Wynn Michalak’s return to Colorado Springs and the U.S. Olympic Training Center couldn’t have gone much better.
The former OTC resident defeated former training partner Deron Winn 1-0, 4-0 in the 211.5-pound freestyle gold-medal match at the Dave Schultz Memorial International Wrestling Championships on Friday night.
Michalak, who trained at the OTC from June 2010 to August last year, was all smiles after taking the tournament title, a perfect capper to an enjoyable week at his former home.
“I’ve gotten to hang out with a lot of friends and see the mountains again,” said Michalak, who finished seventh at the 2011 U.S. Open.
“I still have quite a few friends out here, and a lot of them have been asking when I’m coming back. Right now, it’s unforeseen, but I’ve enjoyed being back here and would like to come back and train here a little bit.”
Michalak left Colorado Springs to take a job as an assistant coach at the University of Illinois in Champaign and has helped elevate the Fighting Illini to a No. 5 national ranking.
He also coached briefly at his alma mater, Central Michigan, and loves his time working with college wrestlers.
“I love wrestling, I love coaching, and I love kids,” Michalak said.
“It’s great to see kids grow, and to just see the visual steps (they’ve made) in the six months I’ve been there has been amazing. It’s really rewarding.”
Michalak’s time training at the OTC, he said, greatly improved his freestyle wrestling skills.
“Coach (Brandon) Slay gave me the opportunity to come out here, and it really helped me,” said Michalak, 28. “I gained a lot of experience, got to meet a lot of good people and great training partners and travel the world. It was huge for me to come out here for a couple years.”
Tournaments in Turkey and Cuba are next on the docket for Michalak, who is working toward a major goal in three years.
“I’m taking it year by year, but my goal is Rio in 2016,” he said. “We have the world championships every year, so I have a yearly goal, but the big goal is to try and make that Olympic team in 2016. God willing, my body will hold up.”
If the Olympics aren’t part of the equation, and after his wrestling career is finished, Michalak would relish the chance to stay close to the sport on some level.
“I would love to coach and really enjoy it, but I also have a passion for the administrative side of things,” Michalak said.
“I think I could bring something as a former athlete to the administrative side, and that’s something I’ve looked at. Maybe it could be at USA Wrestling, the USOC or at a college, because there’s a lot to be said for college athletics.”