Chas Betts defeats TC Dantzler at the 2010 World Team Trials. Larry Slater photo.
Chas Betts feeling a renewed sense of confidence
Sometimes all you need is a change of scenery, a fresh perspective and things start to click. U.S. Olympic Training Center (USOTC) resident-athlete Chas Betts knows firsthand just how beneficial stepping away from the everyday norm can improve one's abilities.
At the end of last summer, Betts, a 2009 U.S. World Team Member at 84 kg/185 lbs., took six weeks to travel to Europe to train and compete.
"A lot of that time I spent by myself and I just immersed myself in the culture" Betts said. "I was in Turkey for about a month with their number one team, just trying to see things from their perspective and see what they are doing to get ready for a big tournament like the World Championships."
Upon his return, Betts felt a sense of growth and improvement that he believed had been missing. That was evident as Betts went on to win the U.S. Open in December, in Arlington, Texas.
"Since I got back, I feel like I've been steadily improving. Ever since I got to see how they live and how they act, I think that was really beneficial and kind of like a turning point for me" Betts added.
Prior to winning the U.S. Open, the Northern Michigan University graduate had seen his share of struggles. After returning to Colorado Springs, Colo., from a tournament overseas, Betts finally opted for dual hernia surgery and to deal with torn tendons in his leg in March of 2011. Returning quickly from his surgeries, Betts still managed to finish third at the U.S. World Team Trials in Oklahoma City, Okla., in June.
"I got back on the mat right before the (World) Trials and I probably shouldn't have" said Betts of his quick return. "I think (Assistant National Coach) Momir Petkovic didn't want me to. He mentioned it a couple times. But I can't really justify being out here and doing this if I'm not going to be going to the biggest tournament of the year, so I did it anyway."
"Chas is the type of guy that brings everything that he's got during every moment in the room" said Petkovic. "He knows exactly how you have to approach this journey, giving a hundred percent of himself and just hoping that pretty soon it's going to happen for him."
After graduating in 2009, Betts left the United States Olympic Education Center at Northern Michigan and moved to the USOTC to train with Petkovic and the coaches there.
"The move had a lot to do with Momir being the coach out here. I had started to bond with him a little in 2008-2009, the year I made the World Team" Betts said. "I spent the whole summer out here and just got to know him and his philosophy. I agreed with most of it and thought it would be my best choice."
This weekend, Betts and his fellow Team USA Greco-Roman wrestlers will compete in the Kiki Cup, held at the USOTC against teams from Italy, Spain, India and a mixed international team made up of India, Greece, Slovenia and other nations.
The international competition is a good opportunity for Team USA to see where they are against the international teams and it allows them a chance to practice with a different partner in the weeks leading up to the tournament.
Since early January, Chas and the other wrestlers are fortunate enough that they have been able to practice with several foreign teams who have been staying at the USOTC.
"Ever since we got back from Christmas break, we've had a bunch of foreign teams here. You get new partners to work out with everyday and that's what you need. You can't just keep training with the same guys every single day. It can get too monotonous. Most of them are staying out here until the Kiki Cup and then you get the competition against them which is the most important thing because beating the foreigners is ultimately what matters" said Betts.
Coach Petkovic and the other members of the U.S. coaching staff approach Saturday's Kiki Cup as a warm-up heading into the Olympic qualifying tournaments. Petkovic uses these events to gauge where the wrestlers are in their training and see where they have to make adjustments, aspects that need fixing or rethinking.
A bigger concern for Momir and Betts isn't the upcoming tournament, but rather making sure Betts' weight class qualifies for the Olympics. After several warm-up events, including a trip to Cuba, the U.S. will attempt to qualify at the Pan American Olympic Qualifier (PAOQ) held March 23-25 in Orlando, Fla. The U.S. still needs to qualify at six weights.
"It's going to be a rough deal" Petkovic said. "I believe this team is going to approach this opportunity and give everything they have to just qualify all the weight classes. That is the first step before London, before the Trials, before everything."
Betts likes his chances of making the team bound for London once Team USA qualifies in his weight class. The athletes who will enter the PAOQ have not yet been selected. Betts would like to be the one to try and qualify the team for his weight class and would be excited and confident about the opportunity.
"To me it would be an honor to qualify the weight class for the U.S. I don't think of it being pressure, if they ask me to do it. If I'm the one that gets the chance then, to me that's an honor and I think it would be great."
Betts, whose hobbies include working on video projects with motion design and animation, hopes to pursue a career in animation once he's done with wrestling. If Momir's predictions are any indication of when Betts animation career will begin, it will be a long time before Betts is creating television spots on a fulltime basis.
"It's a journey. The challenges are the ups and downs. Getting really close then going back down. But, I'm pretty sure the moment he breaks through, it's going to be for a long time" said Petkovic.