greco World Duals, the event run by Mark Halvorson, which was, is, the best rendering of international Greco for age-groupers hosted in this country. How did competing in this event influence your view of this style?
BP: The CYC (Community Youth Center) tournament was definitely one of the biggest influences that I’ve had. The practices, the clinics, it was international with international guys… It was a fun tournament. You get a lot out of it. Actually, it was one of the things that made me fall in love with Greco.
5PM: How much attention do you pay, as an athlete, to how this sport is competed around the world, just because things are different here both stylistically and developmentally?
BP: That is kind of a hard question. I guess I notice that there is a big difference in the fundamentals of Greco when you go overseas. Here in America, it’s just ‘lock up and throw’ from a young age; and when I was over in Sweden at a training camp, I remember showing up to practice and there were youth wrestlers pummeling at a level I’ve only seen Senior guys pummel. These kids were about seven-years-old and I was like, Oh my gosh, we need to have this in America.
5PM: If the US is going to continue to lack some of the basic skills foreigners learn from an early age, what in your mind should we do to stop the gap?
BP: I think we have to get some more good Greco programs across the country. That’s what I think, and start teaching it from a young age. That is one of the other reasons why I like coaching. I am going to push Greco hard at our club. It has to be taught from a young age. At least just the basics.
5PM: Since you are coaching at a high school this might be a weird question: are you a proponent of wrestlers committing full-time to Greco at a young age? Or do you not see that as a solution just yet?
BP: I don’t know. I wouldn’t leave that up to me, I’d leave that up to the individuals themselves. For me, at a young, young age? Probably ‘no’, because I think kids should try all sorts of sports growing up. Try them all and do everything. Even playing football and soccer is going to help keep you fresh. Of course I would always encourage year-round wrestling, but everyone is a little different in that aspect. I mean, I could have chosen to go full-time Greco early on during high school and it would have probably made a big difference in my career right now, also. Overall, I think it should be an opportunity.
5PM: You were a state champ in high school, well-traveled in that regard, and you were a part of the most storied college program in US history. Now that you are and have been a full-time Greco athlete, do you wish you went full-time earlier?
Burke Paddock: I don’t think that I would change anything if given the opportunity. I think that through all of my wrestling experiences — whether back home in New York or out in Iowa, or back in Cornell — all of the different coaches who I’ve had played a role and were big influences on my life. Obviously, my college career didn’t pan out to nearly anything I wanted it to be — but I learned more than I think I could have at any other college wrestling for Iowa. I could have went to a smaller school, started, and done well, but I don’t think that I would have been as good of a wrestler. I don’t think I would have learned as much as I did there.
5PM: You actually want to score from your feet, which bears mentioning because not everyone does. There is a certain “game within the game” that we all know exists. Your own style, it is like a grinding kind of approach but only so that you can drive towards chances to score. You need willing dance partners for that sometimes. Is this a source of frustration? Is it just a challenge for you to improve on clearing tie-ups?
Burke Paddock: It’s both. It’s in the sport, so you have to deal with it, find ways around it, and improve on it. But yeah, it is very frustrating. You’re asking the question and I can speak freely, and I think it’s nonsense when guys can grab a two-on-one and not do anything. I’m out there trying to score points and a lot of guys aren’t. It bothers me. When I go out there, I’m trying to score points. I am not going to bore people to death with a ‘passive, passive’ 1-1 type of match. I’m not trying to bore people with a passive and a turn. I’m going out there to score points.
5PM: The Olympic Training Center, it’s back, pretty much, and you have settled in Colorado. What was your draw to training out there?
BP: It was really from coming out here for the camps that did it for me. I realized the level of coaching and partners, and that was one of the big pulls. I remember after I did my second January Camp, I called my fiancé at the time. It went sort of like, I know you have to finish nursing school but I think I want to move out here. This is the place I want to train. We had a long game plan to do it, but it was actually just getting out here, getting on the mat, and talking to coaches and guys who lived out here. Just hearing them talk about how great it is and the training was one of the pulls. Of course, it is the Olympic Training Center, so it doesn’t get much better than that.
5PM: Do you yourself just like Colorado?
BP: Oh, yeah. That was the other part. I am a pretty big hiker and I can get out into the mountains pretty quick. Actually, I took my dog out to the incline just before with a headlamp.
5PM: This trip to Croatia, what are you looking to get out of it the most?
Burke Paddock: Training-wise, I am very excited to get some more international experience on the Senior level. Most of my experience has been against American guys. I love traveling, and I absolutely love wrestling, and this is a tournament and camp. It doesn’t get better than that, I guess.
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