WRESTLING: Tommy Rowlands coaches and trains for wrestling success
Athletics have always been a big part of Tommy Rowlands' life. Both Rowlands and his three younger sisters played sports growing up, and all four of them competed in college at the Division I level. Meghan and Annie both played softball, at Ohio State and Kentucky, respectively. His third sister, Katie, was a member of the Kentucky women's soccer team. Rowlands wrestled at Ohio State University. Growing up in an athletic household, Rowlands was motivated by his sisters. An older brother to his three sisters, he was driven by siblings who were just as focused as he was."We all shared the same goals and vision,"said Rowlands."It was nice to have people alongside you growing up that were working just as hard."This focus has served Rowlands well over the course of his wrestling career. While competing in college, Rowlands was a two-time national champion at Ohio State and a 2005 World University Games champion. He is also a five-time U.S. World Team member, two of those years in the 120 kg/264.5 lbs. weight class. Now Rowlands has set his sights on a trip to Beijing for the 2008 Olympic Games. On March 2 in Colorado Springs, he proved that he is concentrated on making the trip across the Pacific Ocean come August. At the 2008 Pan American Championships, Rowlands pinned past World Champion Alexis Rodriguez of Cuba in the first round of competition. It was the fourth time Rowlands had faced Rodriguez, but only his first win."He had an outstanding performance this weekend,"U.S. Freestyle National Coach Kevin Jackson said."I think he really showed his potential. He showed how good he can be, and I think he can be even better."Rowlands built off the victory to take first place at the competition, posting a win over Antoine Jaoude of Brazil in the finals."It was a great momentum builder,"said Rowlands."I am focused on getting ready for Nationals and Trials now. I am happy about the performance and want to focus on peaking for April 25 and June 15, and then look to the Olympics in August."While Rowlands has a had a few bumps in the road since his fifth-place finish at the 2007 World Championships, his performance at the Pan American Championships show that he is wrestling as well as anyone in the world."It's going really well right now,"Rowlands said."I had a rocky competition at Krasnoyarsk (Russia). It was a lot traveling for only one match. I kicked training up a notch after that. It's really going great and I am focused."Now Rowlands is getting ready for two major events set to take place this spring. First, he will head to the U.S. National Championships in Las Vegas to defend his top billing at 120 kg/264.5 lbs. Then, in June, Rowlands will return to Las Vegas for the Olympic Trials, where he will battle for a spot on the Olympic team. Not only is Rowlands competing as a wrestler, he is also an assistant wrestling at Ohio State. Following his performance at the Pan American Championships, Rowlands returned to Ohio State to help the wrestling team prepare for the Big Ten Championships, set for March 8-9. In addition to his own training, Rowlands is helping the Buckeye wrestlers achieve success on the national stage. So far he has been able to balance a busy schedule of coaching and training, in part thanks to the staff at Ohio State."Coach Tom Ryan and the staff here at Ohio State are very flexible,"said Rowlands."They allow me a lot of freedom with my training and my coaching responsibilities here."Rowlands is in his second season as an assistant coach at Ohio State. Not only has the coaching experience helped the Buckeyes, but it has also helped Rowlands as a wrestler."I think coaching has definitely helped me,"he said."It has really put things in perspective. I have been able to see how others deal with hardship and I feel like I am more well-rounded."Just as coaches must help their athletes make adjustments to their games, Rowlands has also made adjustments in his wrestling, the biggest of which happened two years ago. Rowlands moved up a weight in 2006, from 96 kg to 120 kg, and the transition was a bit of challenge for him."It was certainly an adjustment to face world class opponents,"Rowlands said."I think it took me a year to get comfortable and really hit full swing. I am focused on beating the top international wrestlers, like I was able to this weekend."The weight class, now that Rowlands is comfortable, seems to suit him very well. He finished first at the U.S. World Team Trials for the first time in his career, qualified the weight for the Olympics at the 2007 World Championships, and medaled at the Pan American Games and Championships."He really focused on working on his size and strength,"said Jackson."Every day he worked on getting bigger and stronger. I think Tommy has made some great gains in the last six months."Wrestling heavyweight isn't completely unknown to Rowlands. He was a heavyweight wrestler in college and had to cut weight to wrestle at 96 kg/211.5 lbs."He has always been a heavyweight,"said Jackson."He was cutting because he isn't a big heavyweight, like Rodriguez (of Cuba), but Tommy has always been more successful at heavyweight. I think the move has made him a better wrestler. He is focused on the purity of skill now rather than cutting weight."Rowlands is not the only successful wrestler at this weight. Steve Mocco, Rowlands' biggest competitor, has had a good year in competition. Mocco placed first at competitions in Belarus, Canada, New York, and at the Dave Schultz Memorial in February."We've been going at it since my sophomore year in college,"said Rowlands."I respect him a lot. I think when two people want the same thing there is definitely going to be a rivalry. At the same time, we also realize there are other Americans who will challenge us."The rivalry between the two has not only raised the level at which they are competing, it has also improved wrestling in their weight class in the U.S."It's really good for the country,"Jackson said."Depth is the key to success. To have world class wrestlers training and competing against each other really raises the level of wrestling. It's best for our country. No matter who wins they should be ready to do well at the Olympics."Neither wrestler is taking the rest of the country lightly, however. Rowlands knows it will take a solid all-around performance at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials to make it to the 2008 Olympics. No matter how Rowlands does at the Olympic Team Trials, athletics will continue to be a part of his life, whether it is through competing in wrestling, coaching, or perhaps even taking up another sport. Last May, Rowlands attended a New York Jets mini-camp. It was the first time since seventh grade that he had played football. While it's possible Rowlands may someday don an NFL jersey and hit the gridiron, for now he's focused on winning a medal in Beijing."Football might be a possibility in the future but it's hard to think past August,"said Rowlands.