I didn’t grow up desiring to be an Olympic Gold Medalist. When I pulled up a singlet and strapped on my headgear for the first time as a kid in South Jersey, I was just hoping to win the tallest trophy at the local youth tournament. Long before I was standing on top of podiums across the world, I was a skinny youngster learning the basics of wrestling on mats laid across the cafeteria floor of my town’s high school. There was no history. No tradition. No lineage.
But what I lacked in pedigree, I made up for in heart. The grit and determination that I developed in the gymnasiums around the East Coast helped refine me, and with a little bit of hard work, and a touch of luck, helped me get noticed. After zero official visits, and a single state championship as a high school senior, I eventually received only one call.